Sunday, September 10, 2017

Oh, you again.

Nice accidentally running into yourself; this from a didactic at the Tweed Museum's "1000 Words" exhibition, which opens formally September 22. "Vance Gellert's body of work, titled Sleeping Giant (from the Ojibwe word "Mesabi"), shows a people struggling with economies of dwindling scale, resource management, and  conservationism coming into conflict with entrenched practices. Though he describes his subjects as “indomitable,” mythically heroic in their efforts to wrestle a meager living from rock, his photographs navigate a terrain caught between the brute scale of mining operations and an imperiled middle-class existence — as in a panoramic image of backyard playgrounds perched atop an open ore pit... Even while heavily focused on matters concerning industry and extraction, Gellert’s attention to ways of life that merit retention — high school hockey, porketta, civic engagement, Finnish heritage — show just how tenuously held such things are." From Well Beyond Lake Wobegon, Full article here.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Common Threads Uncommonly Seen

"Like ancestry, the arts we sometimes diminish as decorative, or domestic are powerful conduits of inarticulable meaning. Such things sustain us, transmit lore, and retain traditions. They aren’t immutable law, or impenetrable doctrine; they’re matters that sustain, enfold, and nurture us without demanding genuflection- just engagement. We do so unwittingly, at times ungratefully. 4North affords the opportunity to hold offerings we seldom notice in higher regard." Full text here

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Well Beyond Lake Wobegon

Here is my most recent article for on the Tweed Museum's reopening (where I hope you'll make time for their sweeping new offerings). I've tried to at least glance on three themes: that the Arrowhead realize aspirations to have a more critical arts culture, that its various arts organizations continue to recognize the diverse public they serve, and that we remain committed to stewarding our vast creative resources. "Whether the Tweed Museum can maintain the precarious position it has placed itself in, as both stewards of contested notions of culture and promoters of a wider discourse, remains to be seen. That said, it is off to an engaging new start, and credit is due for its willingness to pose complicated questions. Museums can and should provide more than merely balming experiences. The Tweed’s offerings boldly remind us that a more nuanced, larger world exists and that, whether we are encouraged or goaded by what we see there, we are obliged to engage it." Full article here. T.W. 7.14.16

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Shawna Gilmore's Peaceable Kingdom

I've again had the good fortunate (on St. Patrick's Day, of course) to call broader attention to the Arrowhead region's unique creative culture; this time covering the charming work of Shawna Gilmore.

"Gilmore's works don't lament innocence as a quality lost, but rather as one allowed to atrophy  — still within our grasp if we can resist a need for certainty and prescribed meaning. Her representations prompt such curious questions as: What would a young girl and a bear have to say to each other (Speaking With Bears)? Or, why might masked pixies be circling a bonfire (Firelfies Around the Flame)? What possibilities might arise if we were to cede to ambiguity and become comfortable with less than absolutely knowing? I appreciate the trust she places in a viewer’s own imaginative capabilities. Full article: here

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Karen Savage Blue, The Past is Prologue

Part of what I'd consider my "job" in Duluth is to call attention to the uniquely talented individuals of the region. Karen Savage Blue is a soft-spoken, articulate artist deserving even greater prominence. I've linked below to the full article on below; here's a small excerpt:

"Savage Blue's images are often small — not diminutively so, but they don't require scale to overwhelm a viewer their virtuosity. She depicts the things right at our feet, just out the window, and farther afield. Surfaces are at times glassy and serene, rough-hewn and hatched-into at others. Her palettes range from dusky tones punctuated with high-key flecks to the luminous, and nearly fauve. Her subjects vary from the minutely observed, as in Dakota Fruit, to expansive views of Lake Superior.  Even her name underscores this range, conveying the heavily-freighted admiration/derogation in tropes of noble savagery tempered by “Blue,” together suggestive of balancing alternations between the wild and the somber." Link

Duluth, So Far.

Image credit: Aaron Reichow Photography
This blog has lain fallow for far too long, but I've been anything but dormant. This past August I was awarded a grant to produce my first book of photographs, captioned by 21 highly-gifted poets, songwriters, and authors from the Northland. We're near to going to print, and I hope to have sample pages to share soon. I've also just finished a year's worth of a weekly photo feature called "Selective Focus" for the website Perfect Duluth Day. I'm proud how we've shifted the visual discourse from pretty pictures of the region's abundant natural assets, to foregrounding the people that live, work, and play here. It's often stressful, but I'm used to "herding cats" from my collective's past exhibitions. I've also been sowing the seeds for alternative shows that return agency to viewers, and employ art to build community, and was honored that the Duluth Art Institute allowed me to blather on about these beliefs in their current news magazine (DAI FAll News Magazine). I'm also happy to announce that two of my works were recently acquired by the Tweed Museum of Art. While validating on a professional level, it is even more gratifying personally to have found a place for my work here in my new home. Bracing now for an interesting Winter.

Friday, January 23, 2015

The 60th Annual Arrowhead Regional Biennial

A very long road took me to Duluth, Minnesota. That is why it's especially gratifying to at last (in print at least) begin giving back to my new home, and to be able to call merited attention to the work of people who've become friends, advisors, and allies in realizing positive change. To say that devastating personal losses are an opportunity to build our resilience is kind of a tired cliché for anyone mired in them. But I can now vouch, having come through another side of grief, that there's some truth in this bromide. Art is a tonic for struggle, a way we leave our metaphorical and literal marks, and it is sustenance. Here's to all of us still striving. 

"Having an ever-changeable body of water like Lake Superior in your midst on a daily basis affects people, perhaps in particular those committed to making art. It  creates an awareness of matters that are tenuous, conditional, and frequently shifting.  The artworks chosen for the 60th Annual Arrowhead Regional Biennial demonstrate this cognizance in subtle, at times funny, sometimes sobering ways.  It is notable, the number of objects that have been torn into, abraded, and otherwise distressed. Their recurrence calls to mind the precarious balances artists negotiate -- between expression and income, prestige and self-regard, utility and uselessness." Link here: