Brian Barber Posts

Selective Focus: Carolyn Olson


Carolyn Olson takes extremely ordinary daily events and turns them into big, colorful studies of life and relationships.

C.O.: I am primarily a narrative painter working in either gouache, water-based oil paint or pastel. I have also experimented a bit with sculptural figures made out of plywood or iron.

A bio photo from an oil on board 36" x 48" called "Halloween Costume"

Self-portrait called “Halloween Costume.” Oil on board 36″ x 48″


My subject matter has always been based in my daily life – family/friends, observations of others – often strangers. I’m from Duluth originally and moved to the Cities after high school to study painting and graphic design. From there I moved to Mississippi where I worked as a graphic designer for a non-profit organization dedicated to social reform. Being one of the few white folks in our neighborhood I spent a lot of time observing, listening, and re-examining my place and work. My drawings and paintings at that time were my way of trying to understand the people and the place where I was living. Being from the north and white – it was a cultural education. My paintings were universal stories such as a mother’s love for her family, children playing – poverty and race became a part of my subject matter.

Selective Focus: Ken Zakovich

Ken has been working for many years as a designer for print, interactive and other projects that typically make their way through the ad agency where he works. Recently, he’s been applying his design skills to some innovative 3-d and other projects.

Call for Halloween Banners

We want to see your Halloween photos at the top of this page as banners. Keep in mind the hauntingly horizontal format, it can be tricky to work with, but a treat when it works well.

Sorry, that was terrible.

Click here for complete submission guidelines, but the basics are: 1135 pixels wide by 197 pixels high, e-mail them to [email protected]. We’ll put them in rotation near the end of the month.


Selective Focus: Bill Coit via Valerie Coit

Earlier this year, my friend Val started posting photos her dad had taken to a Facebook album. They were obviously decades old, but they were pristine. These weren’t scans of tattered, faded, off-color prints found in a box in the basement, they were scanned from the slide film her dad shot. A couple years ago, my mother-in-law passed away, and my brother-in-law took on the job of scanning the best photos from a big chest of old pictures and sharing them with the family via Dropbox. All this makes me wonder what will happen as most or all of our family photos become electronic, not physical.

Selective Focus: Joe Polecheck


Our area has provided plenty of stunning scenes for photographers, but Joe Polecheck’s photos go beyond typical landscapes as he has some fun with subjects, tricks and experiments.

J.P: I’ve always been involved in the arts, both painting and drawing ever since I was a child. I’ve always been able to identify things I liked or not when appreciating photography. About 2 years ago, I realized I’d better put up or shut up and try my hand at it. And as my wife has told me, “nothing can just be a hobby for you” which leads me here today!

Selective Focus: Hemlocks Leatherworks


This week, a little bit of fashion in Selective Focus. We hear from Candace Lacosse who operates Hemlocks Leatherworks.

C.L.: I am primarily a shoemaker (which is a cordwainer, not a cobbler), but I love designing and making just about anything out of leather and waxed canvas: bags, purses, wallets, leather-bound journals, really just about anything.

Selective Focus: Shawna Gilmore


Shawna Gilmore has had a busy year, with four shows in eight months, so chances are you’ve seen her sometimes surreal combinations of nature, kids and animals around town. This week in Selective Focus, she talks about her work and what she’ll do with a little bit of down time.

S.G.: I am a visual artist painting primarily in acrylics on wood panels. I occasionally use graphite and paper, my first artistic love. My style is ever-evolving. . . but my current illustrative style came about from a piece I did 3 or so years ago called “Beneath Her Feet” Everything about that piece made sense to me, from the starry sky and trees/roots, to the vintage woman and her farmhouse. It was really a lightbulb piece for me. I had been experimenting with people in my work, women’s faces mostly, but only the vintage characters rang true for me. Somehow their timelessness and history add the genuineness I need for my more narrative images to transcend current times. I also realized I was most interested in telling stories through surrealistic scenarios in my paintings.

Selective Focus: Ryan LeMahieu


This week in Selective Focus, we hear from Ryan LeMahieu. If you click the images for a bigger view, you can better see the intricate line work in his drawings.

R.L.: my name is ryan lemahieu. i work mostly in mixed media but have a tendency to gravitate towards the black pen. you are nearly always able to find a pen and paper which is nice because art is how i deal with severe social anxiety with roots deep in depression. it is my release. i also think everything is better in black and white.

i wish i could purchase a t.v. that was black and white. does anyone know where i can find a black and white t.v. ?

i have been working on developing a “style’ for close to 20 years. i feel like i maybe finally figuring it out.

Selective Focus: Ryan Tischer


This week in Selective Focus, we feature photographer Ryan Tischer. Tomorrow (Saturday, September 3) Lakeside Gallery will host an opening of Ryan’s work, and he will be the featured artist there through September.

R.T.: I do landscape and nature photography of North America, with a concentration in our Lake Superior region. My goal as an artist is to capture the emotional essence of a scene. Like many, I feel a strong spiritual connection to nature. I use this connection to guide my artistic choices when considering a scene behind the lens. Composition, exposure, filters, and so forth are all essential considerations, but the one variable in outdoor photography that cannot be forced or overtly manipulated is the light. For this reason I find myself waiting for hours at a given location and often returning time and time again until I find something magical in the light that finally makes the image. As in life and photography, light is everything. Without light from our sun we would not have life on this planet and I would certainly not be around to take pictures! I try to keep that in mind when making images and hope it comes through in my work.

Selective Focus: Mary Plaster

Mary Plaster is best known As a papier-mâché artist, and for the Duluth All Souls Night celebration she has led. She tells about her work and the challenges of putting on an event like Duluth All Souls Night.

M.P.: I am a self-employed artist and facilitator, working in a variety of mixed media for 35 years. I paint, sculpt, do graphics, and photography. Fresh out of Missoula, MT High School art classes, I attended Minneapolis College of Art and Design and worked at Children’s Theatre Company in the properties department. I saw my first MayDay Parade in the late 1970s and fell in love with In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre (HoBT). I also attended a mask and physical theatre school near San Francisco.

Selective Focus: Flo Matamoros

Tonight (Friday, August 19) at Prove Gallery, there’s an opening of a collaboration between Flo Matamoros and Brian Ring called “The things they carried.” Flo Matamoros tells how her spontaneous, flowing style came to be.

F.M: My creative background is one that has been shaped by obsessive curiosity through the tool box that Art History is and the amount of creative mentors I have had since a child.
I was fortunate enough to receive around 7 years of classical painting training from age 7 until 14 in El Salvador (thanks mom!). So, I had to paint a lot of what I consider boring shit. Still life, landscape, flowers, etc. My professor said I had to master all that “boring shit” before I was allowed to paint the human form. So it took me until my freshman year at St. Scholastica (I started my higher education as a Chemistry Major because I thought that painting was bogus and Art was meh) to get over myself.

Selective Focus: Richard Colburn


This week, we look at the quiet, fascinating photography of Richard Colburn.

R.C.: As a photographer I am interested in the social landscape, the idea that a photograph is drawn from life and engages, however eccentrically, being human and alive. There is a wonderful circularity in this way of working in that the photograph originates in the world and through carefully viewing of that photograph we see the world with fresh eyes. That refreshed vision is the result of carefully considering not only the subject but also how the photographer employs the language of photography. That language includes a photographer’s knowledge of materials and processes and history of the medium.
It may be asking a lot for a viewer to make such an effort when we live in a world clotted with easily made and circulated images that are consumed in an instant.

Selective Focus: Adam Swanson


This week we hear from one of the area’s most prolific and recognizable painters, Adam Swanson. Adam has an opening reception tonight (Friday, Aug. 5) at the Tettegouche State Park Visitor Center.

A.S.: I work primarily with acrylic paints on tempered hardboard panels. In my youth and studies I experimented with a wide variety of media and techniques. Though I’ve always rallied against specialization, I accidentally grew to love acrylic painting.

Selective Focus: Dave Kirwan


This week, we profile the multi-talented Dave Kirwan, an illustrator, animator, designer and film buff. Dave talks about how he got to the point where people pay him to draw silly pictures and the changing industry.

DK: I am today what I have been for the past forty-nine years, a commercial illustrator. People pay me to draw pictures that tell a story.

My first professional gig began on my sixteenth birthday when I was asked to augment my main duties as a cut and paste keyliner on a small weekly shopper with original cartoons and illustrations. Later on I worked at television stations, printers, publishers, was even a partner in an prominent Twin Ports ad agency for eighteen years. Yet despite official job titles of graphic designer or creative director, I have always pursued my primary avocation… I’m the guy who draws little men with big noses. Print ads, animation, even a couple of stints at national syndicated cartooning, I’ve always had a pencil in hand ready to sketch out the next idea.

Selective Focus: Tami LaPole Edmunds

Tami LaPole Edmunds has taken her art — repurposing clothing, jewelry and accessories — and made a successful career out of it. Art in the Alley now has two locations in Duluth.

TLE: I have been upcycling jewelry and clothing since we opened Art in the Alley 8 years ago. I love taking apart an existing garment and using it to create a totally different piece. It is like putting together a puzzle…without knowing what the final outcome will look like.