Art Posts

Moving North

LucieA-SEI left a good life in the City.

My husband and I had established careers and moved our young family out of our Minneapolis duplex and into our forever house in a first-ring suburb. An Atomic rambler with thick plaster walls, on a corner lot in an award-winning school district, it was lovely. Add in large, southern-exposed windows, a fireplace and a finished basement large enough to raise Shetland ponies, well, it was the “Beige Rambler of my Dreams.” Jason and I planned to watch our children grow up in their award-winning school district, as we grew old in the safety of one-floor living.

And though my husband had truly wanted this house and all its middle-class trappings, our suburban lifestyle had Jason on the verge of a boredom aneurysm.

That’s when a Duluth headhunter found him; a vulnerable adult constricted by a place where lawn maintenance was competitive sport. Given we lived on the boulevard (a term invoked with a disturbing reverence) there was pressure to perform to Olympic levels with chemical sprays, lawn services and street-long coordinated Christmas light displays. In contrast, curb appeal in the Northland is scarcely an intramural.

Selective Focus: Clean

Sharon Mollerus

Sharon Mollerus , “Crown Fountain, Chicago”

Clean is a construct; an aspiration more than an actuality, demanding as much scrutiny as that which we deem dirty. Each term requires criticality, and attempting to understand the world from broader contexts. Likewise, while we could use more rituals like the Roman’s annual Februa purification festival (from which I drew our theme) we could well abandon their plutocratic, militaristic ways.

God Bless Young Love


Strange-but-cute little video by Shawn Donovan.

Blacklist brewery expanding to downtown Duluth

Blacklist Artisan Ales partners

Jon Loss, Brian Schanzenbach and TJ Estabrook, the partners behind Blacklist Artisan Ales

One of the smaller Twin Ports breweries, Blacklist Artisan Ales, is earning big media attention this week after its announced expansion into the building that previously housed the infamous Last Place on Earth head shop.

Mon Historie d’Amour avec Mon Estomac (My Romance with My Stomach)

AndyBennet-SEI’m a Minnesotan in Paris. And I’m alone.

It’s not romantic. Paris with the one you love is romantic. Paris while you navigate the rain, the metro transit system, and a creative-writing residency class-load and its homework, is challenging and more than a little lonely. I’m one of the new kids here, and while I’ve made friends, it’s hard to step up to a circle and demand to know what we’re all doing tonight. I’m not built that way. I’m built for books and Netflix. I’m built for empty movie theaters and empty seats next to me on planes. I’m built for my wife. She is my co-conspirator and without her every experience feels drenched in a demi-glace of melancholy that mingles with the January mist and chills my bones.

JESUS. Chill out, Bennett. Someone’s been spending too much time talking imagery and not enough time eating.

And, since I’m in Paris, eating is a must. So I’m taking my stomach on a date. Instead of flowers, I will buy my stomach flour. We will take a long walk in the rain to a restaurant void of tourists, and the wine will flow. And, after a date like this, my stomach will totally put out.

Okay, I may have extended that metaphor too far. But, you know, that’s why I’m in school. To learn how to not make it sound like I expect my stomach to have sex with me.

Selective Focus: Portrait

Aaron Reichow

Aaron Reichow, untitled

I thought this week’s theme would be simple, though it did raise some discussion as to what exactly constitutes a portrait. My belief is that a portrait is anything which somehow conveys a being or beings- even non-sentient ones; though sentience itself is a contestable construct (doesn’t our region’s Spirit Tree seem capable of feeling, and perception?). I will leave any thoughts more esoteric than that to you, and the comments section below.

Suicide Peaks with the Tulips and Lilacs


The drive back from the VFW Hall in central Minnesota was cold, and the snow falling in the dark January night covered the road. I couldn’t tell whether I was drifting too far across the median or too close to the shoulder until I crossed the rumble strips. I probably should have left earlier, but to be honest, it’s dark after 4 p.m. when you are so far north in winter.

Drinks were cheap and not very strong. The bartender didn’t know how to make a Manhattan. I needed to drive home, so I alternated each drink with a glass of water. My friend’s apartment was just blocks away, so she could walk, even if I didn’t offer her a ride. And if I offered, she’d never take it.

We’d met at 9:30, when the jazz trio took the stage (the stage was a wooden platform four inches higher off the ground than the rest of the bar). She and I weren’t particularly close. If we had been, I might not have made the trip. My wife had moved out that morning. It’d been a separation a long time coming, but it still wasn’t something I was ready to talk about. I needed a friend who was not so close that she knew the reason my life was changing. I needed a friend I could talk to about nearly anything except the separation. I wanted someone to drink with, without sharing why I needed a drink.

Selective Focus: The Great Indoors

Lars Wästfelt

Lars Wästfelt, untitled

Due to a near total lack of submissions this week, I had to bring in some pinch hitters. For the past 5 years I’ve managed a photography collective called “You are not a dinosaur” which features vernacular images from around the world, and I was compelled to draw from this pool for our current theme. See more here: www.flickr.com/groups/notadinosaur/pool/

Perfect Play or Musical of 2015: Renegade’s Eastland

PDDPerfectPlay-MusicalLogo2015Renegade Theater Company has earned its second consecutive Perfect Play or Musical plaque, this time for a dramatic musical that marked the centennial of the tragic sinking of the SS Eastland. The 1915 shipwreck resulted in the death of 844 passengers, the largest loss of life from a single shipwreck on the Great Lakes.

Titled Eastland: A New Musical, the play was partially inspired by Jay Bonansinga’s 2004 historical novel The Sinking of the Eastland: America’s Forgotten Tragedy. The show debuted in 2012 at the Lookingglass Theater in Chicago. Renegade’s staging in August 2015 was just the second professional production of the haunting musical written by Andrew White, with a folk, blues and ragtime score by Ben Sussman and Andre Pluess.

One Man, One River, Many Stories

Paul Lundgren Saturday EssayMike Simonson had a project planned for his retirement. That was the type of guy he was. I’d never heard him talk about retiring, and then the first time he mentions it he’s laying out a plan to produce an epic radio documentary about the St. Louis River … for fun.

I wasn’t surprised Mike had no intention of slowing down after four decades in journalism — a journey he started at the Denfeld Criterion in the mid-1970s, continued at various commercial radio stations during the 1980s, and concluded with a 24-year stint as Wisconsin Public Radio’s northwestern region correspondent at KUWS-FM in Superior. And maybe the topic of the St. Louis River shouldn’t have surprised me either. Mike lived on the river for most of his life, and routinely swam across Stryker Bay for fitness and pleasure.

Still, I was blown away by the idea. Mike had chosen documentary topics in the past that seemed broad, but by comparison were quite specific — Forever Ace: The Richard Bong Story (2012) and We Are Holding Our Own: The Sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald (1995).

Now the St. Louis River? That’s basically the entire history of Duluth, Superior and all the communities that line the 192-mile waterway. It would take an episode to cover the geology alone. The early Anishinaabe-Ojibwe history could be a multi-part documentary by itself. The fur trade, shipping and shipbuilding, the formation of Duluth’s western neighborhoods, industries too numerous to mention, environmental degradation, cleanup efforts, revitalization, wild-rice restoration, fishing and recreation and on and on — there’s just too much story. I was in awe of the idea while flabbergasted at the notion of even Mike Simonson attempting to pull it off.

Selective Focus: Gelid

Frank Sander

Frank Sander, untitled

It is hard to not feel a bit inadequate when a friend will schlep 4 miles for groceries when it’s 15 below, and my biggest concerns are where’s my Zhivago DVD, and do I have enough cloves to stud a lemon for a hot whiskey. That said, Winter is my favorite season — not as some endurance test, but as a time to heed nature’s insistence that we “lie low to the wall until the bitter weather passes over” (John O’Donohue).

Poll: Best Play or Musical of 2015

Plays of 2015

Which Duluth-area theater production made your little Greek mask laugh or weep the most last year?

This poll has closed. The results were:

Renegade Theater Company’s Eastland – 44 percent
Duluth Playhouse Children’s Theatre’s Shrek – 31 percent
Duluth Playhouse’s Mary Poppins – 25 percent

The Plays of 2015

Before we launch PDD’s poll to determine the best play or musical of 2015, we present this list of every play or musical from the past year we could track down, with the hope that you’ll let us know in the comments if we’ve forgotten any.

Avenue Q – The Underground
Banning Around the Christmas Tree, or, The Last Noel of Don Ness – Rubber Chicken Theater
The Barber of Seville – Lyric Opera of the North
Behind the Shining Star – Duluth Playhouse Theatre for Young Audiences
The Birds – Renegade Theater Company
Blithe Spirit – St. Scholastica Theatre

The Professor

Chris Godsey Saturday Essay“You should be very careful about who else you discuss this with, Chris,” The Professor said. “You should let anyone you’ve told know they can expect to hear from my lawyer.

“You’ve made a very righteous decision that’s putting my job at risk, and you’re using a challenging time for my family as entertainment. I don’t appreciate either of those things.

“How dare you.”

That was early spring almost three years ago. I’m sure those aren’t the exact words he used, but it’s precisely what he said.

A few weeks earlier, The Professor had been arrested for obstructing his wife’s airway. During a school-night discussion, a while after they’d put their four kids to bed, she wouldn’t shut up when he wanted her to and he pinned her body — with his much bigger, stronger one — to their living-room couch and covered her mouth and nose with his hand until he felt like letting her go. Once free, she grabbed a phone while running to the basement, locked herself in a bathroom, and called 911.

Soon after spending two or three days in county jail, he visited me at my then-job, at the Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs (DAIP). “I put my hands on [her],” he said, eyes watery-red, voice quavering.

He used her name; later, affectation dropped, he wouldn’t.

Selective Focus: Cabin Fever

Aaron Reichow

Aaron Reichow, untitled

While it has been too warm to be stuck inside contracting the negative strain of cabin fever (Winter will no doubt find us), this week we can emphasize the phrase’s positive connotations. Such retreats represent our desires to simplify, to get away from the dissonance and clutter of what we ordinarily deem important. They foreground necessity and diminish the superfluous, and manifest our plainest requirements for dwelling; heat, light, a water source, a welcoming entry, maybe a window to gaze from or peer into.