Art Posts

Perfect Duluth Day at the Dump


Video by Frank Sander.

The Inheritance

Anna Tennis Saturday EssayMy grandmother Irene was a pitiful, crazy person. Not all the time, unfortunately, or she’d have been packed into some coarse New England institution for experiments with electrons and lithium derivatives much earlier. As it was, because she alternated her violent and impulsive behavior with periods of serenity and excellent baking, she was allowed to quietly produce one, two, three, four and finally five wards of the state, one right after the other, before she was wrangled by the authorities and medicated to death.

Her youngest boy, Fred, who she kept along with three more kids, believed that shock therapy, medication, and age had actually healed Irene just enough that she could think rationally about what she’d done. So she overdosed herself on lithium.

We met her once, about a year before she died. She looked like a watercolor version of our mother, all smeared and indistinct in comparison. We had no idea she was our grandmother. Our mother introduced her as “Irene,” no more information.

Selective Focus: Constant

Aaron Reichow

Aaron Reichow, untitled

What won’t you change in the new year? What remains a fixture in our lives? That was this week’s challenge; to find the things that ground us in a world of whirring flux. Easier said than done in a region whose predominant feature is an endlessly shifting inland sea. I would like to have seen some people as “constants” (as they’ve always been in my life), but hey, I only edit this thing.

2015: The Year in Duluth Gig Posters


Here it is, PDD’s annual gallery of gig posters. It’s not comprehensive, just a smattering of promo images that grabbed attention in 2015.

Saturday Essay: New PDD feature starts in 2016

Saturday Essay logo genericOver the past 12.5 years of Perfect Duluth Day’s existence, there haven’t been many posts that would be considered “essays.” The term is a little vague, but it’s probably understood by most that an essay is something more artistically crafted and of more substantial length than the average PDD post. Examples that come to mind from the past that would be considered essays are Laurie Viets’ “Last Place on Earth — 1983” and my own “Trespassing at UMD’s Old Main in 1992.” There are probably a dozen other examples eluding my memory, but the point in general is that there have been some essays on PDD, but not enough.

To encourage more, we’re launching a new feature called the “Saturday Essay” next week. In each installment, a local writer will share an anecdote, go on a political rant, dissect some event in popular culture or for whatever other purpose string together a healthy amount of words on some subject. Basically the hope is to do for essay writing what “Selective Focus” has done in the past year for photography on PDD.

Selective Focus: Holidays

Paul McIntyre

Paul McIntyre, untitled

As I have little to add to the vast literature surrounding this holiday, I can only recommend one of my favorites: Truman Capote’s “A Christmas Memory.” His own reading of this short story used to be a staple this time of year on Minnesota Public Radio. I have no idea why they’ve departed from playing it, but here is a link to a 2006 This American Life episode that includes a tear-defying excerpt: Episode 255

Selective Focus: Empathy

Marie Zhuikov

Marie Zhuikov, “Buddy, Winter 2012”

Should I infer from the lack of submissions this week that there is a lack of empathy in our world at the moment, or merely accept that the concept is a difficult one to represent? Being prone to hyperbole, I’m going with the former assumption, while hoping that a more general theme next week will boost contributions. Let’s go with “holidays.”

Selective Focus: Air

Mary K. Tennis

Mary K. Tennis, “Steve, Cranes”

It’s easy to take pristine air for granted while living in this Arcadian spot, but an alarming study of phytoplankton from the University of Leicester posited this week that rising carbon emissions could deplete the planet of breathable air. This brought starkly to mind the homophone err, and deepened my belief that true change can only occur from the ground, up — or in this case, from the micro-organismic.

Duluth’s Visual Culture


Video by Brooke Joyce.

Selective Focus: Food

Erin Naughton-Garrison

Erin Naughton-Garrison, “Drag Queen Baby Shower Buffet”

Nice. I was expecting perfectly-plated smart phone grabs from local restaurants, and instead received a group of highly original interpretations on this week’s theme. Erin’s da Vinciesque tableau was especially arresting, and I appreciated the subtext of food as a tradition we convey along generations. Staying with the elemental, next week’s theme will be “air.”

My Time with Arrowhead Regional Arts Council

Photo of me and a friend during my time in Duluth.

Joni Van Bockel and a friend during her time in Duluth.

Hi, I’m Joni Van Bockel. In June I left the Twin Cities to work and intern for the wonderful folks at the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council. This internship has been an extremely valuable learning opportunity for me both as a professional seeking a career in the arts and as a young artist.

PDD Video Lab: “Windows” at the Tweed


Sharon Louden’s exhibition is on display at the Tweed Museum of Art through May 29.

Pick your favorite soundtrack from the choices below and play it along with this silent video.



Video by Will Smyth, featuring a bunch of cones. Some are clearly in Duluth. Some are probably not.

Selective Focus: Editor’s Choice

One year of Selective Focus would be impossible to capture in a single post, so I’ve gleaned just a few personal favorites. I think we’ve accomplished together many of my initial desires to foreground the real people who live work and play here, and to build community through art, no matter how homely or grand.

Selective Focus: Loss

Karen Owsley Nease

Karen Owsley Nease, “Selling Mom’s Car”

There is a perverse fullness in loss. Loss propelled me here. It informs my need to make art. It makes space for the unexpected to grow. Atul Gawande’s recent book “Being Mortal” describes “the chasm of perspective between those who have to contend with life’s fragility and those who don’t.” Loss widens our apertures to see farther down narrow, well-worn paths. It opens us to risk, and to more keenly-felt joys.