Art Posts

Dalles of the St. Louis River

Dalles of the St Louis River

OneRiverMN-Logo-FC-BadgeThe illustration above is from William Cullen Bryant‘s classic book Picturesque America, published by D. Appleton & Company of New York in 1872 and 1874. Bryant was editor of the book; the illustration is by Alfred R. Waud.

Taking it Outside

LucieA-SEI’ve overbooked myself lately.

A common problem and in this case, it’s completely my fault — taking on more foolishness than hours in the day. So, like most of us, I cut corners by eliminating “extra” stuff, like exercise and staring into middle space.

My near daily walk in Chester Bowl or less frequent craning-of-neck views of the bluffs at Tischer Creek has been put on hiatus. (Even though I live near one park and drive past the other daily.)  I’ll ’fess up to only one, maybe two visits to Canal Park and Park Point beach this winter. I mean, I’ll be back, you know, just after the due date passes, that class ends, oh – and, that other thing.

I’m embarrassed to say that recently I’ve seen more Duluth landscape on Perfect Duluth Day and Destination Duluth these days than actually experienced.

And I’m worse for it.

I need to take a Sharpie and write, “I’m happier when I play outside” backward, then slap it on my forehead so I can read it in the mirror in the morning. Plan accordingly.

Selective Focus: The St. Louis River, Contemplative Space

Sharon Mollerus

Sharon Mollerus, “Water Lillies”

OneRiverMN-Logo-FC-BadgeI was fortunate to spend my first Arrowhead New Years Eve in a cabin in Jay Cooke State Park; bird watching, snow-shoeing, and far from the inebriates (though I did bring a flask). Even photographed a ghost buck (pictured below), warmed by a cedar and oak fire as a soft snow fell to welcome 2016. It was a grand introduction to the St. Louis River.

For the next two weeks Selective Focus will take part in the “One River, Many Stories” project which asks for tales of your relationship to this unique watershed. This week we’re concentrating on the river’s abundant natural beauty; a place for restive contemplation, and awe. Be sure to see the Duluth Art Institute’s kick-off the project on Monday, April 4, with a photo essay by Ivy Vainio, Tom Hollenhorst’s interactive maps, live drumming, and a video booth with PBS’s Karen Sunderman who’ll record your stories.

Waving at Strangers

Saturday Essay - Dave SorensenIt started when I was twelve years old and my father consented to buy me a mini-bike. It was the real deal, a miniature motorcycle, not some boxy frame with a lawn mower engine. Sixty CCs, one hundred and twenty pounds, it would do fifty miles per hour. What a foolish gift.

There had been a couple of go-carts around the neighborhood before bikes took over. Two brothers had cobbled one together but had yet to master the complexities of throttle control or brakes. We put their sister on it, wound it up, and let it go. I don’t know how she eventually came to a stop, but she was last seen careening between the trees in our beloved public park. It was obvious from that experiment their machine had two too many wheels.

I probably knew a dozen kids with mini-bikes. My friend two blocks away had one identical to mine, and ours were among the coolest. Most common were the Honda 70s. Ugly, but they could keep up. The boy across the street had a Suzuki Trail Hopper. Pathetic. Honda 50s were tiny. The clown car of mini-bikes. One kid had an Indian which sounded like a chainsaw cutting sheet metal, yet law enforcement was strangely absent for a couple of summers when the world was young.

Selective Focus: Spring (Dare We Speak its Name?)

Christine Dean

Christine Dean, untitled

The recent spate of lovely weather, coinciding with the vernal equinox, is a trap. We know this, yes? Having seen it snow in June, and still, we live in hope. There are gardens to ready, trails to follow, newborns to raise. Spring, tantalizingly close, isn’t for the timid, the reclusive, or the misanthropic. It’s time to be an upright, active being again until Summer’s indolence overtakes us.

Review: Kathy McTavish’s Høle in the Sky


Is there a hole in sky? Art mesmerizes the Food Farm!

Media artist Kathy McTavish and the new-music ensemble Zeitgeist took over two windowless rooms of the Food Farm root cellar in Wrenshall this past Saturday to present the interactive exhibition Høle in the Sky to an audience of about 25 people.

The Meal that Almost Killed Me

My wife and I had just completed the trifecta of stress-inducing life events. In the span of two weeks we had gotten married, moved to a new city, Chicago (where we would be living together for the first time), and I started a brand-new job at Northwestern University (where I knew exactly one person).

My commute from our apartment near Wrigley Field to Evanston was nearly 45 minutes. Which I got to spend on the packed red line train, sitting next to a revolving roster of the cast of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest – Public Transportation Edition.

My “favorite” commute was the morning I sat next to a perfectly lovely older lady who smiled and moved her new handbag so I could have more room. We rode in silence for a moment before she asked me where I was heading.

Selective Focus: Iconoclasts

Mike Scholtz

Mike Scholtz, untitled

Being an iconoclast means more than seeming stereotypically outré, a fringe figure, or intentionally marginal. This week features the ordinary people among us who get things done by merely digressing from convention; age, gender, and appearance have little to do with the capacity to shift the discourse, and affect communities — though a dash of eccentricity, sometimes humor doesn’t hurt. Difference is also a mental state; taking the road less traveled or asserting a dissenting view (as in Ann Klefstad’s piece, or Bryan French’s image from the Berlin Wall).

Spring Brings Unexpected Things

Heather JacksonLast March, like this one, was placid and mild; it was a true and distinct season instead of the usual Northland spring, which is often held hostage in an icy chokehold by winter. No, the days slowly and confidently transformed from ash and smoke into gently unfurling golds and greens.

This seems like an odd observation for someone who spent most of it in a dim, whispered wing of St. Mary’s Hospital. My second born, my new baby daughter, made an alarmingly early entrance into the world, interrupting a Friday afternoon’s planned errands: Target for hand towels, aspirin, and an indulgent Starbucks latte, and maybe the children’s boutique, Sproutlings, to fawn over tiny, unpractical pastel things — booties and bows and expectations of the chubby baby thighs to come.

For two days in that early March week, something was off about my pregnancy and I was torn between taking my intuition seriously by calling to move up a scheduled prenatal appointment or discrediting the feeling as merely nerves. The former won the battle. I hadn’t felt much movement out of my usually active, somersaulting babe. After a nurse on the phone recommended I head into Labor and Delivery at the hospital for a non-stress test, my husband left work early to accompany me and our 3 year old. We’d just pop in — it was probably nothing — and then head off to do some quick shopping before the weekend.

Selective Focus to join the “One River, Many Stories” project

OneRiverMN-Logo-FC-BadgeIn April, Perfect Duluth Day’s weekly Selective Focus feature will devote two themes to the “One River, Many Stories” project, which asks for tales of your relationship to the St. Louis River. I’m drawn to it’s dualistic character as a forum for both contemplation and recreation, so April 1’s theme will foreground the river’s natural beauty, and April 8 will spotlight its possibilities for play. Feel free to send images as soon as you’re able to tim @ perfectduluthday.com, and follow the “One Rivers” project at onerivermn.com

Selective Focus: Artistic Kids

Cheryl Reitan

Cheryl Reitan, “Black Cat”

Many thoughtful people have rightfully lamented the gutting of funding for arts education to privilege more “useful” studies. But there are also the limitations we impose on ourselves, and the diminishment of what many of us once so much enjoyed (“I loved to paint and draw as a kid…”). Art too often becomes something we let go to follow well-rutted roads, to conform, and to not stand apart.

Comics on my Mind

Local artist and design teacher Darren Houser presents on his work, among other presentations at the Martin Library at UMD, organized by Pat Maus.

Local artist and design teacher Darren Houser presents on his work, among other presentations at the Martin Library at UMD, organized by Pat Maus.

A recent event at UMD spotlighted comics as a scholarly and artistic pursuit.

Grocery Evolution

Paul Lundgren Saturday EssayThere is an evolution of grocery shopping that occurs during a lifetime — assuming you didn’t grow up on a farm. It starts when you’re a kid and your parents drag you along to the Piggly Wiggly, Red Owl or wherever.

They try to ram you into that cold metal seat on the cart, facing the opposite direction of traffic, but it never quite works out. It doesn’t take much kicking and screaming to get mom to let you loose, so you can scamper all over the store and knock things over.

It’s not your fault. You don’t want to be there; you were brought against your will. A tantrum is to be expected.

Also, as long as you are being held hostage on this mission, it only makes sense to grab all the low-hanging snack food and try to use it as a bargaining tool. If mom will simply buy a box of individually wrapped corn syrup wads, you’ll stop tugging on her pants to constantly beg for them. It’s a fair deal.

Eventually, of course, your parents smarten up and lock you in the car. Soon you become old enough to be left home alone, and it’s at that point you enter a long period where you never go to the grocery store. Food is just delivered to you and magically appears in cupboards. This is the halcyon period of your sustenance-acquiring existence.

Selective Focus: Dirty Snow

Hugh Reitan

Hugh Reitan, “Snowmen”

We’ve had prettier Selective Focus features, but there can be an unusual beauty in ugliness, even humor, as Hugh Reitan’s image above demonstrates (or there’s just abject horror as with Aaron Reichow’s current submission).

Gaelynn Lea to appear on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert series

GaelynnLeaDuluth musician Gaelynn Lea has been chosen as the winner of National Public Radio’s Tiny Desk Contest. NPR asked musicians from across the country to send a video of an original song, performed behind a desk. Specifically, the contest was seeking “a song and a sound that felt original and a performance that felt inspired.” Among 6,100 entries, Gaelynn Lea was the favorite. Below is her audition video.


“The melody of this song wouldn’t let go – it just stuck with me, it stuck with all the judges. It conveys an overwhelming emotion of yearning and love that’s unforgettable,” said Bob Boilen of NPR Music — whose desk has served as the stage of more than 500 Tiny Desk performances. “What we look for in the contest is an artist who has something singular about what they do, something unique to them, something no one else is doing. Gaelynn Lea has that, and that simply won our hearts.