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Brian Barber Posts

Selective Focus: Joseph Nease Gallery

This week we hear from Amanda Hunter, manager at Joseph Nease Gallery, about the gallery’s first year in business in Downtown Duluth and what’s ahead.

AH: As background on our history, Joe Nease, the gallery owner and his partner, the painter Karen Owsley Nease, moved to Duluth from Kansas City about five years ago after falling in love with Duluth, the North Shore and Lake Superior during many years of vacationing here. Previously, Joe ran a successful gallery for 5 years in the thriving contemporary art scene of Kansas City, MO. The first Joseph Nease Gallery carried most of the best artists in that town, many who have gone on to prestigious careers and have won important awards in the art world such as the Joan Mitchell Foundation Award. Shows from that gallery were reviewed four times in a major national magazine.

Selective Focus: Duluth and Northern Minnesota Film Photographers

Photo courtesy of Kip Praslowicz

There’s a show currently hanging at Blacklist, photography all shot on film by area photographers. The pieces come from members of the Duluth and Northern Minnesota Film Photographers, a group that meets monthly to discuss the process, challenges and variations of shooting on film. The evening will be both a reception for the show and one of the monthly meet-ups.

Selective Focus: The Big Lake

This week we hear from Abby Tofte who recently opened the Big Lake, a store in Grand Marais selling “approachable” regional art — screenprints, cards, pottery, prints and more. Abby tells the origin story of the Big Lake and how her shop fits in with the mix of other shops in Grand Marais.

AT: The Big Lake is an approachable art gallery and gift shop with products that reflect the unique culture, lifestyle and beauty of the North Shore or Lake Superior. We carry regional and locally made jewelry, pottery, paintings, prints, cards, books and more, all within an affordable price range.

Selective Focus: Ashley Wereley

Tonight (Friday, July 27) is the opening of Peter Pan, Jr. at the Depot Family Theater, and next week, the Toxic Avenger opens at the Underground on Thursday, August 2. This week’s Selective Focus subject is the scenic designer for both productions.

AW: My name is Ashley, of Ashley Wereley Design, and I am a scenic designer, exhibit designer, scenic painter, exhibit painter, muralist and commissioned artist.

I stumbled into scenic painting while in art school when a friend at a local church asked me to paint some scenery they were building for a youth camp. I was immediately enthralled, and decided to stay on for a year at the Oaks Fellowship in Red Oak, Texas, as scenic charge and an assistant scenic designer.

Selective Focus: #perfectduluthday

A post shared by The Modern Jedi (@hart0812) on

It’s time for a midsummer check on what makes a #perfectduluthday.

Selective Focus: Derek Montgomery

Derek Montgomery has shown us the world through his lens as a photojournalist, and he also does portraits and weddings. He’s worked for the Duluth News Tribune and Minnesota Public Radio, and he tells us how shooting news is different from shooting a bride and groom.

DM: I’m a photographer who specializes in wedding, news and sports photography. That may seem like a lot, but it’s a pretty narrow scope. Weddings is pretty obvious what that is about. I do a lot of work in northern Minnesota with Minnesota Public Radio reporters and have been a part of many stories and projects over the years. And the sports side involves working with the athletic department at the College of St. Scholastica to document their sports teams. Along with my work at CSS, I do a ton of team and individual sports work for hockey, baseball, volleyball, lacrosse and other teams, clubs and programs in Duluth. I’ve been a professional photographer for 12 years now and have been wandering around with a camera for 16 years.

Selective Focus: Warrior Printress

Warrior Printress Letterpress and Design is a partnership between two creative entrepreneurs, Janelle Miller and Stacie Renné. Janelle, the original Warrior Printress, started the printing business in 2010 after apprenticing and working for Rick Allen at Kenspeckle Letterpress (featured previously on PDD). Stacie Renné, a graphic artist experienced in brand identity, advertising, and corporate communications, joined forces with Janelle this summer. This week in Selective Focus, they tell us what they have planned for Warrior Printress.

WP: The heart of our business partnership is the shared love for place, for the lake, for paper, for type, for the clank of the press, for the hiss of the ink on the press rollers, and shared passion for creating a quality impression. Couple all those things with a desire for delivering simple, creative designs that communicate clearly, and you have Warrior Printress Letterpress and Design. We fuse contemporary design, technology, and techniques with old world, quality printing processes to create a product that, as we like to say is, “as unique as you are.”

Selective Focus: Naomi Christenson

Naomi Christenson dances, paints, designs and more. On July 13th and 14th, she’s dancing in Dances on the Lakewalk in Lake Place Park at 7 pm, an event organized by Doris Acosta of Freshwater Dance Collective. This week in Selective Focus, she tells about the event, and how her visual art and dancing abilities work together.

I work in a variety of mediums, from painting to fabric design to dancing. At the moment, I’m all about tap dancing! I’m not 100% clear how I first knew I wanted to tap, but I suspect it had something to do with watching someone else do it and thinking “That looks SO fun, I want to do it too!”. I’ve taken all kinds of technique classes in tap over the years, but only in the last few years have I worked on my own choreography in it. I think the more you create in any art form, the more you’re able to see your unique voice and style develop. I would say my tap style is playful and rhythmic.

Selective Focus: Bowwow Powwow

On Wednesday, June 27, there is a book release event for “Bow Wow Pow Wow” illustrated by Duluth artist Jonathan Thunder, written by Brenda Child, professor of American Studies at the University of Minnesota, and translated to Ojibwe by Gordon Jourdain, who teaches at the Misaabekong Ojibwe Language Immersion program for Duluth Public Schools.

Selective Focus: #duluth

A few images of people recently Duluthing.

Selective Focus: Travis Novitsky

When you get away from city lights and can look at a clear night sky, it’s remarkable how much is up there. Travis Novitsky takes this experience even further with his photography, showing the amazing detail of stars, the milky way and auroras that shine down on our world every night.

TN: I have been making photographs for over 25 years, specializing in images of Lake Superior and the Minnesota North Woods with a passion for the night sky. A self-taught photographer, my knowledge about photography has come primarily from reading books on the subject and from countless hours of experimentation with the camera. I “got my start”, I guess you could say, early on in high school. My first camera was a very basic point-and-shoot Pentax film camera. After that I graduated to a Minolta X-700 SLR film camera which I used until purchasing my first digital camera in 2001. Since then I have used a variety of camera brands including Olympus, Canon, Nikon and Sony. All have helped me create unforgettable imagery. What’s more important than what camera you use, however, is your way of looking at the world around you. How you interact with that world and how you choose to photograph what is around you.

Selective Focus: Daniel Benoit


If you were out and about during Homegrown 2018 and saw the giant chicken on the front of the Blacklist Beer / Solve Entertainment building, you’ve seen some of Daniel Benoit’s work. He pulls together design, video, animation, projections, and all kinds of technology to create immersive art. He tells about how he started working with this relatively new and experimental medium.

DB: I work in multiple digital mediums, but lately my focus has been projection design for theatre and immersive design for escape rooms. The path to getting here has been long and winding. The short version is that my love of filmmaking, theatre, and graphic design all happened to converge in 2012 when I created projections for my friend Davey T Steinman’s play Bagman at Pillsbury House Theatre in Minneapolis. Davey introduced me to the software I still use today, Isadora, and that was it, I was hooked.

Selective Focus: Ed Newman

Ed Newman is a prolific artist, writer and supporter of the arts in our area. His frequent blog posts at “Ennyman’s Territory” cover the work of other artists, events and issues around town. You can almost always count on seeing him at openings, and he’s also very involved with this week’s Duluth Dylan Fest. He talks about how all these passions and interests come together for him.

EN: I work in a variety of media. About four decades ago I re-defined myself as a “creative person” which opened up all kinds of channels for creative expression beyond painting and drawing. I became serious about my writing at that time, and have always been drawing and making art in the background of what has primarily been a career in advertising.

Selective Focus: Nick Wroblewski

Nick Wroblewski gets beautiful layers of color and detail from his woodcut printing process. You may have seen his work in local galleries and shops, and you might also be seeing it in your refrigerator on 6-packs of Earth Rider beer. Simpler, limited-color versions of his art are being used on the Earth Rider packaging. Be sure to check out the video at the end of the post to see how he builds up the layers of color for some stunning effects. He will be talking about the work for Earth Rider tonight (Friday, 5/18) at the Cedar Lounge, and doing a demonstration tomorrow (Saturday, May 19) at Zeitgeist Art’s “Spirit of the Times” event.

NW: The medium I am working in is called woodcut printmaking, and it’s been my primary medium for about 15 years. All the images that I make are printed from the inked surface of a carved block of wood. This technique is an ancient method used to create multiples of a single image. I was first drawn to this technique because of the way that it combined elements of drawing and painting with sculpture and woodworking.

Selective Focus: David Barthel


This week, photographer David Barthel talks about building a career from his art, how his photography evolved from a hobby and curiosity as a kid, the turning point of a job loss, and some of his inspirations from our area.

DB: I’ve been photographing the natural world for over fifteen years, with a primary focus on the North Shore of Lake Superior and a secondary emphasis on the vast and rugged American West. I’m often asked how long I’ve been involved with photography, a question that would seemingly demand a concise answer. The reality is, my journey into photography didn’t result from any single moment of epiphany, but rather the gradual development of a long-held hobby.