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Brian Barber Posts

Selective Focus: Ten Years of Homegrown Music Video Festival

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Homegrown Music Festival and 10 years of the Homegrown Music Video Festival. Participants in the video fest are assigned a random song by a local band and usually have a few weeks to put together a video. Over the past ten years, there have been videos with found footage, lip-synced performances, dolls, puppets, pets, animation, just about anything goes.

Selective Focus: Brenna Jordan

Brenna Jordan has nice handwriting. But she doesn’t just get complimented on it, she gets paid for it. And she’s a member of the International Association of Master Penmen, Engrossers, and Teachers of Handwriting. This week, Brenna fills us in on the art of calligraphy and how she works a very analog art into the digital world.

“I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions.”
-James Michener

BJ: When I’m not out enjoying Duluth’s many natural wonders, I work as a calligrapher/hand lettering artist in my home studio that officially opened in 2014. I use an assortment of inks, gouache, watercolors, chalk and colored pencils, and have lettered on all kinds of surfaces, including wood, rock, pressed leaves, canvas, walls, and even boats! I have been in love with letters and great quotes for as long as I can remember, and started learning traditional calligraphy as a teenager. Teachers and coaches hired me to do lettering on certificates and awards, which gave me a lot of practice. While I didn’t formally study art in college, I continued doing calligraphy for events on campus, along with wedding calligraphy for family and friends. For many years, calligraphy was more of a hobby, with occasional commissioned projects.

Selective Focus: Joe Klander

Joe Klander can definitely be called a multimedia artist. He paints, he sculpts, he puts opponents in a full nelson. His art show last year at the Duluth Art Institute was called “Strongman” ond explored his heroes and influences as a kid. He will appear on the upcoming season of America’s Got Talent, and a documentary about him is currently making the rounds at Film Fests, opening last weekend at the Fargo Film Fest.

JK: From what I’ve been told I’ve been drawing ever since I could hold a pencil, and watching pro wrestling not long after that. Mike Scholtz’s documentary “Kinderchomper” hit on my childhood-like arts and crafts art exhibit I was working on and my life as a pro wrestler father and husband. I am constantly reaching back to my boyhood imagination and dreams for inspiration and for some reason always ask myself the question “Would me at the age of 10 think this is pretty awesome?”

Selective Focus: William Garnett

William Garnett is a teacher at East High School, and an avid supporter of the sports and other programs there. He uses his photography skills to provide the student athletes with some amazing Sports Illustrated-level images through his Instagram and Facebook feeds.

WG: I do photography, mostly sports. I began by taking photographs to document the activities of an organization I was the adviser for at East High School and progressed to photographing a variety of activities from sports to theater. I have been called the school photographer and I guess that fits.

Selective Focus: Ingeborg von Agassiz


Ingeborg von Agassiz is a multimedia artist who writes and performs music, paints and draws, creates videos and also teaches music. She just released her album “O Giver of Dreams” and hosted a combination release show / art show at the Red Herring. Her art will be up into the month of April at the Herring. In December, she and her students worked with PDD on a video for “Oh, the Hillside,” a song from the new album. Her music embraces technology with looping vocals, synths and effects, while her paintings are distinctly handmade with bold lines, shapes and strokes.

IVA: I work as both a musician and visual artist. I’ve shared my visual art publicly under another name for over a decade and once I launched my musician project as Ingeborg von Agassiz, I decided to use that name for all the art that I make. I make acrylic paintings on canvas and also pen & marker drawings on paper. And sometimes I use watercolors and also typewriter text on paper. I’ve created a couple of zines with drawings, doodles, essays, song lyrics.

Selective Focus: Found Art – The Squirrels

This week we look at a mysterious collection found at an estate sale. There are 36 pieces of yellow cardboard with photos of squirrels, and typed-out captions glued to the boards. All are numbered on the back, and some have additional handwritten notes on the back. Some of the handwritten notes also appear as typed captions on the front of other cards.

Selective Focus: #perfectduluthday

This week, another selection of Instagram photos marked with #perfectduluthday.

Selective Focus: Matt Kania


Matt Kania is an artist who has won awards for his plein air paintings that capture the light, the feeling and the experience of being in a place. His work brings life to scenes that most of us would walk past without noticing.

MK: I am a professional oil painter and an original printmaker. With most of my artistry coming in recent years in the form of plein air painting (that’s French for ‘in open air’ or ‘on location’).

Selective Focus: Carli Vergamini

Carli Vergamini takes old jackets and other items and re-purposes them into a wild variety of accessories. A quote on her website reads “the best fashions are fringey & up-cycling is cool.” In this week’s Selective Focus, we get an introduction to what she’s doing. It’s worth a deeper dive into her blog, where she frequently makes updates about what she’s working on, and she highlights other businesses that she admires in a series she calls “Biz Crush.”

CV: My main medium of choice is leather. Specifically, re-purposed from vintage leather jackets. It happened as a mistake — I was fresh out of college and didn’t know what I was doing with my life. All I knew is that I wanted to make stuff, but I didn’t know where to buy the materials I needed to make the stuff I wanted to make. So I did what I typically do and got resourceful. I bought the first leather coat I could find at Goodwill, took it home and cut that baby up to smithereens.

Selective Focus: Mary Reichert


This week, Mary Reichert talks about how she stumbled into the art of felting and textiles. She’s become passionate about the craft, and has even gone to live in Central Asia to learn more about the history and techniques.

MR: I work with wool, making felt. How this came to be feels like an incredible mystery and also the most natural thing to happen. When I speak about felt-making I light up; I feel connected with the world. I have been most at home in my life working with a group of people making large community rugs. I did not grow up making things, surrounded by animals or wool, or ever imagine myself involved with fiber.

Selective Focus: Michael Smisek

Michael Smisek is a designer and artist whose work would be hard to miss around here. He and his wife operate the DLH Clothing company, and also Šek Design, where they have worked with a number of high-profile clients in the area.

MS: I primarily work as a graphic designer but my background is in drawing and painting. I have a degree in Fine Art from UMD and I find that a lot of my work still takes on a ‘painterly’ quality – especially when designing posters and other collateral for print. I tell all of my clients that I begin every project with open ears and a pencil in hand. I know it sounds corny but it’s absolutely true. Some designers jump right on the computer and use Photoshop tricks and things before truly thinking through the goals or issues that a client faces. If you look at our Šek logo, you can see that the accent above the ’S’ actually doubles as the tip of a pencil.

Selective Focus: Emily Krueger

This week, illustrator Emily Krueger tells how she began to incorporate digital techniques into her painting and drawing styles, as well as how she has looked for a wide variety of opportunities to get her work out there and make her own job.

EK: My professional training is in graphic design and fine art (specifically, oil painting). I’ve dabbled in most mediums; watercolor, acrylic, drawing, graphic art, pastel, and colored pencil. As an illustrator, my main medium is a mix of pencil drawing and digital painting.

Selective Focus: Samantha Nielsen

This week, we hear from watercolor artist and urban sketcher Samantha Nielsen. Also, this week we have a first, a Selective Focus artist teaching on Skillshare. Read on to hear her story and get the preview for her Skillshare class.

SN: I work in watercolor and ink with a style that many describe as ‘whimsical’. My artistic journey started after my third year of college, when I switched my major from music education to art education. I went into some of my first art classes feeling as though I didn’t have my own artistic voice, and I had very little experience, so all of the mediums were new to me. The first year was spent experimenting and learning the basics, but the following year a project for my illustration class is really what made me feel at home with watercolor and ink. We were instructed to completely fill a sketchbook throughout the semester, but we could only use permanent materials (so no pencils or erasers). This is where my love for watercolor and ink began, and this project really challenged me to step out of my comfort zone.

Selective Focus: Alison Aune

Alison Aune is an award-winning painter and educator who paints large-scale works that combine intricate Nordic-style patterns, portraits and mixed-media techniques. This week Alison goes in-depth about her style, her inspirations and even her favorite paint brush.

AA: I studied painting as an undergrad and graduate student. In 1984 I received a BFA in painting and a teaching license in art education from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst where I am from, my dad was a professor of philosophy at UMASS and is currently emeritus, and I received a masters degree in painting from UMD (1987) and a PhD in Comparative Arts from Ohio University in Athens (2000). In graduate school I changed from oil paint to acrylics because I needed the paint to dry quickly!

Selective Focus: Krista Pascoe

Portrait photographer Krista Pascoe talks about how she stumbled into photography at Denfeld and has turned a long-time hobby into a career.

KP: I am a local professional photographer specializing in portrait work. My main focus is weddings, seniors, families and sports. I came into photography by accident a long time ago. When I was attending Duluth Denfeld, I was accidently put into the yearbook class due to a scheduling error. They tossed me on the photography team. Back then, we used chemicals and dark rooms to develop our work, and I was immediately intrigued with the process. As digital has come along, I view the advancements in photography technology a nice complement to the artistic side of my work. I enjoy all aspects of photography from the people, the creativity, the editing and post-processing. I even do some graphic design at the end stages.