Blogs Field Guide Allison

Me: Former Walker employee now infiltrating the ranks of public television in St. Paul, Minnesota on the new arts and culture show called Minnesota Original. The show premiers in Thursday, April 22nd at 7:30pm on tpt channel 2. Yes, it's television and not Hulu.

You: Walker blog reader who will enjoy my comments, however pithy.

Is there a difference between art and craft? Our panel of experts weigh in.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lZkwf2LeREo[/youtube] It’s almost time for another round of the Inquisition. The quiz forum that aims to answer all of your burning questions about the arts. On Thursday, January 7th audiences gathered in Benches & Binoculars to witness our panel of experts strut their stuff while answering questions about art and art history. One moment that garnered […]

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lZkwf2LeREo[/youtube]

It’s almost time for another round of the Inquisition. The quiz forum that aims to answer all of your burning questions about the arts. On Thursday, January 7th audiences gathered in Benches & Binoculars to witness our panel of experts strut their stuff while answering questions about art and art history.

One moment that garnered a lot of “OHHH’s” during the game was a question posed to the panel about the difference between art and craft. That question was submitted by audience member and Walker tour guide Curt Lund. The answers were quite eloquent and simple. Hopefully it  shed some light on a subject that always sparks considerable debate. Click on the video above to hear MPR’s Marianne Combs, Walker curator Peter Eleey, local artist Andy Sturdevant, and Walker curatorial fellow Bartholomew Ryan  answer the question. When you’re done watching it, we at the Walker want you to submit your own open ended question about art at this link walkerart.org/inquisition. We will choose the best question and the winner will be guaranteed tickets to the February 11th Inquisition and a Salty Dog!

Vic Chesnutt, Bruce Allen and Dan Graham. Some Musings by Jim Walsh.

                  The exhibition Dan Graham: Beyond is in its final week here at the Walker. After it closes on Sunday, January 24th audiences will be lacking in opportunities to experience themeslves via funhouse mirrors while listening to Jim Morrison or Patti Smith singing their heart out in another part of […]

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The exhibition Dan Graham: Beyond is in its final week here at the Walker. After it closes on Sunday, January 24th audiences will be lacking in opportunities to experience themeslves via funhouse mirrors while listening to Jim Morrison or Patti Smith singing their heart out in another part of the show behind a set of curtains (the name of that piece is called Rock My Religion).  The show has been a hit with all ages. The best experience I had at the Walker was watching nearly 30  kids play hide and seek in the gallery around his pavilions (I hope no one from registration is reading this!).

Writer, biographer, troubadour, and all around cool guy Jim Walsh has written about music in the Twin Cities for nearly two decades. You may have read his biography of the Replacements entitled The Replacements:All Over But the Shouting. I asked him to give a shout out to Graham since the band was one of the artist’s favorites.

You can read Walsh’s ink on MinnPost.com or you can catch him tending bar at Kings, a new southwest Minneapolis hangout. Either way, scoot on in to catch a last look at the Dan Graham show. You’ll be glad you did.

Seeing Dan

By Jim Walsh

In terms of sheer weirdness, there are few sensory experiences like walking out of a late-night screening of Avatar and all her otherworldly beauty into the closed-for-business Mall Of America and all her sterile suburban shopping ugliness. I did as much the other night, and wondered if anyone else shuddered, as I did, at the idea that all across America, moviegoers who spend three hours bathed in a resplendent canvas of color and goddess-worship are jarred back into the cold dank reality of the Cineplex or mall.

Forgive me for wanting to crawl back into the kaleidoscope womb and stay there forever, but that’s what art does: changes our perspective and focus to the point where we see our environs exactly for what they are. Specifically, that’s what Dan Graham: Beyond did for me. I read his interviews and writings and shuffled through the exhibit, shrugging at certain moments and marveling at others, but its overarching idea – paying attention to the minutia of living and what dull existences humans can make for themselves – stuck with me and will continue to do so, like a punk-rock updating of John Berger’s Ways of Seeing

The Graham exhibit came to Walker around the same time as the deaths of Bruce Allen, guitarist for Minneapolis art-punk pioneers the Suburbs, and Vic Chesnutt, the extraordinary songwriter and artist from Athens, Ga. Both men had a firm stake in the same underground that Graham tilled, and all three represent an aesthetic and history of alternative art and music that’s easy to take for granted, or even forget, at a time when the present pulses with so much promise. But their work, asterisks in the big picture, validates the outsider as not leper but as crucial commentator.

In addition to playing incendiary electric guitar and perfecting a shamanesque scream, Allen created the Suburbs’ logo of five men’s room silhouettes, which dovetails with Graham’s unvarnished tinker-toy depictions of suburbia. A few nights after Chesnutt died, a close friend of his emailed me to say, “I can’t help but think that Vic is doing crazy eights somewhere (in his wheelchair) and laughing his ass off that he screwed up 10,000 Christmases.” He’s right, of course, and we can’t have enough reminders that life in fact is absurd, or enough of the kinds of portals and mirrors provided by Graham, Allen, Chesnutt and others that allow us to laugh at ourselves.

Organic though his expression may be, Graham obviously knows that by placing a camera on his penis, or banging on a piano, or making anti-music, or chanting nonsense mantras, or basically being Andy Kaufmann before Andy Kaufmann was Andy Kaufmann, he is challenging what we’ve gotten used to, what we call art, how we define living and feeling alive.

For me, what matters most about “Dan Graham: Beyond” is the sense of wonder I’m left with. Plenty of art and music offers not a lick of wonder. Graham, Allen, and Chesnutt are important for what they represent – an aesthetic that takes us out of the every day and makes us uncomfortable, angry, bored, and dim-witted, and then forces us to wonder why we are the way we are, and what sorts of art and music and media we’ve been spending our valuable time with. Finally and most importantly, it whets our curiosity for what else we might be missing outside our comfort zones.

Interview with American ceramist Kathy Butterly

American ceramist Kathy Butterly earned a BFA at Moore College of Art in 1986 and an MFA at the University of California, Davis in 1990. Her awards include the Evelyn Shapiro Foundation Grant in 1993, an Empire State Crafts Alliance Grant in 1995, an NYFA Grant in 1999 and the Anonymous Was a Woman Award […]

American ceramist Kathy Butterly earned a BFA at Moore College of Art in 1986 and an MFA at the University of California, Davis in 1990. Her awards include the Evelyn Shapiro Foundation Grant in 1993, an Empire State Crafts Alliance Grant in 1995, an NYFA Grant in 1999 and the Anonymous Was a Woman Award in 2002.

Kathy Butterly, Pillow, 1998

Kathy Butterly, Pillow, 1998

 Her work, which has been cited as the 3-D cousins to Robert Crumb’s drawings are richly ornamented and sensuous. She has studied with Robert Arneson, whose work is also featured in the Dirt on Delight exhibition, but her main inspiration has always been Viola Frey, another DOD artist. She has said that the physically small Frey worked in such a bold way, and that she, “couldn’t believe that this woman whose about my height could make these big macho things.”

Butterly will be speaking alongside her fellow Dirt On Delight artists Ann Agee, and Beverly Semmes on the panel There’s Just Something About Clay, with coordinating exhibition curator Andria Hickey. The discussion will take place at 7:00 pm on Thursday, October 8th, 2009, in the Walker Art Center Cinema. Tickets are free and will be available at the Bazinet Garden Lobby desk from 6:00 pm.

In your answer to the Institute for Contemporary Art question,“How did you come to clay?”  you cite Viola Frey as an inspiration. You said the way she worked was so confident, almost macho, that you were so inspired to make clay your medium. Now, you’re being exhibited with her in the Dirt on Delight show. Can you comment a little further on her inspiration and the rest of your process in working with clay?

I think that basically in addition to what was already mentioned, Viola was there at the right time/right place for me.  She enabled that light bulb to go off over my head.  In addition to Viola, Jack Thompson and Ken Vavrek who were my ceramic teachers at Moore College of Art, helped to open my world up further with inspiration for world travel and also taught me the down and dirty basics of working with clay. You wouldn’t realize by looking at my and Viola’s pieces that she was an original source for my love of  clay, but after witnessing her in action, making her monumental pieces,  I began to also work very large….4-9 ft. tall.  Now my works are 4-9 inches tall. 

Why is there a distinction between ceramics/clay and any other sculpture? How important is that distinction anymore?

This could be a very long answer and also one that I don’t know how to answer.  To some the distinction it is very important and to others it is not. For me, it’s not something that I think about when I’m making my work….it is external….not a distinction created by me.  On another note, I actually think of myself more as a painter who happens to work with clay, three dimensionally……

“Kathy Butterly’s tiny ceramic vessels are abstract and intensely associative, most often evoking aspects of the body. They recall the convolutions of George Ohr’s pots and Robert Arneson’s mugging faces and twisted figures, as well as the finesse of Adrian Saxe’s gew-gaw-ornamented vases. Her playful tone echoes these predecessors, but with a coyness that seems distinctly feminine.” That’s a quote from a review of your work by Janet Koplos in the New York Times. Can you talk about how you come to create some of these objects? Particularly, Fall into Spring, Cenotes, and Like Butter, which I believe are all in Dirt on Delight.

Kathy Butterly, Like Butter, 1997

Kathy Butterly, Like Butter, 1997

I never know what a piece will be/look like until it is completely finished. I never do sketches…..I can explain my process- both thought and making-  like that of a Rorschach test combined with exquisite corpse.  I start with a form, react to it, add to it, fire it, react, fire react……..so on.  At a certain point I understand where  the piece wants to go and after it is complete I understand the meaning of the piece….. ” Fall into Spring” has to do with how I was feeling after 9/11 (I live downtown in Manhattan.)  My head was so full of information and it felt so heavy…..I made a few pieces like this one.  It is definitely a self portrait ….of how I was feeling….. If you look at the piece “Like Butter” – it is a piece made early in my relationship with my husband. Cenote has to do with lushness, about showing off the inside as an equal to the outside and also about the fear of loss of water…..

What would you say to artists choosing clay as their medium to create? 

I would say the same thing to anyone who wanted to be any sort of artist….just be honest to yourself and your work.

10 Reasons to See Machinery Hill Tomorrow Night!

    Machinery Hill has been around for a long time. 20 years to be exact. That’s long time for anything, but especially for a group of individuals who get together week after week to play and create music just because it’s fun.  The band is named after the hill (sort of a hill anyway) […]

 

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Machinery Hill has been around for a long time. 20 years to be exact. That’s long time for anything, but especially for a group of individuals who get together week after week to play and create music just because it’s fun.

 The band is named after the hill (sort of a hill anyway) at the MN. State Fair where the tractors and farm equipment has been traditionally displayed. I believe there are now more lawn mowers and less tractors and the hill has been renamed “Technology Hill.” The band’s name did not change and remains “Machinery Hill.” Whew!

 One of Machinery Hill’s favorite gigs is a Halloween Party thrown almost every year in “The Church of Halloween” over in NE Minneapolis. It is a costume party and three years ago the members of M. Hill dressed up as “The Addams Family.” Bill (he’s responsible for all wind instruments in the band) made a lovely Uncle Fester, complete with a light bulb logo on top of his head. Two years ago the drummer, John Gwinn showed up in a fetching party dress and long flowing wig and was quite a hit. The party has always been a chance to totally rock out and play such Machinery Hill standards as” The Devils in the Kitchen.”

If that isn’t enough information to make you want to venture out and enjoy one of the few warm days we’ve had here in July in Minnesota (tomorrow’s high will be in the mid 80’s) then here are 10 other reasons why you should. Machinery Hill will be playing tomorrow night for our Skyspace/Soundspace concert series. What a scorcher!

1. To hear a variety of musical styles all in one place from one band. That saves travel time.

2. To see how many different times Bill Lee has to switch instruments.

3. The band has been around forever and, if you haven’t seen them by now- you really should.

4. The set will start with the Great Highland Bagpipes.

5. The bagpipe will only play one song.

6. To see how many band members will fit into such a small space.

7. The drummer will be wearing a new shirt.

8. You can brag to your friends that you have discovered an interesting band.

9. The accordion will be in every song!

10. And– most importantly- it’s fun music and should be a good time.

Learn To Upcycle at Tonight’s Remake, Revamp Art Lab

Local designer and crafter extraordinaire Rebecca Yaker will be on hand tonight to give helpful hints on how to save those old clothes of yours from the recycle bin at Savers.  Join us out in the FlatPak house from 6-9pm tonight to re-fashion some of your old clothes that have been sitting around unworn possibly […]

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Local designer and crafter extraordinaire Rebecca Yaker will be on hand tonight to give helpful hints on how to save those old clothes of yours from the recycle bin at Savers.  Join us out in the FlatPak house from 6-9pm tonight to re-fashion some of your old clothes that have been sitting around unworn possibly collecting mothballs.

I asked Rebecca some questions about her business and her reputation as  The Sock Monkey Lady.

How did you become known as the Sock Monkey Lady and what attracted you to sock monkeys in the first place?

I originally encountered many instances of people creating narratives to accompany their sock monkey dolls.  My intrigue led me to participate in an attempt to elevate the absurdity.  In response, I created my first sock monkey doll – a conjoined sock monkey complete with an elaborate persona. A couple of years later I created my first sock monkey dress, hand-woven from wool, complete with a monkey face on each breast – sort of a tribute to my original 2 headed sock monkey doll.

Not until 2006 did I revisit the sock monkey.  That year I participated in the WACTAC Un-Prom for which I created my now infamous Sock Monkey Prom Dress. Later the same year I entered both monkey dresses into the Minnesota State Fair, and a bizarre nationwide popularity ensued (the Internet is an amazing marketing tool, to say the least).  It was then that I was coined the Sock Monkey Lady.

My “attraction” to sock monkeys is relative and I am not a collector.  Honestly, I don’t really care for traditional sock money dolls – I prefer a more absurd approach.  In opposition to being the Sock Monkey Lady, and to help dispel the myth that I am a great sock monkey lover, I created Sock Monkeys in a Meat Grinder. Which was coincidentally awarded 2nd Place at last year’s Minnesota State Fair Fine Arts Exhibition.

Tell us about your business Hazel and Melvin? What’s the process for making items like children’s bedding by hand, and why do you think it’s so popular?

I started Hazel and Melvin’s Room in 2005 in response to an overwhelming need for non-traditional baby bedding – something other than baby pink, baby blue, or lemon yellow.  Since then, my business has grown incredibly and although I continue to design and hand-make a number of ready-to-order products such as diaper bags, quilts, and apparel, my business is now primarily driven by custom orders. 

The “handmade” trend has exploded in recent years – people want a connection to the items they purchase – to help create a history and give meaning. Similarly, I have found that parents want to play a leading role in designing their new baby’s space and environment. All my products are customizable, from bumpers to crib skirts to specialized window treatments to accent pillows, and much more.  When I work with clients, we develop a personalized color palette and print story.  From there I create a virtual mock-up of the individual bedding pieces in their collection.  The process from start to finish takes about 4-6 weeks.  Working with so many people with different perspectives and aesthetics keeps the process very rewarding and exciting.

Where did the term Upcycling come from?

Upcycling was coined by William McDonaugh and Michael Braugart in their book on ecologically intelligent design, Cradle to Cradle. In the simplest terms, upcycling is the practice of taking something that is disposable and transforming it into something of greater use and value. When we recycle, we leave cans, glass, plastic, and paper by the curb for someone else to pick up to get recycled somewhere by someone. With upcycling, you are in control.  You have the power to take something unwanted, unused, and/or discarded to transform it and give it new life.

I understand you’re co-authoring a book? What is it about and who are you working on it with?

YES!  Patricia Hoskins (who owns Crafty Planet in NE Minneapolis) and I are co-authoring One-Yard Wonders – a fantastic new sewing book with Storey Publishing. In the book you will find a delightful array of 101 simple and stylish projects all requiring only one yard of fabric.  Everything from apparel to accessories to toys, pet beds, baby items, bags, and home décor to name a few. The book is very thorough, complete with full-color photos, illustrations and easy to follow step-by-step instructions. We are so excited for its release this October – just in time for people to start crafting holiday gifts!!

What can people expect from Thursdays Art Lab?

First and foremost, look forward to having fun!  This is a great hands-on opportunity to transform a tired piece of clothing from your wardrobe into one with new life and style – afterall, you are going to walk away from this Art Lab with a “new” garment!  Hopefully after tomorrow night you will look at some things from a new perspective and find other items in your home and closet to upcycle. On top of all that, everyone should look forward to spending a gorgeous Minnesota summer night in the Walker Sculpture Garden – what could be better?  See you there!

It Takes Two to Tango!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DLNHp2qGqCw&feature=related[/youtube] For those of you who are curious about Tango dance and music, come to the third in our series of SkyPesher concerts and hear local aficionados Mandrágora Tango Orchestra heat up the James Turell’s sculpture. There will also be lessons taught by local instructor Lois Donnay before the concert begins. High heeled shoes, neckerchiefs, red […]

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DLNHp2qGqCw&feature=related[/youtube]

For those of you who are curious about Tango dance and music, come to the third in our series of SkyPesher concerts and hear local aficionados Mandrágora Tango Orchestra heat up the James Turell’s sculpture. There will also be lessons taught by local instructor Lois Donnay before the concert begins. High heeled shoes, neckerchiefs, red roses and hats all not required for attendance but encouraged! The concert starts at 8:30pm, but lessons begin at 7:45pm.  

I had some questions about the origins of Tango so I turned to Lois for answers. Read on. And, if you want a little sampling of Tango music, watch the YouTube video of an old Carlos Gardel movie. He’s considered one of the greatest Tango singers of all time.

Hope to see you Thursday!

What is the history of Tango dance?

Tango was born in Buenos AiresArgentina was undergoing a massive immigration during the later part of the 1800s and early 1900s. Most immigrants were single men hoping to earn their fortunes in this newly expanding country, and make enough money to return to Europe or bring their families to Argentina. The evolution of tango reflects their profound sense of loss and longing for the people and places they left behind.  Most likely the tango was born in venues attended by compadritos, young men, mostly native born and poor, who liked to dress in slouch hats, loosely tied neckerchiefs and high-heeled boots with knives tucked casually into their belts. The compadritos danced in various low-life establishments: bars, dance halls and brothels. It was here that new steps were invented and took hold.  Although high society looked down upon the activities in the barrios, well-heeled sons of the porteño oligarchy were not averse to slumming. Eventually, everyone found out about the tango and, by the beginning of the twentieth century, the tango as both a dance and as a form of popular music had established a firm foothold in the fast-expanding city of its birth. It soon spread to provincial towns of Argentina and across the River Plate to Uruguay, where it became as much a part of the urban culture as in Buenos Aires.

 What are the basic techniques of the dance?

Unlike ballroom tango, there are no basic patterns. It is all lead-follow. It is danced in a close embrace, and there is on the emphasis on the legs and feet.

How is it different from say Flamenco? People often get the two confused.

Tango is the dance of “one heart, four legs”. It is always danced in the “abrazo” or embrace. It truly does take two to tango! There are some similarities to the music or flamenco, and you can hear a little of the habañero rhythm in tango music.  Many people confuse ballroom tango with Argentine tango. The competitive dance of ballroom tango is very different from Argentine tango-even the music is different, as is the posture. We often say that Argentine tango is during the honeymoon, and ballroom tango is after the divorce!

 Who is your favorite Tango singer?

Often, people prefer not to dance to songs which have singers. They prefer to listen to these tangos. The music of tango is very rich, and you can hear the innovations that the tango orchestras made through the decades referred to as the “Golden Age of Tango“, the 30’s 40’s and 50’s.  Some of the big orchestras are Di Sarli, D’Arienzo, Calo, Troilo and Fresedo.  A very important element of any tango orchestra is the bandoneon, the accordion-like instrument that gives tango its mournful, pulsing quality.

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