Archive for July, 2013


agate bay

A couple weeks ago we were on our way up the North Shore, and stopped as we often do at Agate Bay.

Not far from Duluth, the bay contains traces of days when iron mining, shipping, a railroad, and a plethora of saloons made the town one of the busiest ports on Lake Superior. Now largely empty, the area around the bay is at once forlorn and, perhaps in part because of that, strangely attractive. Tourists come to look at the fenced-in lighthouse and comb the beach for agates. Locals walk along the bay and its shoreline footpaths. Seagulls call, and an occasional mournful horn blast from the taconite loading docks breathes out over the water. Nature is cautiously filling in the spaces where no one else lays claim. That afternoon, it was this apparent no man’s land, bordered by the obvious attractions, that I was most drawn to.

While I was there, vendors were quietly setting up for the weekend’s Heritage Days festivities.

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under construction

As the lingering spring rains have given way to summer in Minnesota, I’ve been getting outdoors to paint. Trying to find my way around the canvas again, I’ve done a number of unremarkable paintings. Over the last week I had the opportunity to take painting classes with two great plein air painters which helped me get back on my feet again and move forward. For the second year in a row, I took another excellent weekend workshop with Todd Voss up in Grand Marais, and started a multi-week class with Christopher Copeland.

In yesterday’s class, the heat was so intense that our class decided to meet indoors at the new White Bear Center for the Arts building. Fortunately our room had a large window, so I was able to paint a view of the patio which is still under construction. Chris initially assumed that I would focus on the more “natural” vegetation in the distance, but I loved the odd assortment of building materials, with their varied colors, shapes and textures.

Christopher is quite a fluid, energetic painter, and I felt encouraged in my desire to be more loose and spontaneous with my own painting.

WBCA courtyard construction

One thing Chris said was that painters are most distinguished by their brushwork – it’s like handwriting. I’ve always loved to draw, but have had trouble translating that sense of ease and directness into painting. His statement really helped me experience my relationship to the brush in a different way.


Archive X: Train Circuit

Last month I had the opportunity to prepare a 45 min. video for use at the Northern Spark Arts Festival in St. Paul, MN. Specifically, I was asked to create a video from archival footage involving trains, that could serve as video fodder for John Keston’s Instant Cinema project. In this project, three musicians would improvise based on live A/V feed from around the festival as well as my pre-edited work.

Northern Spark is inspired by celebrations of the Summer Solstice, and so runs all night long. It’s an amazing assembly of performing arts, this year spread out across the Lowertown area and including the recently restored, but still empty, Union Depot. Attracting over 20,000 people – who seemed to be mainly 20 and 30-somethings, I found the event to have a delightful, mellow and magical vibe.

Jon Steinhorst, the Instant Cinema project’s Artistic Director, gathered archival footage from and pretty much let me loose. I loved having this excuse to experiment, and especially to play with effects much more than with my other documentary work. In many ways this was more like painting and collaging. Plus, I LOVE trains!

Making the video for this purpose was a special challenge, as I was trying to make it interesting visually, but also design the audio in a way that the band could incorporate, mixing it in and out. I had no idea what they would find most useful, but I tried to limit the narration and orchestral music that accompanied most of the footage.

The version you see here is one I’ve further edited for audio to make this even more of a stand-alone piece. There are five main “movements,” each with its own feel and theme. I had a blast making it, and hope you like it too!

PS, It’s the nature of trains to take you on a journey, so sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.

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