Tag Archives: arts and entertainment

‘Wonder of the World’ gets my laugh

Lois Coleman (Christa Weiler) and Cass Harris (Abby Schoenborn) perform a scene from “Wonders of the World” at the Empire Arts Center in Grand Forks. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend The Empire Theatre Company’s production of “Wonder of the World.” The dark comedy is about a woman who suddenly leaves her husband after discovering a dark (but harmless) secret he’s been hiding. Inspired by the Marilyn Monroe film “Niagara,” she hops on a bus and heads to Niagara Falls, where she hopes to cross off all the items on her bucket list. Along the way, she meets a suicidal alcoholic, who becomes a quick friend. I won’t give away too much, but it’s definitely one to see. The writer David Lindsay-Abaire does an excellent job of weaving real-life messages and questions into the unrealistic happenings of the play.

I have to admit I was a little confused as to whether or not I should laugh at the beginning. The characters are all going through some serious stuff: one is leaving her husband, the other is about to commit suicide. Yet, they are all very over-the-top and dramatic, which makes it hilarious. After all, it’s a farce. So, if you go to the play tonight or tomorrow, don’t be afraid to laugh. And be warned, it only gets funnier as the show progresses.

For more info about “Wonder of the World,” read my story in the Grand Forks Herald. (We have a completely new website!)

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Mathieu Nicklay at Blue Door Gallery

This weekend I had the opportunity to attend the opening of Mathieu Nicklay’s first art exhibit ever, which took place at the Blue Door Gallery in downtown Grand Forks. Nicklay started painting last March. All his friends were artists and he thought I think I can do that. So, he tried, and he succeeded.

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Nicklay’s first exhibit is a collection of multimedia abstract and symbolic pieces, which incorporate everything from scrap pieces of wood and old doors, to paint and chalk, to a melted iron. While some pieces are very minimal and symbolic, leaving the interpretation up to the viewer, others scream a strong message.

I love how Nicklay jumped into the art scene and wasn’t afraid to push boundaries and go somewhere unknown. In conservative North Dakota, Nicklay took a chance creating and displaying his abstract artwork that to some might seem a little “out there” and “nonsensical.” I just hope people will open up their minds and just “feel” the artwork and let it speak to them in one way or another.

Nicklay will be one of three artists in the second episode of “In the Artist’s Studio,” my monthly web series which premieres this Friday. For the second episode, I will be going to Blue Door Gallery to create a piece of work with artists Mathieu Nicklay, Kathryn Fink and Matthew Borgerson. I’m not sure what we’ll make, but I’m extremely excited for the opportunity to see these young artists in action.

As I mentioned, “In the Artist’s Studio” will premiere this Friday on GrandForksHerald.com. It’s been in the works for a long time, and I’m overjoyed to finally see it all come together. I think this is going to be a great monthly video feature, and I really hope you all enjoy it.

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Rosenquist: A true inspiration

A couple months ago, I received a press release from the North Dakota museum of art about a well-known artist named James Rosenquist, who would be coming to the museum for his 80th birthday celebration. I hadn’t heard of Rosenquist, but I decided to pitch the idea to my editor. Before I could even get my pitch typed and printed for our brainstorm meeting, she said I’d be covering the Rosenquist event. But, she wasn’t talking about the birthday celebration in October. She was talking about the opening reception for his exhibition that coming week. So, I jumped on the story and contacted Laurel Reuter, director of the museum, to set up an interview about Rosenquist.

I went to the museum the next morning and watched Rosenquist’s installers hang the painting, “Through the Eye of the Needle to the Anvil” which is 17 by 46 feet. As I took it all in, Laurel explained to me that the piece was an homage to his mother. She said the high heels on the left of the painting represent his mom and the painting was about ideas starting small and growing into paintings, novels, inventions… From my interview with Laurel, I found out that she personally knew Rosenquist and his curator Judith Goldman. She said Rosenquist was North Dakota’s most well-known painter. And that he learned to paint large scale when he was a bill board painter.

I later contacted Judith and she told me more about his artwork and his painting. I researched Rosenquist and read excerpts from his biographies and slowly began to realize how much of an impact this man had on the art world. I wrote my first article and received great feedback from the community.

A month or so went by and I prepared myself for another Rosenquist story. This time I would interview the artist himself over the phone from his home in New York. Nervous to interview such a remarkable artist, I had done a ton of research and prepared well-thought out questions for a Q & A, but I quickly learned that I wouldn’t be doing a Q & A. Rosenquist answered my first question and then said he’d prefer to just talk and tell me what he wanted to, so I let him talk.

He told me about his connection to North Dakota and how living on the plains made him see things differently. He spent much of his childhood in Mekinock, N.D., before moving to the cities and eventually New York. Although he lived in the large cities most of his life, he said the open plains had a great impact in his art and his creativity. He told me a story about sitting on his front porch as a boy and seeing a four story horse walk by. He said he later learned it was his neighbors white stallion which had gotten loose. He was seeing an optical illusion from the heat.

After talking to Rosenquist, I wrote up another story and waited about a week. Then, it was time for Rosenquist, his wife Mimi and Goldman to come to New York for his 80th birthday celebration at the museum. I rushed back from my Godson’s baptism in the Twin Cities, so I could make it to the celebration in time and finally meet the artist himself. It was remarkable to see him standing there with old friends and distant relatives admiring his work, which took up the entire east gallery in the museum.

I didn’t get much time to talk to Rosenquist but I was able to talk to his son and a good friend if his who is also a painter. We talked about his artwork and their lives in New York and I couldn’t help dream of moving to a big city filled with art.

When I first received that press release, I honestly had no idea who Rosenquist was. Now, I know he is a remarkable artist who has greatly impacted the art world with his amazing, intricate, large scale collage pieces.

To read more about his artwork, read my stories at gfherald.com or visit his website.

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The story behind the art

It’s been a busy few weeks at the Herald. My work load has pretty much doubled, and I couldn’t be happier. I finally feel like I always have something to do. Yay!  And, there’s even more exciting things coming in the future, possibly a monthly video feature!

But, before I get ahead of myself…

Last week, I had the opportunity to write a story about a very talented artist named Guillermo Guardia, also known as Memo. He is  from Peru, and he is the artist in residence at the North Dakota Museum of Art. I came across his artwork when he sent me a press release for a joint exhibit at the Hotel Donaldson in Fargo. I started researching his and the other artist’s work. Both were very interesting, but I decided to pick one to pitch to Melinda as an artist profile story. I picked Memo because of his residency.

Memo is an amazing ceramic sculptor. He sculpts a lot of different subjects puzzle piece torsos, llamas, baby devils and faceless figures. And, they are all absolutely wonderful! Herald photographer John Stennes and Forum photographer Dave Wallis took some amazing photographs of his work, so be sure to check out all the photos with the full story here.

Aside from examining his beautiful artwork, my favorite part of the interview was hearing Memo tell the stories of how these different pieces came about, especially the puzzle piece torsos. Memo had always wanted to sculpt the perfect human body, but he struggled for years, never satisfied with his artwork. He tried several different methods, becoming very frustrated, confused and lost, wondering where his career and artwork would go. One day he took his frustration out on the piece, carving lines into the figure. Those lines turned into pieces, and those pieces turned into puzzle pieces, he said. His frustration ultimately made these beautiful puzzle piece figures, that were deep in thought and wonder.

As Memo told the stories of how these pieces came about, he seemed to drift back in time. His arm lifted, making carving motions in the air and his eyes beamed with the understanding and acceptance of these new subjects. He had finally found a subject, and it was all his own. Memo has invited me to join him in his studio for a demonstration, and I am gladly taking him up on his gracious offer. We have no set dates, but I will be sure to post something about the experience.

Now, please, head on over to GFHerald.com and read the full story because it’s honestly one of my favorite stories yet.

 

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‘Avenue Q’ a crude comedy with a big heart

When I first saw the musical comedy “Avenue Q” earlier this year, I was taken by surprise. The crude comedy and the way the play addressed super sensitive topics threw me off guard. I couldn’t decide whether I should be watching the puppets, the puppeteers or the person signing, so I went from one to the next to the next. I was so exhausted trying to keep up with the play that I didn’t fully enjoy it. However, when I found out the Empire Arts Center would be producing the play in Grand Forks, I knew it would make a great story. I pitched the idea and made plans to attend the media night/last dress rehearsal for the play.

This time, I sat with pen and notepad in hand and took it all in for what it is: a crude comedy with a big heart. The play may address sensitive social issues in a comical in-your-face manner, but the overall play is about understanding one another, accepting your differences and helping each other through struggles. This second time around, I actually stayed through the intermission all the way to the end. It may have gotten a little long, but it was well worth the wait.

If you’re in Grand Forks this week or next, be sure to check out “Avenue Q” at 7:30 p.m. today or Aug. 6 through 10 at the Empire Arts Center. It might take you out of your comfort zone, but, hey, we all need a little push sometimes.

For more information, check out the full story and photos.

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