Tag Archives: Grand Forks Herald

‘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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In the Studio w/ Guillermo Guardia

[CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE VIDEO]

A couple of months ago, I interviewed ceramic sculptor Guillermo Guardia about his artwork. I was so inspired by his story and how he overcame the challenges of sculpting a perfect human body by sculpting bodies made of puzzle pieces. The new subject was symbolic of his journey.

When we finished the interview, Guillermo extended an open invitation for me to visit his studio and try the craft for myself. How could I pass up an opportunity to see a talented artist in action and learn hands-on about his process?

I couldn’t.

As the arts and entertainment reporter for the Herald, I often speak to artists about their inspiration and process. But after the interview, I’m always left craving something more. And this was it — my missing piece. I needed to see the artist in action.

And after much planning, I’m excited to present the first episode of “In the Studio,” a monthly Web series where we take you in the studio with area artists to show you a behind-the-scenes look at their craft and workspace.

Each month, we’ll visit another artist’s workspace, and I’ll share my hands-on experience with the new art form.

Since Guillermo’s offer sparked the idea, I thought it would only make sense for him to be the first artist.

Working with clay

Sitting in Muddy Waters Clay Center, Guillermo handed me a wad of clay. It was tough, damp and intimidating.He said we would make a dog and a llama, and I tried to convince myself that it couldn’t be too difficult.

I reminded myself that Guillermo typically taught children, so it couldn’t be too difficult, right?

Wrong.

I circled clumps of clay in my hand trying to form two round balls — one for the head and one for the body. While Guillermo made his effortlessly, I struggled to smooth out the lumps. As soon as I had smoothed one side, I’d pushed the opposite side out of whack. I laughed. I didn’t have time to get it right. I set aside my uneven pieces and moved on to the legs.

Rolling a slab of clay between my hand and the table, I thought back to making snakes out of Play-doh as a kid. “Why couldn’t we make snakes,” I thought. “I could handle that.”

I wondered how this long snake-like piece would become legs, but Guillermo quickly explained. We tore the long piece into four even parts. That was the goal anyhow; mine were all different sizes. Turns out, I’m not too great with dimensions.

I started putting my lopsided dog together. Again, I struggled while Guillermo worked with ease. We made two flat pancake-like circles for floppy ears and a little nub for a tail. When it all came together, I laughed and tried to see the dog in my jumbled cluster.

Next, we tackled the llama. “Great,” I thought, “even more pieces to struggle with.”

But, with one animal under my belt, the llama came together more smoothly.

The pieces were similar to that of the dog, except slightly different in size. I tried attaching the legs, but they weren’t stable. Guillermo offered to help, and I watched his hands as he worked. His fingers molded the clay proficiently.

Sculpting was second nature to Guillermo. He didn’t think; he just let his hands move and transform the clay.

He handed me my llama and with his kind heart he assured me that it was fine. I finished the face and tail. Then, we used a small sculpting tool to poke holes for the eyes and make lines along the body for the fur.

This time when we finished, I saw a llama, albeit slightly disfigured. I was proud of my little guy. We also made a tiny penguin with big eyes and angry eye brows, which turned out quite cute. With each piece we made, I gained more confidence, and I was able to relax and enjoy the process.

Despite my inability to form accurately proportioned smooth shapes, I had fun molding the clay and learning from Guillermo.

If we had more time, we could have fired the figures in the ceramic kiln and painted them. But, Guillermo said if I let them dry they would last forever as long as they weren’t knocked over. So, I thanked Guillermo for the tour and the lesson, grabbed my little figures and made my way back to the office.

The puppy fell apart in my hands. But, my surviving llama, Fernando, and penguin, Frankie, sit on my desk reminding me that art is not about perfection — it’s about experience.

First published in the Grand Forks Herald, Jan. 17.

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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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Here, there and everywhere

It’s been a while since I’ve shared my stories on the blog, but I’ve been doing a lot of fun things lately. I figured it was time for a quick update, so here’s a rundown of what I’ve been up to in no particular order:

  • I visited Altru Hospital and met a couple caring nurses who were trying their best to make the holidays a cheerful time for their patients. Melissa, the childlife specialist, took on a little project with the ever-so-popular Elf on the Shelf. She refused to take credit for the little elf named Elfie. “He just showed up,” she said, creating some holiday magic for the children in the pediatrics unit. To read more about their efforts, click here.
  • I chatted with Steven Grant Douglas about his journey from The Empire in Grand Forks to Broadway. The talented actor from Stephen, Minn., landed a lead role in the nationally touring production of “Ghost the Musical” right after performing “Avenue Q” in Grand Forks. We talked about his role, the tour and adjusting to the much larger audiences and life on the road. Read more here.
  • I visited with Rachael Hammarback, owner of RH Standard, about the best choices in winter work wear. We talked tights, boots and leggings. Yes, leggings as pants for work. More here.
  • I joined a group of charitable carolers as they sang holiday favorites to neighbors and friends for Caroling for Warmth. They raised money for people in need of warm clothes such as sweaters and long sleeve shirts. More here.
  • I talked to Ashok Bhatia, of India, and Omar Alomar, of Iraq, about how they celebrate the holidays and how their traditions differ from American traditions. To read more, view the full article here.
  • I visited with several boutique owners about the best New Year’s Eve fashion accessories. We discussed statement necklaces, sequins blazers and cocktail rings. More here.
  • I joined a group of regular trivia-goers for a night at El Roco. While there I met “the king of trivia” and learned about the history of the game in Grand Forks. More here.
  • I reviewed a ton of apps such as 99 Dresses, Lift and Circle.
  • And I met a couple stylish people along the way to do quick Q&A’s with for my weekly Street Style.

This month, I’m excited to share my first episode of my new video series “In the Artist’s Studio.” I’ll be back with more on that later.

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Barton’s Place

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Surrounded by hundreds of art from around the world, I tried to take it all in. I imagined spending hours and hours chatting with the artist Barton Benes about his collections. He’d share stories of each piece of art, where it came from and how he acquired it through a trade with a collector, dealer or artist in another country.

Instead, I sat at his table and chatted with his long time friend, Laurel Reuter, director of the North Dakota Museum of Art. The two had met many years before and had shared many conversations over the same table when it was in Barton’s New York apartment. After Barton’s death in May 2012, the table and the artist’s many collections traveled 1,500 miles to be a part of Barton’s Place, a recreation of the artist’s apartment in the Mezzanine Gallery at North Dakota Museum of Art.

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Laurel told me how some of the pieces came to be… the stuffed rooster came from the museum assistant director, Matthew Wallace… the bull’s head came from a bull in the Running of the Bulls in Spain… the African pots and masks were acquired from a dealer… As she looked around the small space full of Barton’s life and memories, Laurel recalled a curious man, who could always make her laugh, even in the darkest of times. She remembered a conversation the two of them had about his belongings and what would happen to them when he passed. He didn’t want them to be picked our by family and friends and thrown out. Laurel suggested giving them to the museum to create the museum’s first period room, a 21st century artist’s studio. Laurel said the suggestion became a dream Barton held on to. 

Now, that dream is a reality. The North Dakota Museum of Art opened Barton’s Place early this month. It’ll be on exhibit for an undetermined amount of time, with the hopes of turning it into a permanent exhibit. For more information on the exhibition, read my full article at gfherald.com or visit bartonlidicebenes.org.

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Along with Barton’s Place, a collection of African pots and a batik exhibition are also going on at the museum. Be sure to check it all out before it’s too late!

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And, James Rosenquist’s beautiful painting, “Through the Eye of the Needle to the Anvil” is STILL up! DO NOT MISS this one! The photo does NOT do it justice! Trust me!

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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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When a concert review becomes something more

When I arrived at the Blues on the Red summer concert last month, I expected to take in the music, grab a few quotes from attendees and be done. But, while the photo intern and I were scoping out the best spot to snag a photo, she heard the lead singer of the band dedicate the concert to a man who had been a staple at the concerts and had passed away the night before. I didn’t hear the tribute but when Jenna relayed the message, I knew we had to chase the story. We found an event organizer, Greg Hoover, who told us: the man’s name was Ray Ganyo, he was physically handicapped and the blues concerts were one of the few times he could forget about his illness. He also said a friend of Ganyo’s was at the front of the crowd, also wheelchair bound, and she may be willing to talk. Later, he introduced me to Peggy Dores, a longtime friend of Ganyo’s. With tears rolling down her cheeks, she talked to me about her beloved friend and shared their special friendship with me, one formed by blues music and blues festivals.

After speaking with Dores, I was touched and knew we had a story. I wasn’t fortunate enough to meet Ganyo, but from speaking with several people who knew him, I could tell he was a good, caring man that always lived life to the fullest and had a “cup half full” view of the world even after an accident left him paralyzed from the chest down. I tracked down Ganyo’s mother, Marlene Dvorak, and spoke with her about her son. My heart was hurting as she told me she had recently lost her husband as well. She fought back her tears as she said Ganyo was her life and that he was always very gracious and thankful of her help. She said he never let her leave without a hug and kiss from him.

To learn more about Ganyo and his special blues friendship with Dores, read the full article at GFHerald.com.

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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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Street Style

It’s been about a month since I started my job as an Accent reporter for the Grand Forks Herald, and I couldn’t be more happy with it. Everyday I’m interviewing artists, musicians and stylish people in the community. I get to listen to music, discover new artists and go to awesome shows.

One of my favorite parts of my job is my weekly Street Style feature. Every Friday, I wander around downtown Grand Forks looking for someone with impeccable style. Once I find someone I ask them a few questions about their style and outfit and take their photo. I love it because I’m always checking out people’s clothes and shoes, and now I have an excuse to ask them about their look.

Here’s the link to my second Street Style feature: http://www.grandforksherald.com/event/article/id/266757/publisher_ID/40/

Right when I walked into Urban on Friday, I saw Sarah’s outfit and knew she was the one! I love her effortlessly chic look. This week, the Isaac Schmidt is the first male to appear in Street Style. Be sure to check it out in Accent Sunday morning.

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