Wherefore ART?

Everywhere I go around the world, I seek out art and never fail to find some that I love. But like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, I always seem to find that “there’s no place like home.” In other words, the Twin Cities is an awesome place for art.

Last night I visited three galleries and it has left my mind awhirl in a kaleidoscope of colors, shapes, materials and meaningful messages. First stop: Rogue Buddha Gallery on 13th Street just off of University, where I picked up the Craig Bell painting I purchased when the show opened a month ago. Now a new show is up (artist Jon Langford) and I like it—in particular, the digital image of Hank Williams, gussied up through techiques that make his smile fairly jump off the plywood to which it is applied and I can almost hear the “Howdy, Ma’am” that would tumble from the country singer’s lips. Better put a sticker on that one. He’s mine.

Next, a short walk down the block to Gallery 13, and I’m sorry, did we just enter Wonderland? My friend Jill and I agreed that “Tin Man” sculptor Lester Hoikka has created a fabulous pop-up book for grown-ups that you can actually walk around in. Inspired by tin toys of the ’40s and ’50s, and influenced by themes you’d see during Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) in Mexico and Carnival (Mardi Gras) in New Orleans and points south of the equator, Lester’s sheet metal imagery makes you feel as if you’ve been dropped onto a stage on which a colorful play about life and death is in progress. The motion, the drama, the humor, the fun—it’s all there! I hope you see it, but hurry. Lester’s work is in demand, and so the show runs one week only.

Third stop: Erté (612-623-4211) for some nourishment, and we were doubly blessed by sumptuous food and lively music provided by Rugged Road, a regular at the popular 13th & University eatery. Celtic themes of perseverence helped us through the mound of crab cakes, barbecued riblets, portabello mushrooms, French bread, and olives that were served to us quite promptly, as we burst in 15 minutes prior to closing time. The “Flirtinis” were delicious, as well. (A delicate figure, Jill asked for extra cranberry juice for hers and got it, so we shared, and the dilution of our drinks made driving possible the rest of the night. Hooee!, as they say in southern parts…those drinks at Erté leave a girl tinglin’!)

It was after 11 p.m. when we departed Erté and we weren’t done with our evening, nosiree. A party for photographer Aviel Goodman (say AH-vee-el) was in progress at sculptor Aldo Moroni’s gallery. (Why Aldo’s not living in Italy, I haven’t a clue. Just one look at his screen saver depicting San Marino, not to mention his lithe renderings of towers characteristic of that area, make me pine for the Mediterranean. I can only imagine the depth of his longing for “the boot.”)

Truthfully, it was hard to decide whether to linger at the massive scene of Babylon destroyed by time and nature (as a metaphor for all that was destroyed in 9/11) or to proceed past the front room filled with Twin Cities Business Monthly October issue cover boy Moroni’s work, and on to the gallery set up for Goodman’s work. But we did both (they locked the doors after we entered, so why not?) and we were glad. Aviel Goodman (a psychiatrist by trade) considers his original photographs, mostly of women whose faces stir him emotionally, to be the raw material and not the finished project. So he moves things. Changes things. To great effect. Like the little girl crouching in the gravel of the Minnesota State Fair grounds, plucked from there and placed in the right lane of Hennepin Avenue Bridge, with no traffic ensuing, but a bright red streetlamp to warn of possible danger. Yet the girl is lost in thought…in her inscriptions in the gravel…and you watch her in a moment of stillness that yes, really could stop traffic. It’s both calming and ennerving, and the dichotomy is exciting because it is original. In Minneapolis! I love it. This is a great place to live.

Meanwhile, Aldo Moroni has decided to play bartender, and he’s up to the “Flirtini” challenge. “Like on Sex and the City?” he asks. “Exactly,” Jill responds. And he comes through. We sing. We dance. And then we say, “Let’s go to Nye’s!” Jill, John-the-Auto-Mechanic and I end up at the piano bar with barely 20 minutes to go until 2 a.m. closing time. Lou Snider (bless her heart) lets me sing the last song: I pick Doris Day’s “Sentimental Journey,” and she plays it in my key.

A man comes up to me and says, “I am a lyricist. I have written for (some pop singer I’ve never heard of). You are great,” he says. “I love your voice.” He holds a half-finished drink in his hand. I assume it has affected his auditory nerves. I say, “Why, thank you!” I refrain from asking the date of his last hearing exam. “You need to belt it out,” he says, and then I know he’s drunk. (Who belts out “Sentimental Journey”? That’s a crooner.) “Delta Dawn,” I say. “If I am going to belt it out, that’s what I sing.”

“Okay, let’s hear it,” the lyricist demands, and before I can open my mouth, he is singing. I join in, but I’m exhausted. Jill shoots a “let’s get outta here” glance my way, and I take the cue. Poor John-the-Auto-Mechanic—he is stuck with Mr. Lyricist. But I have a full day on Sunday, and already it’s after 2 a.m. We depart, and Jill says, “What a fun night!” I agree. This is what life is about: being with friends, meeting new ones, and finding viewpoints that we didn’t know we had because the images in front of us caused synapses to fire in new ways.

The sun will rise soon and I want to get to bed before the day begins. This is important, though. I want to let you know what’s on 13th Street NE. From there, take a right on 2nd Avenue and go to 22nd Street to the California Building, where you’ll see Aldo Moroni’s studio, and you will enter through the door that says “Exit Only” (because the artists think that’s funny). It’s important that you know what the Twin Cities has to offer your intellect. Your spirit. I would like you to see these things. And if no one will go with you, please get in touch with me. I’ll go! Art is the prism through which so much of life is refracted and then clarified. It may be inspiring… shocking… mesmerizing… confounding… and I want you to have someone to talk about it with. I’m here on e-mail, and I’m on the air 2pm-4pm Saturdays: 651-989-5855.

I am going to try to nab a few hours of sleep. I’m sure tonight I’ll dream in color!

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