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I read about the Smithsonian Folkways radio station just yesterday, and ever since I have been obsessed.  I’ve been a fan of the SF imprint since my Irish fiddling days, and since listening to the radio station I have added so many things to my List Of Things To Buy Once I Get My First Paycheck.

The station plays music spanning tons of genres: songs and ballads from the British Isles, calypso (my new favorite), American folk music, gospel, and native music from the Americas, Asia (including some great throat singing!), and Africa.  The music is instrumental, vocal, a capella, bands, field recordings, percussion, etc.  It covers so much ground!  This isn’t exactly surprising as Smithsonian Folkways recordings have been popular among ethnomusicologists for ages.

My favorite new discovery is Lord Invader, whose song “Crisis in Alabama” is really a treat:

Once more with feeling: the Smithsonian Folkways radio station – www.folkways.si.edu/radio/player.html!

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When heading up to Minnesota a while ago, my mom and I made a stop we had been planning since I started at Carleton (but for many reasons had put off until almost a year after I graduated): visiting the Forevertron.  It’s located in North Freedom, WI, about five or six miles south of Baraboo, near the old Badger munitions plant and sharing land with Delaney’s Surplus.

Some facts about the Forevertron:

  • It’s the largest scrap metal sculpture in the world, certified by the Guinness book of world records. [Update: I think it was usurped in 2001 by a stupid sculpture of stupid geese ]
  • It was built by Tom Every as the character Dr. Evermor — a Victorian scientist who sought to launch himself “into the heavens on a magnetic lightning force beam.”
  • It is the coolest place I have ever been in my life.

I cannot stress enough how this place is the coolest place I have ever been in my life.  Every single piece of the sculpture is precious and exceptional.  Much of the scrap metal used to create the sculpture is very old and very decorative, and it is all combined beautifully to create something far greater than my imagination could fathom.  I am and have always been a huge fan of roadside attractions, folk art, and odd museums, especially in Wisconsin.  There is something really special about roadside attractions that I can’t quite put my finger on.  The whole place blends history and art, machinery and fantasy , and you find yourself immersed in that world.  This place is special.  I find it funny to me is that at first glance it looks almost steampunk.  What’s funny is that it’s not so much steampunk as it is just steam.

It comes down to this: I want to live there.  My experience there reminded me of that scene in Harriet the Spy where they visit Golly’s friend Mrs. W. who has a garden full of junk creations.  There’s a mobile of glass soda bottles (with soda in them), instruments made out of old kitchen stuff, sculptures made out of old instruments, all kinds of fun things for Harriet, Sport, and Janie to explore.  The Forevertron is a real life, genuine version of that.  You could explore for ages and still only know a small part of the place.  I want to live somewhere like that!  It might be my own creation or someone else’s, but I ache to live someplace where there is wonder and excitement and creativity and lots of stuff.  So if anyone wants to build me a giant machine, give me a holler

If you want to know more about this amazing place, I highly suggest reading the article from the Folk Art Messenger but mostly I suggest visiting it yourself.

Dr. Evermor’s Forevertron [Folk Art Messenger]
An Interview with Tom Every (Doc Evermor) [The Bottlecap]
The Forevertron
[Roadside America]
The Forevertron [PBS’ Off the Road]
The Forevertron [Wikipedia]
The aforementioned clip from Harriet the Spy [On youtube]

I was in Northfield a couple weeks ago!  I visited expressly to see a few events that were very important to me when I was at Carleton: Empty Bowls, the senior art show, and the fifth-year show at the NAG.  This is the first of the posts about those wonderful events, a post about “Again, Again” and the fantastic work created by my friends and Carleton fifth-year interns Kristina Eldrenkamp and Emma Bentley.

Again, Again series by Joey Fleming; the rest of the exhibit in the background

Emma has a true gift with words (she even won the Huntington Poetry Prize at Carleton), and combines poetry and visual interest in such a way that could be overpowering would that the phrases weren’t so perfect.  My mother “didn’t get” the collected cigarette butts, but I think that’s maybe because she was trying to read more into it.  Knowing Emma, I don’t see some post-modern, post-everything piece about health and smoking or any of that art school too-overt stuff.  I mean, maybe it was, but like the titles say they’re For Tony not for you.  I see them as collections, arranged beautifully and masterfully inside precious fixed spaces.  The other piece of hers in the show was For Starters, a poem in the form of a list, in the form of silk screened words, arranged on blocks on the wall.  The phrases are at once delicate and commanding, filled with the nuance of experience and inexperience.  Some of my favorite phrases (which were extremely difficult to narrow down because I love every single word):

I want to be the kind of woman who you can just tell that she’s serious about her future.

I want to be in a railroad town in 1903, and I want that railroad town to be Las Vegas, Nevada.

I want to be in Texas in the early 90’s and I want to be raising children there, in Texas in the early 90’s.

I want music in my head all day long.

I want to love my body.

I want to hug people casually, without feeling uncomfortable.

I want to be hugged.

I want to be the kind of woman who accepts that she will be misunderstood, who maybe sometimes even wants that.

I want to believe that aging isn’t so bad.

I want to age gracefully.

I don’t want to age.

My mother saw the show before I did and she loved Kristina’s maps.  It’s hard for me to imagine works that could be better suited to my mother’s interests.

  1. She is extremely forgetful, so the houses Kristina created would be perfect for her.
  2. She works at the Department of City Development, so she deals with houses and maps and plans all the time.  She also used to be an appraiser and has an enormous appreciation for new and historical architecture alike.

It’s sort of like Kristina’s drawings were made for her.  Besides my mother’s endless admiration, her work is very thoughtful and combines her interests in a way that isn’t just interesting to her.  I too loved the house plans, but, being a print girl, her pieces Boden I, II, and III were beautiful and fascinating.  Color intaglio is difficult and weird, but she is the kind of woman who loves a clean print so I can really see her embracing the challenge.  The prints were subtle and intricate and layered and I think I could stare at them for hours without losing interest.  Emma and Kristina are two tremendously talented women and I am so pleased I got to see what they have been working on since our senior show.

The show also features the work of the St. Olaf fifth-year interns, Molly Baeverstad, Joey Fleming, Erica Naylor, Dylan Nelson, and Trygve Wastvedt.  I find that I never really come away from a group show being impressed with everyone, so I’m going to talk about he artists I really loved, Baeverstad, Fleming, and, to a lesser extent, Naylor.

Molly Baeverstad did a series of color monoprints, each with delightfully strange names that were almost close to words I recognized (so I really apologize if I wrote some down wrong) [Update: I figured out how I recognized some of them].  I love how the prints turned out, but I really want to ask her about her process.  How many layers, what kind of ink, what kind of plates.  The designs were abstract, colorful, layered, delicate.  Mostly I just wanted to talk to her more about them.  I loved them, but I’m confident I would love them more if I had more information.

Joey Fleming’s work was really a treat.  There was a wide range of material that it was hard not to be interested.  I liked the work he did with text, mostly I loved how beautifully the text was rendered onto the clay and the interaction with the glaze, but the text itself was sort of hit or miss.  I’m generally not a fan of spreading text out over a bunch of pots, but it’s usually at least a little interesting.  What really interested me about Fleming’s work was the faceted vases and cups.  Those pieces had such grace and motion without being “perfect” in the classic porcelain sense.  The glaze worked with the forms, giving a great variation of surface and color.  I am a huge fan of purposeful imperfection in clay.  Imperfection can often mean badly thrown, heavy, and accidentally glazed well.  Fleming’s pieces were imperfect, but in the beautiful, effortless way that comes from hard work, trial and error, talent and luck.  There was also a huge volume of his work in the show, which to me indicates so much hard work because for every piece you include there are probably two or three you left out.

There are more comments about specific pieces in the photo gallery, so I encourage clicking around to see and read more.  Unfortunately, you missed your shot to see Again, Again at the Northfield Arts Guild if you’re reading this now.  It was a really excellent show, and I am really pleased I got to see it when I visited.

Click through to see a gallery of images from the show.

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I’ve been spending a lot of time lately in my garden digging up these hellish bushes to make way for veggies.  It started pretty normal, but turned into this intense personal vendetta against these awful, horrible, rude bushes.  The root ball is so enormous and the soil is so full of clay!  I spend all day, hours and hours, hemming and hawing, wrenching these terrible plants out of the ground.  The ground does not want to let them go, but I’m not about to be bossed around by a stupid bush.  Hell to the no.

I’ve started to envision a PBS gardening show based on these little adventures.  I know there’s a show called “the Victory Garden.”  I’ve never seen it but I know it’s there. On PBS.  And it has something to do with gardens.  My show would immediately follow it and be called “Victory Over the Garden” wherein I would do extreme pruning, invasive plant eviction, and pest kick-assery.  I would administer my own brand of swift garden justice.  To the garden victor go the garden spoils.  The more I think about this, the more I feel and sound like a garden tyrant.  I sound like an Ivan the Terrible, but I swear I’m more of a Catherine the Great.

So I watch a lot of TV, and lately I’ve seen a lot of commercials where they mention a fun online tool where you can “clay yourself” and potentially be the next star of their clamation commercials.  This is a pretty common promotional gimmick (see: Mad Men, the Simpsons twice over, South Park, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, M&M’s, Marvel) but this is one the appealed to me most  for what I hope are obvious reasons.

It’s a “clay” version of me!  And I’m wearing a funny trucker hat that says “clay” in graffiti writing.  I really wish I had that hat.  After I decided to post about this, I went around to all those other avatar creator websites (if I hadn’t already) and created many different animated versions of me. Keep reading to see the fruits of my labor.

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It just occurred to me that someone could have a Tumblr of pictures of ceramic tumblers.  Ha!

Anyways, on to the real update: I started a tumbler (which you can find here: allieschwartz.tumblr.com) for my artsy fartsy work.  I know I haven’t been posting as much as I would like, but I try to post images of my work relatively often.  I started it mostly for new stuff I am working (which I will post about soon!) but in the mean time I’ve been posting images from my 100 self portrait series and some ceramic work.  I also just got back from an exceptionally wonderful visit to Carleton where I got to hang out with some of my biddies (Meagan, Shannon, Myla).  Unfortunately, I returned with a horrible sickness and I feel absolutely awful.  I’ve mostly been watching a lot of TV on the internet and drinking tea, but I swear I will use at least a tiny bit of this down time to post something.

On our way home from the farmhouse, my mom and I drove through Phillips, WI.  For a while now I have been itching to see Fred Smith’s Concrete Park and it was right on our route home.  My mom loves roadside attractions too, so it didn’t even take that much convincing to get her to stop.

Fred Smith was a lumberjack and with two other men started the Rock Garden Taven in 1936 (which is coincidentally where my great-uncle Bill Fenzl used to drink).  Once Fred retired he managed the bar full time and started making sculptures of miners, horses, Indians, cowboys, and soldiers.  He used beer bottles from the tavern to adorn the statues, adding color and sparkle.  Throughout the park there were also placards with text.  The original paper that Smith had written on had deteriorated, but the caretakers of the park reproduced an imaged of the text exactly as it originally appeared but printed on a durable plastic.  On one side was a little paragraph about some of the sculptures and often some area history, and on the other side were images of Mr. Smith and co. taken around the park.  And usually when there was a sculptural placard there was often a nearby statue pointing to it!

I had been eager to visit this park for a really long time and it did not disappoint.  Unfortunately it was really muggy on the day we went, and it was raining a little so there were mosquitoes everywhere.  Other than the bugs, the experience was a total delight.  There’s something about folk/outsider art that is a lot more interesting to me than most stuff in museums.  Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about why I love it, and I think it has to do with the truly unique vision artists like Fred Smith have.  They aren’t making art for critics or galleries, they are making art for themselves, their friends, and their community.  Sometimes folk artists are described as simple and uneducated, which might be true for some but I think that totally undervalues the contributions of unconventional artists.  I relate more to the aesthetic sensibilities of outsider art, and I find the pretensions of high art irritating.  Going to places like the Concrete Park is always super fun but I also get so many ideas for my own work (even though I know I’ll never create anything as amazing as a Concrete Park).

I’m sorry for being absent lately, though I assure you I have quite a few awesome posts in the works. I am in school at the UW-Milwaukee, which takes up a bit of my time and I haven’t been able to write/poke around on the internet as much as I would like. In the mean time I can definitely be found at Happy Bodies!

I don’t think I’ve ever posted about the image at the top of this blog.  It is a photo I found in the Carleton digital collections archive.  The building is Boliou Hall in November 1950.  I don’t know who the photographer is, because I think it’s an architectural record.  But I do know that Boliou was built in 1949 by Magney, Tusler, & Setter, and it is the place where I spent 90% of my waking hours while at Carleton.

This post is about neither paper nor clay.  Ha!

It’s about drawing and film.  For my Film Noir class (which was not as great as it might purport to be) we had to take noir photos around Northfield.  Other students in my class posed their friends and traipsed around town/campus looking for good places to shoot.  That sounds miserable to me.  I hate working with people, so I took the assignment to mean take photos around the town but of noir drawings.  So I drew on pavement, a hazardous waste barrel, an brick wall, a sewer grate, and an electrical box.  It was pretty fun.  I used a box of chalk that I found in the drawing studio and had a bunch of fun drawing on stuff around town.  Miraculously, I only got yelled at once.

And, yes, I know the captions are awful, but keep in mind this was a school project, and my very last Carleton project at that, so I was sort of phoning it in.

Insty

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