Another Voice: finding comfort in the political illustrations of the recent past at MCAD

I find comfort in history – in knowing that people are strong that we have endured. As a society we take steps forward, we get pushed back, we gain strength to move forward again. As individuals we don’t always agree on which steps are forward and what’s a push back. Certainly we don’t move forward at the same pace but we endure.

Right now I’m feeling a lot of push back. So I was excited to check out ANOTHER VOICE: Political Illustration of the Late Twentieth Century at MCAD (Minneapolis College of Art and Design. It is an exhibition of more than 100 artworks by many of the nation’s leading editorial illustrators. Between 1981 and 1999 the illustrations occupied the pages of The Progressive, a magazine committed to fostering advocacy and direct action in the cause of democracy, peace, social justice, and environmental awareness.

I was expecting political cartoons. I found that and more. The works had the acuity and subtle satire of the political cartoon and the gut-punch, heart-string-pull of art of full color, full size art. I had questions: Was this when “America was great”? How did we get into and out of that time? I was hoping for answers. I didn’t get them but I got a lot of reminders and fodder for research.

I went with my favorite 12 year old, which meant I spent a lot of time explaining Reagonomics and she spent some time reminding me of the details of the Louisiana Purchase. (Thank you seventh grade American history!)  It was disheartening to see unresolved issues (protection and ownership of Native American land), issues where progress has been minimal (affirmative action) and most crushing to see issues that had been resolved yet I fear will be reopened (some churches’ stance on women).

I was heartened to see the step forward through art and even more so art distributed through journalism. Unfortunately, a big push back now is the stifling of journalism. Maybe this time around art will be the distribution channel. Jack Kerouac wrote, “Don’t use phone. People are never ready to answer it. Use poetry.” Use poetry and use art. This exhibit embodies that advice.

I wanted to comment specifically on Aine’s favorite work below. Her immediate response/explanation – so the man is being killed by his own words? Hmmm? Hmmm!


The show is open until March 5, 2017. There will be a curator’s talk on February 6 (1:00 pm)

Bleed&Burn: Burning flags while we can at the Soap Factory

“Tyranny is good for art, bad for artists,” I heard Grant Hart say at the closing of the Land Speed Record show at The Walker.  The next four years should be good for art and creation has already started. Last night the Soap Factory opened Bleed&Burn, Catalytic Flag Making.

They had 13 artists create 12 flags that will be on display until January 21. After that each artist will burn their flag at a location of the artist’s choosing. The idea is fantastic and will be the subject of an upcoming book.

Each flag, as you might imagine, was different. One had two heads, one with eyes and one with a mouth. Both open. Another read “Apathetic TORPOR” against the backdrop of mountains and a huge buck. Several looked like they would burn well. The meaning for some might become clearer in the burning process.

For the opening night there was also a performance element. Poet Paul Dickinson brought his St Paul sensibilities and humor across the River. His poetry always has a there-but-for-the-grace element that played well in the room and includes keen observations on capriciousness of life.

Writer Jordan Thomas read about being black. He chronicled the death of a nephew, the untimely and irrational death of so many black men and ensuing the fear of not coming home – if not his own fear, his partner’s fear for him.

Performer Gay Henry did a lip synch to a montage of scenes about the internal and external conflict inherent in being different. It was fascinating to watch him capture the tone and emotion of each voice in rapid succession.

Next week we will see the change of guard in the US Administration. Again, a good time for art. I am hoping to attend Another Voice: Political Illustration of the Late Twentieth Century at MCAD, an exhibition of more than 100 artworks by many of the nation’s leading editorial illustrators. A reminder that we’ve been through change before and perhaps an opportunity to learn about art and politics from our past. (The show runs from January 17 to March 5.)

American Wake for Mary Bue with Alan Sparhawk and Molly Maher at the Icehouse

mary-bueTraditionally an American wake was celebrated in Ireland before a loved one boarded the boat for America for foreign futures of unknown adventure. Mary Bue isn’t taking a boat to New Mexico, but she is going for a three-month Artist Residency in New Mexico. Last night was her New Mexico wake at the Icehouse.

Last time I wrote about Mary Bue she had just released Holy Bones,  she held a funeral for her keyboard on the stage of the Turf Club and her website promoted Pop Rock Candy.

I’m glad to see that the keyboard is back and the music is more rock than pop and not so candy. Much as happened in her life since the 2015 show I attended and she seems the better for it.

The keyboard came out for Gorgeous is an older song that almost seems to foretell some of her life’s turmoil – because it provides advice for any young person bound for rocking waters. The cello was a lovely addition added a warm timbre.

Contrast that song with A Million Moths, a song Bue equated with the healing powers of yoga. The song live is more rocking that the recorded version. There’s a catharsis in the guitar and Bue’s plaintive voice.

It will be interesting to see what New Mexico will bring to Bue.

alan-sparkhawkJoining Bue on the bill was Alan Sparkhawk, of Low playing with Erik Koskinen. The musc was dark, the instruments downplay the music. They instruments weren’t ambient but leaning that – maybe ambient with undercurrents. Sparhawk’s voice is charismatic both when amplified and echoed as a radio voice from days gone by and when left clear and unadulterated. It’s unique contrast I find compelling.

molly-maher-2Also on the bill was Molly Maher playing with Koskinen and Paul Bergen. Wall to wall Americana with lots of strings and twangs and room for solos and riffs because they are musicians who play well and play better together. Maher can command a guitar to do what she wants!