29 April 2024

Paradoxically, the shut-down of the AMOC and the resulting cooling of Europe will be the best proof of global warming.

As TS Eliot said in The Hollow Men,  " This is the way the world ends

    Not with a bang but a whimper"

We know not what changes we have wrought for the future.  Through wildfires, floods, tornadoes, droughts, hurricanes, rising sea temperatures, species decimation...wars, plagues, pandemics.  Monoculture agriculture, animal containment feed lots, increasing population even as thousands upon thousands are killed.  Homocidal bitching going on in every kitchen...

Europe may well suffer a new ice age, and in a millenia perhaps new forests will generate helping to scour the carbon from the air, new forests where once was industrial farming.  Wildlife recover.  Populations of Sapiens wiped out.  

I dream of the wild.  The eventual wild.

11 November 2023

As I sit staring out of the window in the woods, birds flutter by...Veterans' Day 2023

 With wars and conflicts raging in multiple locations, I'm living in relative peace now.  

I went to the Wikipedia page to see how many deaths have occurred in ongoing wars.  I started to annotate them but was soon exhausted.  The numbers of deaths throughout the world are escalating, many of these deaths are non combatant civilians who are just trying to look out their windows and see birds flutter by.  I'm disheartened.  At one time I had so much hope that humans could reach a helping hand, putting down weapons.  It seems, even in this nation, that there are conflicts and anger from the top down...politicians and "leaders" shouting and demeaning.  

In my three quarters of a century on this nurturing mother earth of ours, I've felt warmth and love, fear and death, a chill down into the depths of my spirit.  I know it's cliche, but "why can't we all just get along?".  Better yet, why can't we all lend a helping hand?

I walk these woods, missing many of my friends.  Two leggeds, four leggeds, winged, rooted.  

I hear,  "Thanks for your service."  Instead I just wish, if acknowledged at all, "thanks for speaking peace, and trying your best to live each day in the truth of that!"

I feel more and more an observer.  A very tired, saddened observer.

02 July 2023

 Small center thinks big

Park Rapids’ Nemeth Art Center has risen from humble beginnings to become a widely respected arts organization.
By JENNA ROSS • jenna.ross@startribune.com
Pao Houa Her's photographs have been shown at the Walker Art Center, Paris Photo and the Whitney Biennial in New York.
After that? Park Rapids, Minn., pop. 4,100.
On a Friday evening in May, Her talked with folks about the portraits of Hmong American veterans hanging from the walls of the Nemeth Art Center in north central Minnesota, near the headwaters of the Mississippi River. She ended up here because, months ago, sculptor and Nemeth board member Aaron Spangler, who lives nearby, gave her a call. "I have a crazy idea," Her remembers him saying.
The two didn't know each other. But they knew one another's work. And she knew the Nemeth's reputation.
"The center is amazing," she said. "They've had so many really wonderful shows. Dana Schutz, Alec Soth — really important American artists."
For a dozen years, the little nonprofit Nemeth has been exhibiting contemporary artists, some early in their careers, some collected by major museums. Recently, the art center has teamed up with the Carolyn Glasoe Bailey Foundation in Ojai, Calif., connecting Midwestern artists to the wider art world.
The center's new executive director, Mark Weiler, has visions of creating "cultural collisions," of appealing "to both the townie and the traveler."
But for Spangler, 51, the place's mission is personal: "The audience is us when we were kids," he said.
An acclaimed artist whose work stands in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, Spangler grew up here. "I used to get dragged to the Nemeth," he said. To a rural kid, the place was a gift, "but it was always the same stuff right on the wall."
He was more inspired, as a teenager in the late '80s, by meeting his friend Bruce Brummitt, a Vietnam War veteran who along with other hippies was living off the land in an off-grid house he built by hand. Still is. That's where Spangler learned to build, learned to think.
"That community was my way out," Spangler said. "It really, for me, opened my mind."
He and chef and cookbook author Amy Thielen, his wife, started their careers in New York City before returning full time in 2009 to the cabin Spangler constructed — and later expanded — on 150 acres of woodland in tiny Two Inlets, about 15 miles outside of Park Rapids.
The Nemeth sits in the second story of what was once an old downtown courthouse. The nonprofit was formed in the late 1970s after a group of citizens, most of modest means, borrowed money to buy the 16th- and 17th-century paintings collected by fine art restorer Gabor Nemeth, who had a summer home nearby.
They're no masterworks, the Nemeth notes, but were made by those who studied under masters.
"It has a history, but it was kind of in a lull when we moved back," Thielen said. "Let's show contemporary work. Put those old works away, because everybody at that point had seen them."
Spangler joined the board and starting calling friends.
'They want the story'
Minutes before the May reception, Weiler was stuffing a binder with the show's catalog. A board member arrived with crackers. Another loaded a Polaroid camera with film.
The Nemeth is small and seasonal, with a budget of $107,000 in 2022. So board members make it work, running art programs for teens in addition to putting on summer shows.
Spangler and Weiler hauled and hung Her's photographs, as well as works by Mary Ann Papanek-Miller, also on view.
"It is a jewel," said Anna Arnar, a professor of art history at Minnesota State University Moorhead, who biked down for the reception. "They bring quality shows that are well curated, well installed."
That's partly because of Spangler: "Aaron, of course, is a force of nature." She also credits Minnesota's arts funding: "Could this exist in the middle of Nebraska?"
Nemeth's leaders are learning that this rural spot, surrounded by lakes and woods, is part of the draw. While in town, artists have stayed with Spangler and Thielen, or at an artists' place nearby, enjoying meals cooked outdoors by Thielen, a James Beard Awardwinner. For years, Thielen provided hospitality informally; now she's on the board.
This summer, the Nemeth teamed up with the Carolyn Glasoe Bailey Foundation to present an exhibition of 17 artists at the Ojai Institute in Ojai, Calif. All had shown — or were about to — at the Nemeth. Among them are many Minnesotans, including painter Julie Buffalohead and ceramicist Ginny Sims.
The foundation honors Glasoe Bailey, who started her first gallery at 19 in her hometown of Minneapolis and died at 46 after battling glioblastoma brain cancer. She believed that "Minnesota artists needed to be recognized outside of the state before collectors, mainly other Minnesotans, would pay attention to their careers," according to the foundation. So she co-founded a gallery in the Chelsea art district in New York City, where she sold work for Spangler and some of his friends.
The California and Minnesota centers, in rural idyllic locations, function as intergenerational and societal connectors, said Frederick Janka, the foundation's executive director. "We also share a passion for the decentralization of the art world that re-centers the rural, the regional, as a site for artistic development and of the future.
"Oh, also the food!" he said.
Each year, the foundation brings a group of supporters and collectors to spend time in Park Rapids and visit galleries and museums in Minneapolis. "We are blessed with the culinary talent that is Amy Thielen and the warm and gracious host Aaron who welcomes everyone to the table."
The Ojai show with Nemeth, on view through July 30 , will fund an artist residency exchange that's in the works.
West Coast artists are interested in experiencing the winter, Spangler said, an increasingly rare phenomenon as the world warms.
"They want the story," Weiler said. "They want to catch a muskie."
'For my friend Bruce'
All roads seem to lead back to Spangler.
The Nemeth's current show features Brad Kahlhamer , a Brooklyn-based multimedia artist who had an opening in Spain before settling in for a monthlong residency in Park Rapids. For decades, he and Spangler have played music together.
Her's exhibition, too, is wrapped up in Spangler's relationship with Brummitt, who continues to inspire Spangler's work, including a trio of his sculptures shown at the Walker in 2011. When Spangler first saw Her's portraits, at the Minneapolis Institute of Art in 2015, he said, "I wanted to bring that show here for my friend Bruce."
A mix of family, friends and fellow artists stopped by the reception in May. A baby in a carrier. A puppy on a leash. Spangler's parents were there, too.
Brummitt got close to the photographs, looking up.
In the formally posed, largescale portraits, Hmong American men wear uniforms and military fatigues, some with medals and ribbons — "all things they went out and bought for themselves," Her said. The men served in the Vietnam War, but the United States doesn't recognize that service.
Brummitt had served as a liaison in Vietnam, often working with Hmong soldiers, he told Her. He decried the U.S. government for failing to recognize them. "I'm so proud to have known some of these men," he said, "and I'm so honored that it's being shown on Memorial Day."
"Thank you so much," Her said.
"Thank you," Brummitt replied.
Then he went to the back of the gallery and gave Spangler a hug.
Jenna Ross • 612-673-7168


17 September 2022

Conservation and Solar Energy


I originally had two small solar panels I purchased from an 'Energy Sciences' advert in the back of a Mother Earth News Magazine...about 1980/81...I'd fussed around with a 6 volt windcharger back in the mid 70s...and with these panels, it was a real 'wow' moment. When I built my current home, no mailbox, no phone, no electric...no bills...a postal box in town...those two panels and a large truck battery gave me a light in my bedroom, a light in the kitchen and a light in the 'living' room...a 12volt JVC combo SW/AM/FM dual cassette recorder/player and record player...and a 9 inch 12 volt tv...which gave me three channels...rambo, dumbo and bimbo...18 bucks a year for my property taxes, a root cellar/pantry for refrigeration...no meat unless it was killed that day...(an occasional rabbit/grouse/woodchuck/squirrel)... It was very freeing... My wants grew as my income grew, over time...many people mention to us how green we live...but, thinking back to those times...I really lived green, with a much smaller footprint... Can't turn back the clock, but I remember and kick myself back into shape every now and again. We've become much more spoiled over time. I remember thinking...not what I was doing without...but the luxury of what I had...no bills/no ties...no 9 to 5... Conservation is the key...and quelling our desires. I'm in the process of using more efficient products...such as LED lights...but, they are products, which means...they had to be produced...and there are ramifications in the production of anything. I think I'm lecturing myself as much as posting about conservation and solar energy.

A Story of Us


Over four decades ago, I looked for the cheapest place I could afford that would give me shelter and provide a place to grow some food...in an area where I could support myself with odd jobs. Nowadays I wouldn't know where to go, but back then it brought me to Northern Minnesota via a Strout Realty Catalog advertising a one room school house on 5 acres with a stream acting as the western boundary. With a well, septic system and two bathrooms (boys and girls).. I bought it for 3000 dollars cash. Built a little barn (really little) out of milled slab wood, was given two milk goats, a dozen chickens, a pig, two geese and then began creating my garden by cleaning out the barn of a family dairy about a mile away. Used their tractor and manure spreader and pitchfork, and my back, arms and legs to create a fertile 1/6th acre garden. The pig had a moveable pen 8 X 8, and he helped to create more garden space. Voila...homesteading on a shoestring. I sold the schoolhouse 3 years later after finding and buying 10 acres of forested land within a state forest (which has since grown to 50)...the money I got from the sale allowed me to get a good jump start on my current homestead, underground house (that school house was out and out drafty)...solar electricity (rudimentary, at first)...more gardens and more solitude. Fruit trees, etc. It's an evolving process. I was not "going back" to some idealised past where people grubbed for food with primitive implements and burned each other for practicing witchcraft. I was going forward to a new and better sort of life...a life that is more fun than the over-specialised office or factory job...a life that brings challenge and daily initiative back to work...and variety...and occasional great success and occasional abysmal failure. It means the complete acceptance of what you do or don't do...and a true joy comes from the creation of your homestead...it is striving for a higher quality of life...food which is fresh and organically grown...for the health of body, mind and spirit. Humans should not exploit, but rather 'husband' the land around them...This planet is not exclusively for our own use...there are many life forms with whom we should co exist in celebration. Simple elegance. Living simply and sanely. Then in 1988 I met a woman who is a true testimony to the possibilities of life. Married to that woman since 1989 who is a testament to the fact that there is beauty and grace in the world. And became a person who made this homestead flourish.
Y'know...money is an odd thing, and people are odder yet. The year that I met my wife (which was 1988) I made 1900 dollars working odd jobs, etc. I lived alone and spent 700 dollars total for the year. That included my property taxes. I had no phone and no bills. No internet back then, no tv...gardens for food and dry beans and rice. I was quite content...saved 1200 bucks for the year. Most people would scoff at that being a possibility, much less a reality. 3500 dollars for my house (my land cost another 2500 dollars) back in 1984...that included putting in a road, clearing land that I'd logged, having manure and topsoil hauled in, digging 3 foot deep garden beds 4 ft wide by 25 ft long, creating Hugelculture gardens before I'd ever heard of them..backfilling my building after it was built...another 400 dollars built my small garage. The 3500 dollars included two small solar panels, a battery and some lights...it included my wood stove. It included some lumber from the local mill for flooring, joists and sheathing. Most all of the materials in my house were gleaned locally...logs peeled, stones rolled... Labor is the expense, and it was done out of my love, not money... It was kinda like building a fort, or doing an art project...or both. The labor of those days returns to me each sunrise...it shelters me, it nurtures me, it gives me sustenance. I love, it loves back...very easy, very sane. The details are less important than the mantra...keep it simple. As Charles Mingus said: Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that's creativity. Or E. F. Schumacker: Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius—and a lot of courage—to move in the opposite direction. Hans Hofmann: The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.
Then in 1994, after a tour of the country seeking alternatives methods to build The Feral One a studio on our land, we settled on straw bale construction and accomplished that in the summer, so she no longer needed to work out of someone else's office as a Wholistic Therapist. That's a whole 'nother chapter.


 Que le vaya bien, Bebe.

An enlightened being who, out of compassion, forgoes nirvana in order to save others.

Visitor in the night