#321: Julie L’Enfant, Kent Aldrich, Karen Gustafson + Communist Daughter

#321: Julie L’Enfant, Kent Aldrich, Karen Gustafson + Communist Daughter


(man) Minnesota Original is made possible by The State Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund, and the citizens of Minnesota. (female narrator) On this edition of Minnesota Original, Art historian, Julie L’Enfant shares stories of Minnesota’s pioneering women artists at the beginning of the 20th century. Kent Aldrich brings old-world style to contemporary letterpress at his print shop, The Nomadic Press. I am not the kid you knew. (narrator) And Communist Daughter performs at the Varsity Theater in Minneapolis. These artists and more– now on Minnesota Original. electronic music plays guitar & saxophone play softly (Julie L’Enfant) Art, as a profession for women, really began to open up in the late 19th century, particularly in the 1920s. Pioneer modernists are 8 artists whose work is very distinct, each from the other, so it’s part of a new conception of modernism as an individual response to the modern world. Clara Mairs, Frances Greenman, are really part of a broader movement of women moving into the arts. Clara Mairs was an artist closely associated with St. Paul, with connections far beyond. She’s known primarily as a printmaker. She’s famous for her etchings, and yet she was also an important painter. piano plays softly Clara met Clem Hoppers, a young artist who was 22 years younger than she was. They formed a very close partnership that lasted until the end of her life. Clem and Clara decided that they would go to Paris in 1928, specifically to study etching. Clara found really the perfect subject matter for her rather whimsical turn of mind. She had a great sense of humor. And so what she did was transform what is really a noisy spectacle into these very graceful images. And so her love of pattern, her love of design, the rather flat approach that many modernists took fit this subject matter so well, and so she ended up with a suite of 16 circus etchings that are really some of her very best work. Clem and Clara were part of that scene in Paris that was quite experimental, that also fostered freedom from conventions and so they brought a lot of the spirit and a lot of the techniques back from Paris. This is a rather intimate portrait of her young friend, Clem. It’s a naturalistic portrait that she’s greatly simplified the forms. She has used very distinct areas of color that aren’t necessarily naturalistic, so there is an abstracted quality in his blocky form, but it’s a simple, elemental portrait, and to which she has put a great deal of feeling. Through the 1940s, she did many, many etchings, and she used these as, oftentimes as social commentary. She was often interested in puncturing social pretensions, so some of her work is kind of satirical, especially something like The Thursday Club. Clara really moved away from printmaking in the 1950s and ’60s. Those last 2 decades of her life, she did a great deal of large-scale painting. Paintings like The Visitors show a different side of her and I think that these deal more with psychology and with inner states of mind than let’s say the Circus Print Series. She retained her very skillful use of design and composition, and yet she brings in, I think, more human feeling and more observation of psychological states than her early work. Frances Cranmer Greenman specialized in -portraits. She loved people; she was very interested in establishing a kind of life for herself, very different from the environment in Aberdeen, South Dakota, where she grew up. She always yearned for the high life, and she did, through her hard work and her talent and perseverance, she succeeded in creating that kind of life for herself. She showed artistic talent at an early age, and she had the very enviable situation of– she was an only child and her 2 parents were completely dedicated to her career as an artist. They accompanied her to Washington, D.C. They then accompanied her to New York, while she studied at the Art Students League. In 1912, she went up to the White Earth Indian Reservation with the goal of, she said, of becoming the greatest Indian painter in the world. And there she painted such characters as Woman Riding on the Wind. Greenman found the White Earth Indian Reservation rather depressing and this says a lot more about Greenman than it does about the reservation. She was much more interested in the glamorous life of society. When she came back to Minneapolis, she married John Greenman. Greenman was a wealthy banker and at least in the early years, he was very supportive of his wife’s career. vibraphone & piano play During this period, she made some experiments using very bold, brash colors and some expressionistic distortions, and she was regarded as something of a wild painter. And she quickly learned that these kinds of experiments were not the way to go if she were to establish herself as a fashionable portrait painter, and that really is what she wanted to do. The Janitor’s Family was also part of her effort to look at social realities and suggest the conditions of modern life. She emphasizes in her composition the empty table, and there’s a real suggestion here that the janitor’s family is suffering some privations. This was treated with a little bit of wariness by Minneapolis audiences. It seemed to be a radical painting, maybe a little subversive. But this fit in with her agenda at the time, of painting real life in a rather gritty way. Her husband, John Greenman, lost his money in the stock market crash of 1929. Her response to this was to begin traveling across the country by train and looking for portrait commissions. She took up residence in Hollywood, and this really seemed to answer her desire for the glamorous life, and she did portraits of movie stars like Mary Pickford, and it was fun. Seeing newspaper accounts, they posed for a lot of pictures in front of the portrait, and I’ve always been amused because Frances Cranmer Greenman looks more theatrical than Mary Pickford in these photographs. She did decide to settle permanently in Minneapolis. When she did settle, she had so much work. She did a very good portrait of Alfred Pillsbury, and in 1967, she also did the portrait of Governor Karl Rolvaag. So she achieved her aim of being a fashionable portraitist. This was a very good environment for her. There’s been a continuum, I think, of women in the arts in Minnesota, and I think that is a tribute to the progressive nature of Minnesota. Women have been very strong in the tradition and it’s really admirable that these women had the drive, the persistence, the support, that enabled them to make independent careers as artists. That’s still very hard today for male or female; they were able to do it. banjo plays softly (Kent Aldrich) Letterpress printing is technically relief printing, the kind of printing where the ink gets put on the raised area of the block and then transferred to the paper. Basically it’s a glorified rubber stamp. When I first started printing letterpress about 20 years ago, it was essentially a dead art. The presses that I first bought for the shop, I bought very cheaply because they were just taking up space. In the last 8 or 10 years or so, there’s been a big resurgence in letterpress. Part of that, I think, comes from people’s need to have something tactile– you can feel the impression of the letters into the paper. And I think people need that today. There’s a lot of stuff that people interact with that’s very 2-dimensional. A lot of people are spending a lot of time in front of a lot of screens and when you get a letterpress invitation, it really stands out as something different. mandolin plays in bright rhythm I’m doing a wood engraving. It’s kind of a weird combination of all sorts of different technologies. I’ll do a sketch in my sketchbook, then I take a photocopy of that sketch and then the photocopy gets transferred onto an end-grain maple block. That way I have my drawing transferred onto the block in reverse, and then everything that isn’t drawing gets cut away, kind of a reduction process. And the raised areas that are left are the parts that get inked in the press and then transferred onto the paper. A friend of mine started keeping bees and he managed to make a couple jars of honey and so this bee is for a label for his honey. Most of the commercial work that I do is designed on a computer. Somebody else determines the color, somebody else determines the type, and I just execute what they’ve decided needs to be done. But once in a while, like with this project, I get asked to do a wood engraving, which is nice to do. It’s very calming and centering. It’s the kind of thing that time disappears while I’m doing it. I came into the Minnesota Center for Book Arts just a couple weeks after they opened and worked with them for about 2-1/2 years. And during that time, master printers from all over the world came in to teach classes. People were coming in and cutting letters into stone, there were people coming in to do bookbinding. So while I was learning how to set type and run a press, there were all these other things going on around me, all these other people who were expert at what they did. And everybody seemed like they were happy with what they were doing, they were pleased with their days, and I thought, I could be pleased with my days too. I have a lot of different clients that come into the Nomadic Press, and each job that’s brought to me is an important job. And it really doesn’t matter to me whether it’s a couple who are getting married, somebody who’s starting a business and would like some business cards, or something to give to Nelson Mandela when he comes into town. They all present their own challenges and they all have their own rewards. I have 5 presses here in my shop. The newest press that I have was built in 1957. The oldest press that I have was built in 1883. It’s essentially the same technology that’s getting ink from image to paper. The overlap of the ancient equipment that I work with and the modern technology that the designers who hire me work with is a lot of fun. It’s really something to see a cutting-edge piece of graphic design sitting on a 110-year-old cast-iron printing press. There’s just something about that that kind of emphasizes the continuum that makes me feel part of a longer story. Some people, when they go to work, they go and do their job, and at the end of the day, they’re done with their job and they are somebody else. When I get up in the morning, I’m already a printer and I come into the press here because it just is what I do; it’s who I am. When I get things set up, and take the time to get things working right, they work right. The rest of the world, you can spend a lot of time trying to get things to work right and they’ll do whatever they want. acoustic bass, drums, & guitar play synthesizer plays (Karen Gustafson) I’ve always found it much more fascinating to look at things that I can’t see naturally and then try to bring those to life. I’m Karen Gustafson, and I’m a painter and a drawer. In graduate school I was next to a biology library, and so I was looking around in there and then that’s when I discovered microscopic images of plants. And I found that incredibly fascinating. The food series that I’m working on right now I have 4 diptychs, and they contrast raw to processed food– corn versus cornflakes, garlic versus a garlic pill. I also have raw ginger to crystallized ginger, so ginger and sugar. I’m an art professor at Normandale Community College, and in the biology lab we have a scanning electron microscope, and they offered all the different staff and faculty, if we were interested in using it, we could. And so as I started thinking about the food series, it seemed to click that I would want to go look at the food under the scanning electron microscopes. By looking at the microscope, you’re seeing the topography, so it really becomes its own landscape at that point, and just the complexity and the intricacies that you find are just amazing. I think I really wanted to see the difference between raw and processed food. Food has so much energy to it and gives us so many nutrients, and this idea of cooking and processing food and how it seems to take away a lot of that nutritional value, just trying to kind of understand and explore and see that. The diptych I’m working on right now is raw potatoes. The surprise for me was that it’s really a fractal image of all these smaller potatoes and this very tiny raw potato, and then I also really loved this kind of honeycomb-type pattern. My goal with it is to have certain areas that are really very bright and strong that come out, and so what I’m doing right now is building up the forms, making them more dimensional, as well as changing their tone so they get much darker. A lot of them get pushed back in space, so the other ones stand out quite a bit more. It’s a lot about the process and about building individual marks to create this depth through variations of color, variations of tone– I just love creating depth. I go in to start the negative spaces that are really dark and just do a traditional hatching, a crosshatching, to establish that value pattern in the image. The watercolor paper, since it’s not primed or sealed in that way, it really soaks up the ink quite a bit, so I go through quite a few pens, but it also allows for a lot of different surfaces, some really soft surfaces, and some really kind of intense, very crisp surfaces also. I’m not sure why I’m drawing such detail or obsessiveness. My husband thinks I’m insane! laughs The details and the complexities of everything just allows me to quiet down. I think there’s just a lot of layers in life and a lot of complexity, and taking that time to slow down and really look at what we can easily pass by. Success for me as an artist is being able to always be honest with my work and have it be something that makes me want to come into the studio and explore and learn, and see things in new ways and understand and keep life interesting. electronic music plays establishing the beat (man) 1, 2, 1, 2… When we were younger we had nothing to do. We closed our eyes and spin around in circles, Happy to hit the ground, Or happy to just fall down. very breathy Ha, ha, ha, ha. Ha, ha, ha. When we were younger we’d go down to the park, We’d catch all the fireflies and put ’em in jars, We never knew that they’d die, We never really thought that far. I… am not the kid you knew I… am not the kid you remember. makes a chimelike sound very breathy Ha, ha, ha, ha. Ha, ha, ha, ha. When we were younger we were scared of the dark, We closed or eyes and pulled the sheets over our heads. We didn’t want to see what’s there, Like the shadows under the bed. And now that I’m older, I look back on those days, I wish I had them back ‘Cause the shadows are gone Or at least they’re not that strong, As the shadows in my head. I… I’m not the kid you knew, I… I’m not the kid you remember. I… I’m not the kid you knew, I… I’m not the kid you remember. In 1985 There’s a picture taken with my name on it, Climbing an apple tree with blue shoes. You think it was me, I could swear it was you. Oh… oh I… I’m not the kid you knew, I… I’m not the kid you remember. I… I’m not the kid you knew, I… I’m not the kid you remember. I… I’m not the kid you knew, I… I’m not the kid you remember. I… I’m not the kid you knew, I… I’m not the kid you remember. applause & cheers I’m Johnny Solomon, and this is Molly Moore, and we’re in the band Communist Daughter. A lot of the stuff that I’ve gone through in my life, I’m a recovering addict and alcoholic, and you know, just a lot of that growing up and having things in your life not work out the way that you hoped, but finding a new path, that’s kind of inspiring to me. Send me on to the snow fields. (Johnny) Molly told me that she would date me if I cleaned up. That’s when I decided to go into treatment and get some help and sober up. We’re engaged now. I cleaned my act up. Things are working out very well! laughs applause & cheers CC–Armour Captioning & TPT (man) Minnesota Original is made possible by The State Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund, and the citizens of Minnesota. orchestral fanfare

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *