Minnesota Original

S8 E5 | FULL EPISODE

Brandon Kuehn, Sally Power, Chiaki O'Brien, Sam Miltich

Paranormal artist Brandon Kuehn travels around Minnesota gathering stories that inspire his artwork. When she emigrated from Japan, Chiaki O’Brien brought her knowledge of Saori weaving to Minnesota. Sally Power specializes in the centuries-old art of paper marbling. Combing his American roots and Eastern European heritage, guitarist Sam Miltich found a home in jazz manouche.

AIRED: February 19, 2017 | 0:26:46
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TRANSCRIPT

[violin & acoustic guitar play Gypsy jazz]

[music only; no vocals]

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[keyboard and vibraphone play in syncopated rhythm]

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[soft squealing]

(Brandon Kuehn) Tonight we're at the Banfill-Locke

Center for the Arts in Fridley, Minnesota

with Kevin Swanson, ghost hunter extraordinaire.

(Kevin) It's going to be a fun evening

with the thunderstorm and the power going out,

we couldn't ask for anything better for an investigation.

We come in peace with only good intentions in our heart.

We hope that you have good intentions as well.

Don't be afraid, we're not here to hurt you.

We just want to communicate with you.

(Brandon) I'm very interested in the paranormal and the supernatural,

but I've never actually had my own experience

and I think that's a big part of wanting to make art about it,

sort of using my imagination.

I like to draw on other people's stories and sightings

and myths and legends to kind of create that transcendent moment.

Paranormal art wouldn't for me just be art

that's about paranormal subjects.

I think this delves much more into the realm

of like, the uncanny.

My artwork is not just about trying to illustrate

a story or a sighting,

but it's trying to capture that feeling of the unknown.

One of the first things-- one of the tools I fell in love with

are the grid lights, and then in theory, if anything

in the visual spectrum like move between us and the lights,

then it would show up, either get a photo

or just see that something had broken the grid.

So they're not super scientific, but as a visual artist,

I think there's a lot to be said for style points,

so this ranks high for me.

In an historical context, if you want to think about art

has traditionally served as that medium

between us and the unknown.

If you go all the way back to the first artists

painting caves in France, they were trying

to converse with like an unknown and an other.

Art was sort of that transcendent medium

for us to talk to the other side and the otherworld,

so I feel like this paranormal art is sort of a-- effort

to re-create that sacred space and that transcendent moment.

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(Dave Schrader) Good evening, welcome back to "Darkness Radio."

For the next 2 hours we've got some great topics

lined up for you, "Living Among Sasquatch, A Primer,"

with our guest Dave Gibson, and a little later on in the show,

Mark Nesbitt and Patty Wilson join us;

they're the authors of the book, "Cursed in Pennsylvania,

Stories of the Damned in the Keystone State."

(Brandon Kuehn) I got interested in the paranormal

back in like, 2009 and 2010.

I was in a graduate program, and I remember finding a podcast,

Minnesota-based, and it was called "Darkness Radio."

They were talking about Bigfoot and UFOs and metaphysics

and I started listening to that show

very regularly while I painted.

I was a traditional landscape painter, and then slowly

while I was working, a little Bigfoot would show up

in the corner of the landscape and then a UFO and then

pretty soon it was much more about the UFO or the Bigfoot

than it was about a landscape.

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When I want to depict something that I haven't seen personally

from a paranormal interview or a local legend,

I do a lot of research beforehand.

I'll read books or find out sightings online.

I've been able mostly to go to the actual locations.

I'll take a lot of photos, sometimes I'll bring home

rocks or sticks or something.

Once I've taken in that info, I can kind of start

to form an idea or process.

Very rarely is it like an inspirational

like, this is what I'm doing.

A big part of my Paranormal Art Project started in 2015.

I got a Minnesota State Arts Board grant,

and that allowed me to really sit down and not only research

what paranormal and supernatural stories were in Minnesota,

but actually go to those places

and kind of research them myself,

kind of like take my own photos and figure out

what I wanted to do and what art I wanted to make

based on those locations.

We have a rich history of paranormal

and supernatural stories from

Native myths and legends

to the earliest white settlers,

so I just wanted to sort of highlight those

and really explore a lot of our history

that is just like, right under our noses.

One of the first things I did when I was awarded

my grant project was to contact Chad Lewis.

He's a very famous upper- Midwestern paranormal author,

and he writes these great "Road Guides"

to not only mysterious places and unusual sightings,

but he actually gives like, a great guide to going there

and what you should expect to see,

from Native American mysteries and myths

like the Big Mound up near International Falls

all the way down to Lake City, Minnesota,

you'll find Pepie, a lake monster.

There's also several areas, especially Northern Minnesota

where there's been Bigfoot sightings.

One of my favorite areas is the Duluth-Lake Superior Region

from ghost ships to haunted wrecks

to spirits that have come out of the lake.

Being onsite in those different locations really influenced

like, what art came out of it and what I wanted to do

and the art I wanted to make based on those stories.

[bass, bongo drums, & keyboard play in minor tones]

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I think the feeling that I'm looking for

with the Paranormal Art Project is sort of like an epiphany;

I'm really looking for that little glimpse of insight

into like, the greater world at large,

and I feel the paranormal is just

that window into what's out there that we don't know.

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[synthesized sequenced music and drums play in bright rhythm]

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(Sally Power) Marbled paper has a pattern that's very fine,

and the colors are pleasing.

When I get a color combination that I really like,

I can feel it from like, my core and it radiates out.

And I love having that warm, satisfied feeling

from color combinations-- Who knew? [laughs]

Paper marbling has been around since before 1000 BC.

It started in the Orient and was focused on putting ink on water.

And as it traveled across Asia and into the Middle East,

it changed, and increasingly, other kinds of paints were used.

Paper marbling is so useful

in terms of the many ways

you can then use your art product.

[drums & guitar play in bright rhythm]

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Traditionally, marbled papers have been used

mostly as endsheets.

At MCBA we use them a lot

to cover book board for covers of books,

as well as end pages,

and you can use them for stationery,

you can use them for oragami,

you can use them for all kinds of things.

I spend a lot of time covering boxes.

These are all cartonnage boxes,

which is a French box-making style.

Most of the time I find paper

that I really love for some reason, then I think,

well, I wonder what kind of box it would look good on?

And that's how I decide.

This one is like reading clouds, you know,

when you've looked at clouds, and I see birds in it,

so I called it "Birds Flying."

I recently started experimenting

with making pictures that you could actually hang.

This one is "Forest on a Snowy Day."

There are so many things you can do with paper marbling

that is hard to be done just painting.

[soft whoosh of the sprayer]

[soft scraping]

Before you start the actual marbling process,

you need to alum the paper,

that's what makes the paint stick to the paper.

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It's important for me as a teacher

to pass this art form along

because I don't want it to die off

and not reach its full potential as an art form.

In the past it was of secondary value,

it was decorative-- period.

But now I believe that you have patterns and craftsmanship

and the materials

are at such a level

that it can be an art form in and of itself.

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[synthesizer plays softly]

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[acoustic guitar; softly finger-picking]

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(Chiaki O'Brien; Japanese accent) When I weave, I can be myself.

It's like a meditation.

As you relax, you are creating art,

and nobody says you made a mistake, or don't do this.

It was just fun and free... it's joy!

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I grew up in Japan and saori was found almost 50 years ago

by a lady, Misao Jo.

I decided to do saori weaving

'cause whatever you make is one of a kind.

[soft clicking of the wooden loom structures interacting]

Differences between traditional weaving and saori weaving,

saori weaving, we only have 2 pedals and 2 harnesses

which is for the warp.

Saori weaving, we focus on not pedals or techniques,

we focus on colors and texture.

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I met my husband, who's from Minnesota, in my hometown,

that's why we moved here in 2004.

So it was kind of good timing.

I make the saori weaving, and the teacher said well, if you're

moving to the States in the future, nobody's doing this yet.

Then I started taking classes and enjoy so much,

so I thought maybe this might be my career in the States.

And then little by little,

everybody get to know about this,

I belong to Weaver's Guild of Minnesota

and I did a presentation.

I went to like, Bloomington Art Center

to introduce the saori weaving,

and so they could have classes.

Now I teach all ages, all abilities.

[xylophone and marimba play in bright rhythm]

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(Chiaki) You are the teachers today, I'm your assistant.

Today we're at the White Bear Center for the Arts and

the Bloom Ladies are teaching

a class in saori weaving.

Thank you for coming and signing up for this class. I am so excited.

My name is Chiaki O'Brien, I've been working

with these Bloom Ladies, I will introduce them.

My name is Becky Sandstrom, I'm a weaver.

I'm Heather.

I like to weave every Wednesday

and every Monday and every Friday.

[laughter]

I'm Diane... [laughter]

My birthday is coming up soon.

(Chiaki) Bloom Ladies are the ladies with developmental disabilities.

I met Bloom Ladies 4 years ago,

and I probably went to teach them

every Monday for 2 hours each time,

and now they got the opportunity to teach there.

So they actually got grant to buy their own looms.

We have some interesting texture

you can choose from, like a woven.

You can just pack that in, in a space;

it can be good accent.

They will show you, they can show you how.

(Kristin Carlson) Chiaki's role as a mentor

to kind of help them to become

full-fledged teachers themselves.

Saori s-a-o-r-i, "ori" means weaving in Japanese

and "sai" is a Zen word, means everything has it's own beauty.

There are 4 saori principles.

We think about differences between machines and people.

We just explore.

And when you weave just be a happy heart.

And then we learn together as a group.

So put it through, pull this back,

push that back and switch my feet.

(Kristin Carlson) The response that we've gotten from the ladies is excitement,

it's a progression of building their confidence

and their own skills

and their own abilities in a world where oftentimes

they don't have that opportunity to really say I can do this

and I know how to do it, and I can show you how to do it.

[multiple energetic conversations]

[acoustic guitar plays softly]

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(Chiaki) I teach so many variety of people.

For me, it's just fun,

going to see new places and new people

and to make connections.

So teaching is always learning, learning about people

and learning about myself.

(woman) Chiaki, on three-- one, two, three!

(all) Chiaki!

(Kristin Carlson) Chiaki is not just an artist,

Chiaki is probably one

of the most amazing people I've ever met.

Her goal, her dream, was to really

bring saori to people with disabilities

and have them be able to do it independently,

and she's really made that happen.

(Sam Miltich) I find that for myself,

improvisation is almost like a kind of a meditation.

I feel both completely alert

and completely calm at the same time,

and I feel completely immersed in the moment

and I think that's what we're all shooting for,

is to be completely present in any given moment.

So for me, just personally, it feels like a spiritual pursuit,

and my brain and my heart feel their happiest

when I'm improvising, and I think that's a good metaphor

for how one can walk through life as well.

[acoustic guitar plays jazz manouche]

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[playing "This Can't Be Love;" Rodgers & Hart 1938]

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(Sam) I play a style of guitar that goes by various titles,

jazz manouche is the one that I like to use,

also known as Gypsy jazz, also known as hot club swing.

The music was first created in the late 1930s in Paris,

pioneered by the late, great Roma guitarist Django Reinhardt

and French violinist Stephane Grappelli.

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A lot of the repertoire are songs

from "The American Songbook"

from about the 1920s through the 1940s.

At the heartbeat of the music is a swing beat.

[guitar solo]

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[violin solo]

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[violin plays the melody; "This Can't Be Love"]

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[violin improv solo]

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The first time I heard Django Reinhardt play, it felt like

I was hearing the music that was already inside of my mind--

this melding of acoustic string instruments

and Eastern European flair

with the hot, driving, swing rhythm of the U.S.

On my dad's side we're part Croatian, so that felt like

my music to me because it's like this combination

of my American nationality and my ancestral heritage

and so it just felt very sincere and very real to me.

♪ I can't give you anything but love baby ♪

(Sam) I come from a large family

and basically everyone is musical, everyone played.

My family gatherings were basically people

getting in a circle and breaking out the instruments.

(Helen) ♪ You're sure to find

♪ Happiness and I guess

♪ All those things you've always pined for ♪

I began playing the guitar when I was 13 years old

and started listening to Django Reinhardt when I was about 15,

and I remember being in high school

and my dad's sitting there, washing the dishes,

letting his calluses get all soggy

and he said, go up to your room and practice.

He said, this is the time in your life when you can do that.

[playing a jazz manouche riff]

By the time I was 18, I had worked with

the Robin Nolan Trio which was in Amsterdam,

and I wound up playing for a couple years

in the Hot Club in San Francisco with Paul Mehling.

And then just continued to pursue my own band

the Clearwater Hot Club here in Minnesota.

My connection to my father and my mom,

how they supported my music early on,

I'm incredibly grateful for that 'cause it's allowed me

to be where I am today and do what I'm doing.

[playing very rapid patterns]

Tim Kliphuis is a jazz, classical, folk, crossover

violinist from the Netherlands

who is one of the most talented violinists that you can find.

[Sam plays the melody]

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Somehow the magic just really clicks for us

when we do these duets.

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Most Gypsy Jazz is played in the form of a band.

[Tim plays the melody]

What we did was, we thought if we take away the band,

take the violin and the guitar on their own

and see what happens, we can make it more of a conversation.

(Sam) It feels like new territory for me, I guess

it feels like new territory for some listeners as well.

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[Sam plays the melody]

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(Tim) Sam's playing is very fiery, but it's also very melodic,

so it's got sort of punch and sweetness

and he loves, like myself,

to play for audiences, bring them together,

make them laugh, make them cry--

all the things that music's for.

Sam, of course, is musical genius,

I mean, he's just, he's been playing brilliant music for a long time.

So this will be a very special, wonderful show,

join us in welcoming to the Dakota,

Sam Miltich and Tim Kliphuis.

[loud applause & cheers]

[Sam & Tim play in bright jazz manouche rhythm]

(Sam) We sort of spur each other on like okay

where are you going to take me? Where are you going to take me?

Oh you're not taking me there fast enough, I want to take you there, let's go.

It's a conversation is what it is,

and if there's no give and take,

that's not a conversation that I want to have.

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Jazz and improvisation is not a music that just sits on a shelf

in an archaic way; it's a living, breathing thing,

that's a part of the community,

part of the collective conscious.

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As a jazz musician, you have a responsibility to understand

the music itself and the social response to it.

'Cause it's both a very lighthearted and fun pursuit,

but also a very serious pursuit all at the same time.

I think the most important part

is the sincerity and intent behind that pursuit.

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[loud applause & cheers]

That's a real one, man!

CC--Armour Captioning & TPT

(woman) This program is made possible by

The State's Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund

and the citizens of Minnesota.

[synthesizer fanfare]

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