I never thought our December departure from Minneapolis would look and feel like spring. The air had that earthy, just-rained kind of smell as we packed up the car and the ground was muddy instead of icy. But there you are. I’m sure winter will return soon.
Prep for the road included timing a loaf of bread to bake the night before we left so we could have sandwiches in the car—because priorities, obviously. And this loaf was a beauty. It rose like a champ and kept its form. I use a starter and the no-knead method, which requires about an 18-hour rise.
Then there was the pre-departure cookie baking that got a little out of hand. I was testing out a few recipes including this long-lost ginger snap number that I finally found again in my Evernote. It became legendary in the family after only one round because the snaps were so spicy. I rediscovered it by accident and hereby vow to never lose it again.
We have never made such a long journey with Metro, so I’m curious to see how he does. Anthony built him a kind of platform bed for the backseat, which I know he will love–he loves being in the car. But for now he’s a little nervous, staying close, and watching my every move.
On the road, somewhere in South Dakota.
Mitchell, SD. Too bad this one’s such a snooze to travel with.
Got to the Black Hills at dusk and arrived at our place in Hot Springs in the dark. Haven’t been here for awhile. Hoping to get a little look around today. More soon!
Photos by Rebecca Silus for the Field Office
Winter came early this year.
It began exactly on November 10, when I opened my eyes to this scene outside.
I’ve been trying to make the best of it—baking and cooking a lot. Also we got a new rug, which has changed everything and I don’t know how we ever did without it.
I love our skylight views, which are so different in every direction—this is to the east, out the kitchen window.
Daily walks get harder at this time of the year because of the cold and the ice. It was -4F (-20C) on Thanksgiving.
Another skylight view. Sometimes when it snows, we live in a snow cave for days until it melts or falls off.
Dusky alley walking in St. Paul.
A “warm” day.
My sister was in town from San Francisco for Thanksgiving. Totally not acclimated to the cold, but she was a sport and went for a walk with me anyways.
One of Metro’s regular spots.
And I finally tried my hand at Laugenbrötchen. They were a little wonky but a good first try. Need to do another batch because I miss them so.
We’ll be escaping winter (I hope!!) for awhile, when we start our drive west tomorrow, destination Portland!
One of the most beloved landmarks in Minneapolis is the Stone Arch Bridge, a pedestrian bridge that connects downtown with St Anthony. Originally, the Stone Arch was a train bridge, so foot traffic (and bicycle and horse and buggy traffic, too) crossed the water on the 10th Avenue Bridge just to its south. Incidentally, this bridge was also directly connected the businesses I talked about the other day.
The iron truss 10th Avenue Bridge was built in 1874 to replace a narrow wooden foot bridge, which eventually fell into disrepair and was dismantled in 1943. Minneapolis wouldn’t have another dedicated pedestrian crossing until 1994, when the city tore out the railroad tracks on the Stone Arch.
In the early part of this summer, we got record amounts of rain and the Mississippi raged. Most people took advantage of the view from the Stone Arch Bridge to marvel at the massive amounts of water coming over the falls just to the north. To the south, however, was something a little less dramatic but totally fascinating—the remnants of one pier from the 10th Avenue Bridge. It was speculated that the whole thing was going to get swept away.
But…it’s still there. A little smaller than last year at this time, but intact.
Thanks to mrdbridges.com for historic dates and info.
Black and white photos courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society.
Photos by Rebecca Silus for The Field Office.
Artist Andy Sturdevant recently asked me to participate in YEARBOOK ONE. It’s a book published by fax machine in conjunction with the Minnesota Fax Registry, a month-long residency program, public archive of telecopying materials, and publisher of artists’ books in fax-only format.
YEARBOOK ONE will feature writings and drawings about faxes by a group of artists, including me. You can preorder a copy now on Andy’s website—the catch is that you have to provide a fax number because the book will be faxed to you! If you want a book but don’t have a fax machine, Andy has solutions. Just contact him via the link below.
An exhibition for the project is happening now at the Denler Gallery in St. Paul. It features a collection of fax documents from public and private sources, dating as far back as the 1990s.
Minnesota Fax Registry info and book pre-orders
November 20–December 19
Friday, December 5 at 6:00pm
I get a charge out of place names that refer to the original landscape features of a place before they were bulldozed into oblivion for parking lots, roads, and buildings. Around these parts, we have suburbs like Maple Grove, Forest Lake, Eden Prairie, and so on—once you start looking, these names are everywhere. But it’s not just about the irony. Although these names don’t disclose a lot of detail, they do reference the historical character of a place at a certain point in time. Without having to do a minute of research, it is possible have a rough idea about a landscape before the sprawl.
I don’t know if there is a name for all of this, but I experienced a version of it about a month ago on my regular walk around the downtown riverfront. I was walking by a bar and paused a moment at its signage, which suggested a late 1800s-era saloon. The name—Mattie’s—was also curious. Considering everything together, I definitely got a bordello vibe. So I looked at the website and sure enough it said that Mattie St. Clair’s House of Spirits is a “modern-day saloon” named after a madam who owned a brothel just down the street in the late 1800s.
And it was THIS that got me to thinking about an author’s talk I’d recently missed about turn-of-the-century prostitution on the Minneapolis riverfront. So I got the book, Minneapolis Madams: The Lost History of Prostitution on the Riverfront and to my surprise found that almost my entire daily walk touches on the city’s red light districts, which operated until about 1910.
In fact, it is the same unusual building I always begin at—212 Eleventh Avenue South—that spurred author Penny Peterson to begin her research on the book. Turns out it was originally built as a brothel (as many were back in the day) and is the only one still standing. It is now hemmed in by condos, whose residents are probably completely unaware that their neighborhood used to be a little spicier.
The book was fantastic and I appreciated the author’s take on the subject. Instead of approaching it with distaste (as so many Americans do), she explored the man’s world in which the madams lived and their role as tough and successful business women at a time when opportunities to work outside the home were dismal and underpaid. And she paints a wonderfully detailed scene of daily life during that era.
Mattie’s and 212 Eleventh Avenue are the only flickers left of this part of the story, but I think they both a good reminder of how much history we walk by every day without knowing it—but if we pay attention to the clues that linger, it can open up new worlds.
The usual beginning of my walk and Minneapolis’s last standing brothel, 212 Eleventh Avenue South.
Mattie’s on Main, quiet reminder of the past.
Gorgeous fall light. It does not look anything like this around here anymore—it’s already snowed and we haven’t seen temperatures above freezing for over a week and everybody is pretty cranky about it, including me!
Illustration and photos by Rebecca Silus for the Field Office.
Last week my mom, Metro, and I went on a walk in our favorite autumn walking locale. It’s an old, unlogged stand of woods surrounded by wide open marshes.
On our way back, we stopped at our favorite on-your-honor pumpkin stand.
I ended up with three of these sugar pumpkins and a new project; baking a pumpkin pie with fresh pumpkin.
It turns out that making pumpkin pie with real pumpkin is super easy—no different than roasting squash in the oven. The hardest thing might be finding sugar pumpkins—I’ve been looking at the co-op and haven’t seen any. Two pumpkins weighing in at about 4 1/2 lbs made the 2 cups of pumpkin called for in most recipes.
In researching pumpkin pie recipes, I found there are a few camps—some people swear by the sweetened condensed milk, others evaporated milk, and some a true custard base. I found organic sweetened condensed milk, so decided to try that version first. Next round I might do a custard sweetened with dark brown sugar.
Either way, this has converted me into a pumpkin pie fan and is definitely going on our Thanksgiving menu.
I followed this recipe from Simply Scratch.
Summer is gone and I have loads of photos that never got posted. These are the last of our trip to the North Coast, where we spent one night at a place called Lamb’s that I’ve driven past year after year since I was a kid. Turns out it’s a huge piece of property with gorgeous lakeshore that’s been in the same family since the 1920s—a rarity nowadays.
It was a warm and gorgeous day when we arrived. We parked the Scamp and headed down the campground road to the pebble beach. Our beach picnic for the day included Door County cherries from the Grand Marais co-op.
Swimming in Lake Superior isn’t usually an option—it’s tempting to jump into the clear blue water but the average water temperature is 40 F/4 C, so…not fun swimming conditions. This year, though, even the open water was warm. It’s rare to see one person go in, much less a whole beach full of people. Anthony walked down the rocky shoreline and swam out to that rock he’s standing on. Metro was not pleased that he wasn’t allowed to follow along and supervise and so he was kind of out of his mind here.
Then they were reunited and all was well in the world again.
This funny little film by Chevrolet was made in and around Minneapolis. I love the unrecognizeable skyline and the vintage sailboats on Lake Minnetonka.
Hovland, Minnesota, is a town of 80 people located about 20 miles south of the Canadian border on Lake Superior. When it was settled by Scandinavian fishermen at the end of the 19th century, there were no roads so goods, mail, and visitors arrived by boat at the massive pier in Chicago Bay. The town would not see a road until the 1930s.
We took a day trip from Grand Marais, searching for the above house, which I shot in 2000 with a film camera because that was all I had then. Hard to imagine. Couldn’t find the house and I’m afraid it’s been torn down because it was uninhabited and on a beautiful piece of lakeshore property.
From the book The Scandinavian Riviera, or, Hovland, Minnesota by Philip J. Anderson:
In the 1890s, a non-Scandinavian editor of the newspaper in Grand Marais, A. DeLacy Wood, often walked the eighteen miles to Hovland to enjoy its hospitality and warm community spirit; he soon purchased property in Big Bay. In the July 15, 1893, issue of the Cook County Herald, he wrote at length about the supper and dance at the town hall with the Hovland string band (John Eliasen was known countywide for his fiddling), jig dancing, songs in Norwegian, and harmonica solos.
If you are in the Minneapolis area this Saturday, September 13, please join me at 6pm for the opening of Near and Far! It’s a group show presenting the work of six landscape painters—including my work (above).
The show’s curator, Carol Lee Chase, also asked me to include some of my Berlin video diaries aka Field Reports in the show. It will be the first time I’ve exhibited video work and I’m excited to have it viewed in this context.
For anyone who wasn’t around these parts in 2011, the Field Report consisted of me filming throughout the week, editing on Sundays and posting a video on Mondays. This lasted from January through the summer. The results were rough but real and that was a big part the project for me: film and edit with the equipment I had on hand, without getting too wound up about the perfection of the final product. It gave me a chance to experiment with a new way of documenting place in a format that was as layered as my paintings.
I spent the last couple of weeks trying to choose which videos to show and editing them together. The experience was intense—these videos really are a diary of a time and place for me. Below is video number four. You can see all of them here:
Show info is:
Catherine G Murphy Gallery, St Paul, MN
September 8–October 23, 2014
Opening reception September 13, 6–9pm
First, I am dying about this action shot of Metro trying to catch a fly. This was a two-night stay at the municipal campground in Grand Marais, a far cry from the more secluded sites at the state park, but it makes up for that by being located right on Lake Superior and in town, so you can walk everywhere.
The campground has two beaches. One is on the harbor, where the water was actually warm enough to swim in. On this evening, we took a little happy hour picnic down to the beach and let Metro have a swim.
The other beach is directly on the open water.
A little film-changing mishap on the beach left us with a light leak.
There was smoked fish for dinner one night from the Dockside Fish Market just up the road and a game of Scrabble that looks like it went late into the night, but really we were so tired that we didn’t last long after dark.
I managed to catch the worst cold I’ve had in years the day before we left for this trip and promptly passed it onto Anthony shortly after we got on the road. So here we are doing Tussin shots while eating the amazing mackerel fish and chips at the Dockside.
Our first stop on the Lake Superior shore was Gooseberry Falls State Park, where we got the last camping spot. Basically we parked the Scamp and fled for the water, which was just across the little dirt road, and went for a walk along the shore.
The park is best known for its waterfall, but I like its long piece of lakeshore with its combination of huge, smooth rock, grassy fields, and pebble beach.
Whenever we are on an excursion, Metro keeps a close eye on each of us to make sure the team doesn’t get separated.
Fish is a must on the menu when we are up here. Eating it outdoors, directly off the paper wrapper is my favorite.