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C r e a t i v i t y , C o m m u n i t y a n d C o n v e r s a t i o n i n t h e He a r t l a n d

A RTIST CER A MICIST

David Coggins, MN / D E S I G N E R Blaque Reily, TN

Ginny Sims, MN / M U S I C I A N Hermon Mehari, MO / C H E F Sarah Gavigan, TN MAKERS

Ryan & Jessica Mead, MO


We tell the stories of interesting

people doing remarkable things in the heartland of America.


L E T T E R F ROM T H E E DI TOR Every fourth Thursday in November, nearly thirty people pile into my parents’ home at around four o’clock in the afternoon. It’s loud. About five of those people spend most of the time crowded around the television. There’s usually at least one baby crying most of the evening; everyone gossips about each other; one couple will certainly arrive late, after dinner has begun; and at least two dogs pee on the floor. It’s fantastic. My mom wakes around six a.m. and spends most of the day cooking four pumpkin pies and a variety of casseroles. Most of the women in the family have a dish that everyone will be upset about if they don’t bring. My mom wins at broccoli casserole; my aunt is famous for her fried potatoes and rolls. I swing my spatula at a vegetarian option, but usually just end up with dry mushrooms and rice that no one wants. In addition to the baked Butterball, my dad always fries a turkey that will inevitably almost catch fire or, at the very least, burn someone badly. It’s far and away my favorite day of the year. Around seven o’clock you’ll find my twelve-year-old cousin curled up in a chair at the dining room table, frantically scribbling on a piece of orange construction paper. Look around the room and you’ll notice that almost everyone has retreated to their own comfortable chair to do the same. Our family’s Thanksgiving tradition instructs all members to write at least two things they’re thankful for on an anonymous scrap of paper and drop it into a glass pumpkin my mom uses to decorate the middle of the table. Later as we weed through the pile, we’ll read aloud things like “my new puppy,” or “my new baby,” or “those last few days with Grandma.” Each artist we chose for this final issue of the year has crafted a creative career that we’re sure will fill you with as much gratitude as it has us. After suffering a sudden heart attack, Minneapolis, Minnesota-based artist and writer David Coggins felt grateful to continue his prolific career. Coggins’ work has been exhibited everywhere from New York to Moscow, and touches on a range of subjects from his daily life to a bustling city square in Cairo (page 60). Nashville jewelry designer Blaque R eily was born to artist parents in rural Alaska. Now transplanted in Nashville, Tennessee, Reily creates elegant designs heavily influenced by her childhood and the natural world (page 46). Ginny Sims, a ceramicist and educator thankful for the rich history of pottery, pays homage to past forms with work that bridges the existing gap between commonplace tableware and fine-art sculpture (page 24). In Kansas City, Missouri, Jessica and Ryan Mead show their appreciation for worldly inspiration with their eclectic mercantile (page 34). Together with her restaurant group PopNashville, chef Sar ah Gavigan played a main role in shaking up the culinary scene in this comfort-food capital (page 28). Spin a little jazz before diving into our story with Kansas City-based trumpeter Hermon Mehari. We thankfully caught up with him hot on the heels of an overseas tour and were able to learn a bit about how he writes such colorful improvisations (page 20). After a year of consuming stories on the remarkable talent in Middle America, it’s easy to fill a small scrap of paper with my gratitude list. Next to the names of those I hold dear may be a small list of things like “a stroke of paint,” “a guitar solo,” “a slice of pie” and, of course, “those last few days with Grandma.” Love,

Rachel Brandt @RachelEBrandt

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TA B L E O F C O N T E N T S 20 Musician | Hermon Mehari 24 Ceramicist | Ginny Sims 28 Chef | Sarah Gavigan 34 Makers | Ryan & Jessica Mead 38 Fashion | “Pattern Play” 46 Designer | Blaque Reily 60 Artist | David Coggins 80 Poem | Steve Abbott

COVER PHOTO

Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts by architect Moshe Safdie. Kansas City, Missouri. B AC K C O V E R

David Coggins in his studio. Minneapolis, Minnesota. RIGHT

Work surface in the studio of David Coggins. Minneapolis, Minnesota Photography:

Attilio D’Agostino


GATE WAY A RCH


PA RT N E R

As an urban anchor of the heartland, St. Louis is a sprawling metropolis, balancing a rich and diverse history with technological and artistic innovation. Urbanites, nature enthusiasts, families, art aficionados, lifelong residents and transplants alike mix in the Gateway City, which has paved the way for an influx of makers, artists, writers, entrepreneurs, scholars, musicians, visionaries and more. ALIVE is proud to call St. Louis home. EXPLOR ESTLOUIS.COM @ EXPLOR ESTLOUIS


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This gallery space responds to the demand for innovative art in the Midwest by exhibiting challenging work from contemporary artists based all over the world. The latest show at projects+gallery, “Spacewalker / +43F 14.7p,� is an exhibition of work from artist Christine Corday, which is largely informed by the temperature and pressure of materials. Corday has also designed a custom space suit inspired by St. Louis, based on the exact temperature and pressure impacting the city. Gallery owner Susan Barrett and Senior Director Bridget Melloy work closely with Barrett Barrera Projects to craft exhibitions that transcend traditional gallery practices. With shows and works like these, projects+gallery remains true to its mission of creating a space where artists explore a multitude of disciplines and subjects. PROJECTS-GALLERY.COM @ PROJECTSPLUSGALLERY


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Recognized worldwide for academic excellence, Washington University in St. Louis offers outstanding continuing education in Arts & Sciences for the region through University College. Whether pursuing a degree, making a career shift or simply taking part in higher learning for personal enrichment, the wide range of programs at University College stands out. UCOLLEGE.W USTL .EDU @W USTLUCOLLEGE


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Balancing reverence and revolution, Urban Chestnut Brewing Company sets itself apart by embracing forward-thinking ideas with a traditional brewing approach. This new-worldmeets-old-world philosophy is reflected in every aspect of UCBC’s business. In their home base of St. Louis, Missouri, their innovative brewery and bierhall situated across town from their traditional brewery and biergarten create a balance that’s also ref lected in their wide array of beer styles. UCBC contributes to the transformation of the worldwide beer industry while dedicating itself to a sustainable existence in the communities it inhabits. UR BA NCHESTNUT.COM @UR BA NCHESTNUT


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St. Louis Union Station, a vibrant travel destination in its own right, shines brightly at year’s end with activities like The Polar Express Train Ride and the Fire and Light Show at the lake on the revered grounds of this former passenger train terminal. The majestic historical landmark is a stunning feat of Romanesque Revival architecture, which also serves as a beautiful 539-room hotel— perfect for family and friends traveling in for the holidays. Plan your visit today—this St. Louis gem won’t disappoint. STLOUISUNIONSTATION.COM @UNIONSTATIONSTL


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Sourcing from the highest-quality manufacturers and most respected designers, CENTRO Modern Furnishings remains St. Louis, Missouri’s go-to retailer for design enthusiasts, business owners and career creatives. The meticulously curated showroom housing high-design furniture, lighting and accessories is at once accessible and inspiring. Driven by a team boasting more than 60 years combined experience, CENTRO’s coowners Todd Lannom, Ginny Stewart and manager Steve Schuepfer will help guide you, often sharing personal stories from their close relationships with world-class designers. CENTRO-INC.COM @ CENTROSTL

PA INTINGS: BR YCE H U DSO N


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K IND OF BLEU Hermon Mehari makes his debut. by KEA WILSON / Photography by ATTILIO D’AGOSTINO

For jazz trumpeter and Missouri native Hermon Mehari, the answer is simple: International Klein Blue. He first saw it at an exhibit of photographs by Helena Almeida at Paris’ Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume, where he went searching for inspiration for his first studio album as a bandleader. What he saw riveted him. Black-and-white self-portraits of the artist had been activated by washes of vivid blue paint: blue extending from her open hands, blue spiraling out of her open mouth. “And I said, ‘This! This is what I want for the album,” Mehari told me. “I want this color to be in the music.” The album that resulted, “Bleu,” can stop you in your tracks, too. It’s a product of years of work, but also real inspiration, an expansive love letter to Mehari’s adopted hometown of Kansas City and the global life it has helped the 29-year-old build beyond it. In 10 songs, Mehari blends Kansas City’s particular breed of bluesy, fluid jazz with surprising moments of neo-soul, instrumental hip-hop and the global influences he’s gathered over his years as a touring musician. Listen close, and you’ll hear an abstracted version of the story of how he came to be standing in that Paris gallery anointed one of the best horn

players to come out of the Midwest this millennium. Mehari was born in Jefferson City, Missouri, to Eritrean parents, and he found jazz young. As a 14-year-old at music camp, a teacher invited him, for the first time, to put down the sheet music and improvise. “Improv is about as personal as it can get,”says Mehari. “Having a voice through the music, especially at that age, is so exciting.” Most teens would just keep playing. Instead, young Mehari rushed to the record store. He bought the first album that caught his eye: fittingly, Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue.” Charlie Parker followed soon after. “I just wanted to know, sonically, ‘How do they do this? How do they make these sounds with their instruments?’” Mehari pondered. “And then I started listening to more and more, and I found out that they weren’t just great—they were revolutionary. They changed what music was.” Mehari applied to the University of Missouri-Kansas City, mainly because it meant the chance to study with jazz legend Bobby Watson. Mehari had already been accepted to Eastman School of Music and Berklee

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College of Music when Watson called to tell him he was admitted to UMKC. “I was sitting in my bedroom when I picked up the phone, and I looked down and there was an Art Blakey record featuring Bobby Watson sitting on my nightstand,” Mehari laughs. “I said, ‘Well, I guess I have to go here, then!’” Jazz is a music of intense, fluid relationships: trumpet answering sax, keys in conversation with the drum kit. So, it’s no surprise that Mehari’s years at UMKC yielded not just a degree, but also a deep bond with Watson. “Jazz is street music not academic music,” Mehari says. “It’s a really personal thing, and so the teaching is personal, too. There’s a lot of tough love, a lot of intense learning. Your teachers become your father figures, your collaborators, your friends.” With the equally dynamic partnerships he formed with classmates and continuous collaborators, like Ryan Lee and Peter Schlamb, Mehari had the ingredients for his first bands—jazz quartet Diverse, as well as a sprawling, 11-piece pop group, The Buhs. Soon, he found himself with recording contracts before he’d even graduated. But Mehari had other ambitions: to be a bandleader, and to express that voice he’d found all those years ago in a middle-school music room. He competed in trumpet competitions, playing anonymously behind a curtain for a panel of unseen judges, and he often won: he’s a title-holder of the Carmine Caruso International prize. He honed a voice on the horn that you can recognize blindly. “I don’t play like a lot of trumpet players. My biggest influences are actually saxophone players.” And he kept writing songs. Mehari’s music has taken him all over the world—these days, he’s splitting his time between Kansas City and Paris, with frequent shows in places as far-flung as Amsterdam and Tokyo—and his songs have come to him all over the world. “I’ll be in whatever city, and a melody will just come into my head,” he says. “Once I was walking in Buttes-Chaumont park and that happened. That became the last track on ‘Bleu.’” The lifestyle has made him a little less monkish these days, too. He loves coffee and photography, as well as questing for the world’s best food. He says he listens to less jazz than hip-hop. Future is a favorite. It’s fitting; the future is what Mehari wants his contribution to the jazz world to be, too. “To me, the tradition of this music has always been to innovate, to move forward. I mean, the thing that defines whole decades is their music, the unique sounds that each era has,” he says. “Jazz—and my music—has to be part of the next phase.”

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M AGICA L R E-THINK ING Minneapolis ceramic ar tist Ginny Sims. by EILEEN G’SELL / Photography by ATTILIO D’AGOSTINO

Imagine a room where tables float from Crayolapainted panels and shelves of pottery teeter forth. One part Dr. Seuss and two parts Bloomsbury Group, it’s a pop-up book of breakables, the white box transformed into a trippy parallel universe. But once the whimsy wears off, the fragile looms. A plate of erased bodies hangs from a daffodil wall, twin boxers clock each other’s blank faces, mugs blur at their centers methodically rubbed out. Welcome to the uncanny world of artist Ginny Sims. Whether due to the ubiquity of registry culture or the dual rise of the HSN and QVC, domestic ware would hardly seem to be objects of resistance—and that’s where Sims seeks to shake things up. Mining the history of English pottery, she infuses traditional forms with allusions to contemporary exigencies. Hers is an art of quiet upset—an urn that yearns, a kettle that unsettles, a vase effaced of figurative clarity. A monolithic wall appears on a commemorative plate; on another, a comic bubble simply reads “No.” Raised in Little Rock, Arkansas, Sims moved north to pursue an MFA at the University of Minnesota. She now teaches ceramics and art history at the Minneapolis Community and Technical College, as well as at the

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University of Minnesota. Her recent residency at The White Page, a studio and gallery space in South Minneapolis, led to her fall 2017 exhibition “Six Towns.” “It’s sort of a mash-up of English style and my aesthetic,” she explains of a series of bright vases, the final inspired by Italian architect and designer Ettore Sottsass. “I actually spray-painted that one. My own humorous nod to high design.” You pick up on past ceramic traditions, but as your artist statement reads, you are also invested in “forgotten, implied and traumatized senses of self, family and community.” What does that mean with respect to ceramics?

Those words might seem pretty heavy when it comes to objects so rooted in commonplace domestic tableware. But I do look to moments in ceramic history for my ideas—it’s my biggest inspiration. I’m always looking at past ceramic forms and reinventing them—in ways for my own contemporary self, but also for the socio-political moments that we’re living through now. The language of trauma also opens up a way for me to include my own stories—about family, loss, abandonment and then relating that to the collective human spirit.


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So your work sounds like a cross between the historical and

You have a past installation called a “Room for Jean Cocteau.”

deeply personal. Does that feel accurate?

Does his philosophy still influence you?

Definitely. I like to marry the two. There’s no end—ceramics history is so vast and contains both. I teach art history, and I’m always still learning about prehistoric ceramics—Chinese storage vessels will have the same effect on me as a Korean vase from 800 B.C., the whole linear progression of what they were used for, and the fact that these were actual containers that betray information of all kinds: the social, political. Everything.

It’s definitely still a concept that’s important to me, and I’ve revisited it with my most recent show. With that room for Cocteau, I was looking at magical, surrealist imagery. I wanted to convey this living space based off of a Cocteau film called “Beauty and the Beast.” The characters are completely unaware that the objects around them are alive and following them throughout the home. In my show, I wanted my ceramics to capture that kind of heartbeat in the room, a room that’s alive with no actual living thing.

Right now what I’m tapping into are the factory wares from 18th-century England. I got a grant to visit the northern industrial part of England in the summer of 2016 and got to see a lot of the old factories. What’s fascinating to me is how in the beginning of factory ware, the evidence of the artist’s hand survived production. I love the naiveté of the actual hands involved—objects getting messed up, hands interfering in the molds of ceramics, the sloppiness that took place before it became more refined. That’s partly what my new work is based upon. Visiting that region and seeing how devastated that part of England is now—how it took such a toll on the people—also really interested me. I became really interested in the social messages emblazoned onto teapots. When we think of commemorative plates today—of Princess Di and Prince Charles, for example—those came from a history of political propaganda on teapots in the 18th and 19th century. I’m interested in borrowing that way to put a message on a piece. The whole reason I got into factory wares was because of the potters’ sketchbooks that I saw at the Victoria and Albert Museum—these beautiful 300-year-old sketchbooks, covered in dirt from the factory workers’ hands. It was so powerful to see these hand-drawn profile views of pots. A lot of my work is made to look like those drawings. To what extent do you see your work as functional versus meant for display?

That’s a hard question for me. Ultimately I’d love for them to be used, but there’s nothing wrong for them to be admired on their own. I’m getting to a point where I can’t crank out work. I think maybe subconsciously I’m slowing down my process to make each piece more unique and more loved, and maybe more of an art object than a mass-produced, wheel-thrown pot for everyday use.

You grew up in Little Rock, and now you’re based in Minneapolis—a place with such creative energy. How has it shaped your outlook?

I’ve always been in the middle of America. I’m from Little Rock, moved to Kansas City, and ended up in Minneapolis. Growing up, I actually always wanted to live on the coast, but for someone interested in ceramics, you first need to prioritize having room. Ceramics studios in New York City, for example, leave barely any room for things to happen. The schools that are bigger ceramics centers tend to still be in middle America—Indiana, Ohio, Nebraska, places where there is a lot of space. What are you most excited about right now?

With my new work, I’m getting at some things I’ve wanted to do for some time. For my current show, I’m painting directly onto the wall, creating a more colorful, detailed space than I have before. I’ve been looking a lot at the Charleston Farm House in England—the Bloomsbury Group with Virginia Woolf. A lot of that group didn’t have formal art-making skills, but everything from the paintings to the vases on the wall were really inspiring. It seems like in so many ways you pull from a diverse history and apply it to today’s tumultuous zeitgeist.

In terms of today’s political moment, it can’t be ignored. It’s not something I touch on directly—no emblazoned images of Trump. But there is this feeling of erasure in a lot of my work right now—these framed spots on my mugs and teapots that would normally have a silhouette of a person now represent a darkness or void. That is my way of making the work political, of thinking about what’s happening today and relating that to pottery. It’s hard to make political work without being overt about it, but I’m more interested in the feelings rather than a direct message.

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SAR AH GAV IGA N A Nashville-based chef and restaurateur makes a bold career shif t. by BRUCE BRITT / Photography by ATTILIO D’AGOSTINO

It was akin to a movie where the adventure-seeking protagonist returns home after decades away only to discover the old neighborhood virtually unchanged. In 2010, Sarah Gavigan went back to her native Nashville after a 20-year stint as a Hollywood talent agent. Los Angeles had transformed Gavigan into a hardcore foodie with a powerful hankering for healthy, multiculti cuisine. So she was chagrined to find a Music City dining scene stuck in its Southern-fried ways, with menu options confined to sauce-smothered meats, larded side dishes and liberally sweetened desserts. “The culinary scene was just beginning to grow in this city,” Gavigan recalls. “There was nowhere you could go to get a really fresh meal and not leave feeling like your ship had just been sunk. There are Nashville restaurants that use Southern recipes that I love, but at the end of the day, it’s very heavy food. I really missed California-style food.” Another person might have written off her hometown as a dining wasteland, but Gavigan, and husband, Brad, viewed Nashville as an opportunity they would never have in pricey, restaurant-glutted Los Angeles. Today, the duo are proprietors of the growing hospitality group PopNashville. Initially conceived as a pop-up ramen spot, today PopNashville is headquarters to two permanent brick-and-mortar eateries: the Otaku Ramen and the Latin-inspired Little Octopus. To some, Gavigan’s scheme to bring coastal dining to Nashville—a city so bound by tradition—must have sounded foolhardy; her plan to build a restaurant empire off the reputation of a ramen shop downright ludicrous. It’s impulse to associate ramen with the cheap, packaged noodle dish consumed by hard-up college students and starving artists. Decades in L.A. had given Gavigan the confidence to pull it off. An agent who represented cinematographers, indie record labels and publishers, she often used food to woo and keep

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clients. Cooking became so integral to her identity that she became a sort of ersatz restaurateur, maintaining kitchens in her private offices. “Entertaining became something that I was known for,” Gavigan says. “People really wanted to come to my dinner parties.” Much like her enchanted Hollywood clients, Nashville diners have greeted Gavigan’s restaurants warmly, challenges notwithstanding. During Otaku Ramen’s pop-up phase, Gavigan learned that while people loved the concept, most didn’t understand it. “Even though 30 percent of our reviews were incredible, 70 percent were wildly confused,” she says. Gavigan decided to patiently let word-of-mouth do the talking. Acknowledging the importance of atmosphere to the dining experience, she chose light, airy restaurant décor that projected cozy, feel-good vibes. Her attention to detail extended to Otaku Ramen’s menu, which employs a pictorial style that helps customers visualize the restaurant’s foreign fare. “The space we built is definitely very light and bright,” Gavigan says. “We call it ‘loud, fast, fun’ hospitality.” Fun, indeed. Otaku Ramen is a cheeky tribute to Nippon culture, from its noodle-intensive menu, to its Japanese name, which, roughly translated, means “obsessed by ramen.” Popular dishes include the Shoyu, which is served carnivore-style in a clear, soy sauce-enhanced chicken broth with pork belly, or vegetarianstyle with mixed mushroom, cauliflower and radish. For those who enjoy a less-soupy ramen, there’s the Mazeman—a sort of Asiatic tribute to corn, featuring charred maize, pickled baby corn and hominy. The Tennessee Tonkotsu, with its cloudy pork-bone broth, pork confit and wood ear mushroom, is so satisfying, a reviewer for Bon Appetit magazine howled: “Ring the bell—I’m ready for another round.” Just as Otaku Ramen represents Gavigan’s reverent take on


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an iconic Japanese dish, Little Octopus bears testament to her fanatical love of Caribbean food. The 100-seat Little Octopus boasts a menu divided into sections for “raw,” “cool” and “warm” dishes. Gavigan covers a spectrum of Caribbean/Latin foods—from the Peruvian-inspired shrimp ceviche seasoned with mango, passionfruit and jalapeño, to the Cuban avocado salad with sour orange, crispy shallot and scallion ash, and the Mexican-influenced yucca with roasted garlic sauce. If there is a common thread linking Little Octopus and Otaku Ramen, it’s that both restaurants embody Gavigan’s fascination with food and its history. “I love discovering how everything ties together,” she says. “For example, people think ramen is an ancient food, but it’s actually a post-World War II dish invented by Chinese immigrants coming into Japan. In the Caribbean, there’s a whole subset of Indian food that exists, because 100,000-plus Indians have lived in Trinidad and Tobago for centuries. I love exploring that collision of culture.”

An only child born and raised in Columbia, Tennessee, about an hour south of Nashville, Gavigan‘s father worked as a mechanical/chemical engineer while her mother was a homemaker. Though she describes her childhood as “the typical Norman Rockwell upbringing,” it was an experience in Los Angeles that set her on the road to becoming a restaurateur. During a debilitating bout of homesickness, Gavigan phoned her Sicilian grandmother in Tennessee to get her manicotti recipe. “I served it to my friends, and they were so happy that their eyes were rolling back in their heads,” Gavigan recalls. “It really resonated with me. After that, I was constantly cooking.” Now, having helped diversify the Nashville dining scene, Gavigan is coping with an unforeseen consequence of her success—competition. Her PopNashville restaurants have helped spawn an explosion of contemporary, multicultural Music City eateries. “The city is doubling the amount of restaurants, so the entire culture is getting ready to change,” she says.

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Heirloom Tomato Salad Salad

8 heirloom cherry tomatoes 4 breakfast r adishes 1 stalk of celery 4 bunch muscadines (or, 10 green grapes) 2 tbsp. of goat cheese Crunchy Seeds

2 tbsp. of sunflower seeds 2 tbsp. of black and white sesame seeds 1 tbsp. of poppy seeds 1 tbsp. of pumpkin seeds Dressing

2 shallots 1 cup of red-wine vinegar 1/2 cup of agave 1 tbsp. of dijon mustard 2 cups of blended oil 1 tbsp. salt 1 tbsp. pepper

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Cut muscadine, radish and tomatoes into quarters. Peel celery and cut on a bias very thin, almost translucent. Set aside. Gather all crunchy seed ingredients and lightly toast them in a pan. You can use as little or as much of this ingredient as you like, and the remainder can be reserved as a topping for various dishes. For the dressing, chop shallots and combine all ingredients, with the exception of the oil, in a blender. Blend all ingredients and slowly add oil until it has a thick, creamy consistency. Toss tomatoes, radish, celery and muscadines in a bowl. Top with the seed mixture and add two tbsp. of the dressing. Season with salt and pepper and toss everything. Top with more crunchy seeds and fresh torn mint.


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A HOME IN THE WOR LD

JESSICA AND RYAN MEAD BRING THE WORK OF GLOBAL ARTISANS TO K ANSAS CIT Y. by KEA WILSON / Photography by ATTILIO D’AGOSTINO

If you asked Kansas City-based business owner Jessica Mead who Tyler Kingston is, she’d have to admit that he doesn’t exist. If he did, he might be a traveler in Nairobi, or rummaging for the perfect textile in a dusty flea-market stall in some high-desert town. Mead thinks he’d be a simple, quiet man who’d surprise sometimes by being bold and a little adventurous. You wouldn’t quite be able to put your finger on what was so special about him until he slowed down for a while, invited you over and let you see the home he’d made.

When Mead talks about the early days of the company, it sounds similar to how she recounts meeting her husband for the first time—as Missouri college students with a handful of common friends, wistful and sweet, still a little amazed that it happened at all. “Ryan and I were both working in finance. But one day, he read a furniture how-to in ReadyMade Magazine, and he just said, ‘I think I can do this.’ He started making a few things for our house. Pretty soon, he made his first piece for sale.”

In reality, Tyler Kingston isn’t a person at all. It’s a home-decor and lifestyle brand with a retail location in the heart of Kansas City, Missouri, created and run by Mead and her husband, Ryan. The name is inspired by the couple’s young sons—Gentry Tyler and Isaak Kingston—and you might say the company began as a natural extension of the Mead’s life as a family. But in the six years since Tyler Kingston was born, it has grown into something bigger than they’d ever dreamed.

That piece was a bench made out of old railroad ties— lucky finds at a local Habitat for Humanity ReStore. The buyer was a Craigslist stranger. But the thrill of that one sale was enough to set them on a path that would change their lives. Custom-made furniture is still the heart of Tyler Kingston. Mead’s pieces are inspired by mid-century design and industrial engineering: think hairpin legs and reclaimed factory lumber, or a clean-lined table

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that stuns in silhouette and only gets better as you close in. The chosen materials tell the history of his native Kansas City; he preserves the notches, saw marks and bolt holes, leaves the scars intact and polys over them so they shine. For the first few years, the couple worked in their garage and later in a second-floor studio with aging white-painted brick walls, growing their business one pipe-shelving unit and Etsy sale at a time. But, as Tyler Kingston became a full-time job and their customers started to tell them how much they wanted to experience the work in person, they made a pivot. “Kansas City is definitely all about shopping locally: make it here, buy it here,” Mead says. “And that’s definitely us, too. But when we opened the retail store, we thought, ‘Well, why don’t we try something just a little bit different?’” Mead isn’t a retail stockist by trade, and certainly not an international buyer, either. But she started buying, anyway: mud cloths from Africa; rugs from Iran; pillows from artisans in Turkey. Family vacations in the Southwest were detoured through flea markets where she loaded up on Native-American craftwork and brought home palettes and patterns as removed from a Midwest aesthetic as one can get. Guided only by her own tastes and eye for color in the natural world—she says Joshua Tree National Park is her favorite place she’s ever been—cacti and long-horn steer and adobe-tone ceramics became new staples of

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the store’s larger brand. “It’s been a risk, because we didn’t know if people in Kansas City would respond to it like I did,” she says. “But they love it.” That sense of risk and adventure, grounded by home and history, seems to be core to who the Tyler Kingston customer is. Mead says those wandering into the shop are much like her and Ryan: young couples in their mid-20s or 30s, new families just starting to build their homes together, yet still nourishing the itch to get in the car and wander a few states away. The larger home-goods collection is bold and full of globe-trotting statement pieces, but it’s also important to the couple that everything is affordable, functional and up to the challenges of ‘real’ family life. “We’ve got two kids who are nine and eleven, so when someone asks me, ‘Can you wash that blanket?’ I’m like, absolutely. You can wash everything in this store.” The couple’s two boys have grown up alongside Tyler Kingston, and it seems likely that the brand will grow and change just as they do. It’s easy to picture the shelves of the shop changing as the family widens their radius to travel further and further across the globe, getting a little bolder in their destinations and designs. But, for Mead, Tyler Kingston will always be rooted in the sort of values the Midwest—and her husband—personify: sturdiness, hard work and an understated, patient creativity. “Ryan’s the mid-century, the clean lines, classic thing,” Mead says. “I’m the pop of color.”


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PATTER N PL AY A COLL ABORATION WITH DEMESTIK, MARGARET ELLIS JEWELRY, AND SKIF INTERNATIONAL. Photography by ATTILIO D’AGOSTINO

Minnie Warren @ Mother Model Management and NEXT Models MODEL:

ST YLIST:

HAIR AND MAKEUP:

Trudy Fogarty-Hayden Sharday Johnson

DEMESTIK

demestik.us MARGARET ELLIS JEWELRY

margaretellisjewelry.com SKIF INTERNATIONAL

skifo.com

OPPOSITE: Demestik Dress + Margaret Ellis Long Slice Earrings [ 3 8 ]

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OPPOSITE: Demestik Wr ap Dress + Margaret Ellis Plain Bangle Hoop RIGHT: Demestik Dress + Margaret Ellis Long Slice Earrings, Sol Edge Ring and Stack Rings BELOW: Demestik Kimono + Skif International Electric Paint Shirt, Chelsea In Gr aphite Print Pants and Shoes + Margaret Ellis Small Pod Twist Earrings

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Demestik K aftan + Margaret Ellis New Loop Hoop Necklace and New Loop Earrings OPPOSITE TOP Demestik Duster + Skif International Grey Shirt Dress and “Walk” Shoes + Margaret Ellis Gr and Loop Earrings OPPOSITE LOWER RIGHT: Demestik Kimono + Skif International Electric Paint Shirt, Chelsea In Gr aphite Print Pants and Skif International Shoes + Margaret Ellis Small Pod Twist Earrings

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ABOVE LEFT: Skif International Electric Paint Dress + Margaret Ellis Small Pod Twist Earrings ABOVE RIGHT: Demestik Wr ap Dress + Margaret Ellis Plain Bangle Hoop + Skif International Shoes OPPOSITE: Demestik Shirt + Margaret Ellis Passe Earrings + Pants Stylist’s Own

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TO BECOME THE SELF-ACTUALIZ ATION OF A NASHVILLE JEWELRY DESIGNER. by JORIE JACOBI / Photography by ATTILIO D’AGOSTINO

Jewelry designer Blaque Reily’s circuitous route to Nashville began when she was growing up, in her words, “an Alaskan hippie child,” with parents who fought to sustain a livelihood as entrepreneurs and artists in the small town of Ester, Alaska. “The registration between subjectivity and our humanity as individuals is at the core of my practice,” her mother, Sheryl Maree Reily, writes on her photography website. It features a series of polaroid portraits, and one is a black-and-white image of Reily from years ago. Her mother captures her with poise and polish alongside a visible vulnerability. She still carries the memory of her home in rural Alaska, where she spent summers as a deckhand for the family’s commercial salmon fishing business and occasionally assisting with her parents’ photography.

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The memory is still there when she walks the streets of Nashville—the bustling city thousands of miles away where she runs her jewelry line. Reily has dubbed it Portmanteau Jewelry Collection. The term ‘portmanteau,’ originally coined by author Lewis Carroll, embraces the extended meaning present when two words or concepts are combined. To explain, Reily cites cultural examples: “spork” and “Brangelina.” A creative and maker at heart, she completed her MBA at Vanderbilt in 2016, which is originally what brought her to Music City. “I’m learning how to relax,” she says. “The feedback I get from people in my life is that I don’t know how to totally turn off—which doesn’t mean I’m extremely productive all the time. I’m actually beginning to integrate Netflix into my life. There’s something to be said for really shutting down your brain—not needing to be efficient or productive.” ›››


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What would later become her business began when she started making things for herself that she couldn’t find—like hoops combined with a chain earring, which she crafts by hammering dainty, flat pieces of metal that can be layered and repurposed. The transformation into a business was not premeditated. The mentality of reinvention is ref lected in the sculptural, petite and classic pieces Reily labors over, with an Instagram feed that’s a mixture of polished jewelry photos, sketches, sepia-toned family photos and inspiration, which could be anything from a beautiful home interior to a picture of a lemon cut in half. It’s an exciting moment when she sees people wearing her pieces and they’ve been mixed, matched and restyled. “When that happens, I know that I’ve done something right,” she says. Since coming to Nashville, Reily has joined the exhilarating and exhausting community of artists in varying stages of realizing their dreams. “I love Nashville,” she says. “I’m grateful for what it has offered me. I think every city has a prime—a fun and exciting time to be a part of its growth. Like Austin and San Francisco, years ago. I’m getting to be at the right place at the right time when it comes to Nashville. It’s a really supportive community, it’s accessible, and there are a lot of resources.” She also lived in Colorado, and then on the West Coast for two summers, which further developed her love of nature, the physical environments of the ocean, desert and mountains. “I do miss that,” she says. “Climbing to the top of a mountain and smelling the really dry, fresh air.” A self-described overthinker, in Nashville Reily has surrounded herself with other dynamo creatives, like her roommate, Nashville painter Celeste Greene. Her boyfriend, folk singer and songwriter Korby Lenker, is constantly focused on manifesting his dream into reality. “You need that—someone who can weather that reality,” she says. “He’s going directly for what he wants.” He played a show in Alaska when Reily was 16, where they met for the first time, and serendipitously

reconnected later in their lives. Life through Reily’s lens accepts what is truthfully human—that no one is made up of only positive or negative traits, that conflicting perspectives can both be valid and that multiple routes can lead to what’s right. The aura of her wares asks us to sit in the uncomfortable space of ambiguity, outside of traditional compartmentalization. “I remember once I had a guy friend tell me, ‘You shouldn’t wear hoops. You’re not one of those girls.’” Today, not only does she wear them—she makes them. “That’s an example of a time when my mission became to never let anyone tell me what I should or should not be. I like to play with that line between combinations,” she says. “Just because I’m an outdoorsy girl doesn’t mean I can’t wear hoops.” After graduating from high school, she left home and studied environmental science at Colorado College, in Colorado Springs. “I knew I had to get out of Alaska. I wanted to go explore. I never saw myself going back, but I do miss it. People who choose to live in Alaska choose to live at the end of the road. They just don’t want to be bothered. They do their own thing.” Reily then worked in energy efficiency consulting while waiting tables, planning to pursue higher education in either law or business. Through observation, she noticed many creatives struggled to make their art financially viable. Whether working as an artist, painter, musician, photographer or maker, she continued to bear witness to the time-honored struggle of life as an artist, reasoning that business school could help her achieve a level of entrepreneurial savvy to aid creatives in their journeys. “I will say, I have seen some creatives who are excellent at business. And the way you get good at it is by doing it yourself. But I also saw a lot of nonprofits and creatives struggle because of the business side of things, and the bottom-line piece wasn’t really their strength,” she says. Around that time she began consistently working with metal and clay, holding on to the precious gift of inspiration when it would come. ›››

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“Working with your hands is not cerebral, but it’s incredibly satisfying. When I was living in Colorado, I just started making jewelry and messing around,” she says. Ironically, it was while applying for business school that she created the first iteration of the line, built a website and even secured a wholesale account. The pieces have a bohemian, salt-of-the-earth quality to them, as Reily draws inspiration from Alaskan and Native-American influences, as well as the natural world. Her selected materials are gifts of the earth: metal, beads, feathers. “It didn’t seem practical just to do jewelry. And I wanted to be helpful to creatives. But I really started missing the act of making.” Over time she secured a few more wholesale accounts in Nashville. Piece by piece, she began realizing that perhaps living life as a maker could work, without triggering pre-existing, timeworn fears. “In a very practical sense, it was the financial stress of the freelance lifestyle. Years ago, my father took me on a father-daughter fishing trip, and he took some pictures of me for the photography business. I must have been about eight, and I was being fussy with him. I remember he told me, ‘This business is what puts food on the table.’ Growing up with that financial struggle—I felt the uncertainty,” she says. “I knew in that moment, my heart of hearts, at eight, that the business did put food on the table. It was a team effort to make it work.” Halfway through her MBA, she felt something shift from within. It wasn’t a moment, but rather the culmination of a succession of moments that pointed somewhere other than where she was going. “I just knew I was headed in a direction that didn’t serve me,” she puts it. Her mother passed along a vital piece of advice, which affirmed her decision to choose a life outside of business school and pursue the jewelry business. She asked Reily, “Are you sure you don’t actually want to be an artist yourself?” In her own life, Reily’s mother had

observed the truth that, “Often people put themselves as close to the thing they want as they can, without actually asking for it for themselves.” Once Reily got the design and basics down, creating enough jewelry to maintain inventory became meditative. Though learning the craft didn’t come from picking up materials and immediately creating beautiful pieces, it was selecting the right design solution from thousands of possible options that posed the largest challenge. “You have to go through this painful period where sometimes you’re very inspired, and then you run into something that doesn’t work,” she says. It was through the trial and error that she also discovered some of her best pieces were the direct result of a former mistake. Recently she was asked by a curious bystander about her process, and how she uses her time when making pieces. One might assume that she spends most of her time in the ideation phase, but it’s actually sitting down with the materials and getting to know them. Very rarely does something transform from idea to reality without evolving, either due to an engineering problem or because Reily comes up with a new idea as she’s making it. Since shifting her focus to running Portmanteau, Reily has had more time to reflect on her process and journey than usual—or, perhaps it’s been happening in small bursts along the way. “I had a year where it became clear that I couldn’t be precious about what I actually wanted,” she says. And now, busily at work on her second collection, she plans to release each piece one at a time. She’ll also be doing a collaboration with Nashville-based luxury clothing line Ona Rex, which will be available spring of 2018. “Ten years ago, I felt very sure that I didn’t want to mix my creativity and my livelihood, because it would cost too much. But the life I’ve had in between has taught me that I am willing to do that. Because it’s worth it.”

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IN T HE HE A RT A ND OU T IN T HE WOR LD

A PROFILE OF ARTIST DAVID COGGINS. by FR ANK BUR ES / Photography by ATTILIO D’AGOSTINO

When David Coggins first moved into his studio in 1996, he thought he might keep it spare, minimalist. “It was such a beautiful, raw space,” he says, “with all those windows and nothing in it. I was just so wowed by it.” The room was part of the old warehouse for the defunct Grain Belt Brewery next door. It was massive, at 3,000 square feet. The outside walls were a beautiful, patchy brickwork with arched windows. Concrete columns ran floor to ceiling. It had an old-world, industrial feel, remnant of another era. But those who knew Coggins shook their heads, knowing minimalism was unlikely. And, before long, the studio started to grow over with art and worldly objects. An old Spanish cabinet, small collections of stones, a plate of dice, spools of twine huddled together on a table. “I like to have beautiful things around,” Coggins says, “and old things, and important things and odd things that I’ve found over time that have meaning. I always love coming in, especially when I’ve been away. When I’m here, I don’t ever want to leave.”

“When you step into that studio,” says Tom Rassieur, who curates prints and drawings at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, “it’s a transformative experience. You’re in this deeply personal, expansive, mesmerizing space. Your eye just goes everywhere. You feel like you could spend all day looking at these things that are a mixture of David’s own creations and things that he loves. It’s a Gesamtkunstwerk if there ever was one—an all-encompassing art work. In a sense, it’s a modern version of a 19th-century studio. It’s the most amazing environment.” Despite what one might think, the studio doesn’t feel cluttered or hoarded. There’s an order, a logic to it. The room has a geography of its own. It is like an ecosystem that grew out of Coggins’ mind, a world of his own making. And not long after he moved in, it took on a new importance to his career, a new prominence in his life. The world where he first found his artistic footing would begin to disappear. That old world was located across the river, in the warehouse district of Minneapolis. That was where Coggins had his first studio, his first show, his first taste of the artist’s life. ›››

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“It was a really vibrant scene,” says Jon Oulman, who owned a gallery there. “At one point, there were 16 art galleries in the Wyman Building, and 24 total in two blocks. We coordinated our openings at the same time so you could go to 15 or 20 galleries in an evening, and commune with like-minded people.” Coggins arrived on that scene in 1988, when he and his wife, Wendy, rented a large space that could be used for both her flower shop and his studio. It was just around the corner from the New French Bar, where it seemed like the entire local art world would gather at night to drink, gossip and talk about art. That studio was an open space. There was no door, so people could wander back and watch him work. When he put some paintings in Wendy’s flower shop, not only did people like them—they bought them. This was heartening for Coggins, who was just getting his start as an artist at the age of 35, a late-career transition. Before that, he’d made his living as a writer, doing freelance work for nonprofits, editing the Minnesota Orchestra’s program magazine, writing marketing copy and working on a novel on the side. But Coggins was never just a writer. “He’s always loved to draw,” Wendy says now. “He’d always done both. He studied art when we were in college, and afterward at the Art Institute of Chicago. When we lived in the Netherlands, he took classes at the Royal Academy. He always had a pencil in one hand and used a typewriter with the other.” The couple settled in Minneapolis in 1975 to start a family, and Coggins went to work on his writing. Their son and daughter were born soon after, and by the mid-1980s, the children were old enough for the family to start traveling again. They were staying in Paris with Minneapolis friend Dominique Serrand, who ran the Theatre de la Jeune

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Lune back home. Coggins was sitting at a window sketching the scene across the street when Dominique came up and looked over his shoulder. “Oh, I like that. I like how you add color when there isn’t color,” Serrand said. But to Coggins, the colors were clear. “I was adding bits of yellow and pink and blue because it was there. But, to his eye, it was just gray and brown.” When they returned to Minneapolis, Theatre de la Jeune Lune was producing Molière’s “The Bourgeois Gentleman,” and Serrand asked Coggins to paint the set. He spent the next two straight weeks painting the 18th-century interiors. “I loved it,” he says emphatically. “That was my moment of conversion. I said, ‘Okay, I’m going to paint.’” “I always knew he was talented,” says Wendy. “Art was always a passion for him, and you can’t keep someone from their passion. But whether you’re a writer or an artist, there is always the unknown.” “I just knew I had to do something different,” Coggins says, “and painting was something I’d always loved, and maybe should have done in the first place. It was a major decision and we talked about it endlessly, but Wendy was always supportive. She understood the needs and desires and frustrations. And it wasn’t like I was going from some highpaying job, giving up my six-figure salary. But it was a daily struggle. Every day, you ask yourself, ‘Should I really be doing this?’” So, the couple rented their space and Coggins’ paintings started to sell. When he’d gotten a bit of a reputation, he approached the Thomson Gallery around the corner, and the owner, Bob Thomson, agreed to take a few paintings. They sold. So, in 1990, he put on Coggins’ first show, and it sold out. ›››


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“That was a huge boost,” Coggins says. “I thought, ‘Oh, great! This is going to work out.’” After that, he was contacted by dealers from Los Angeles, Dallas and Chicago. He kept working and selling. Then in 1995 he got an artist’s grant from the St. Paul Companies, Inc., to photograph the world’s great cities at the dawn of the internet. “My goal,” he says, “was to go to the hearts of the cities, to the old squares where it all started. Because in the future, the ‘square’ of the computer screen would be where people got together.” Over the next year, Coggins took more than 10,000 photos on 35mm film in cities like Cairo, Tokyo, Delhi, Istanbul, Barcelona, Prague, Berlin, Lima, Quito and Buenos Aires. He tried to capture the people, the plazas, the energy, the images, the minutia of late-20th-century life. “I was feeling like in the future, we were going to lose our face-to-face contact in these public places.” Back home again, Coggins settled into his new studio, where he developed his photos, then tore them, scratched and inked them until they appeared weathered and dark. Some he made into large, cubist collages. Others he mounted on Masonite tiles and installed them in what he called “Pascal’s Room,” after the philosopher who said, “The sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room.” This combination of disquiet and repose runs though many of Coggins’ projects. “David’s work has always been in the heart and out in the world,” says former gallery owner Oulman, who hosted the showing of the photos, titled “The Nostalgic Heart.” “And there’s an audience for that, because a lot of people feel that way.” “David is someone who is well-traveled and interesting,” says Eric Dayton a restaurateur, entrepreneur and a collector of Coggins’ work. “But he’s also really rooted in simplicity. He spends his summers at his

cabin in Wisconsin. He’s grounded in nature and simple pleasures, but can go enjoy the great pleasures of a city like Paris. That’s reflected in his work, and probably why I like it.” “There’s an exploratory quality, both in the man and the work, that I find really engaging,” says poet G.E. Patterson, “There’s also a quality of reflection that I think is pretty consistent, and carries through the painting, the photography, the collage, the set design and also the writing. He’s been an influential figure in the work of other artists I know. A lot of poets are also very inspired by his work.” Dobby Gibson, whose new collection, “Little Glass Planet,” will be published later this year, is one of those poets. The first time he saw Coggins’ work was in a homeware shop. “He had a couple of ink drawings on the wall that just kind of stopped me in my tracks,” Gibson says. “When I saw them, I asked, ‘Who made those?’ I remember they were just ink marks on a canvas or a sheet. Some of his work has that kind of hypergraphia, that compulsive mark-making. Cy Twombly is another artist who has that. I think writers like artists like that, because it’s visual art that blurs toward writing.” Not long after he got back from his year of wandering city squares, his own city started to change. Rents went up. Corporate art buying went down. Galleries started to close. And before long, the warehouse district ceased to be the center of the art world. This was part of a broader shift as well, from an art scene centered around galleries to one more based on studios, private parties, private showings and the occasional art crawl, where artists open their doors to the public. When the Thomson Gallery shuttered in 1997, it was a serious blow to Coggins. He had already rebooted his career once, and now it seemed that he might have to start over again. He looked around for another gallery to call home. But in the end, he decided ›››

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to focus on his studio—his Gesamtkunstwerk—and what he could produce in it. In 2004, he held his first show there and sold enough work that it seemed like it might work out … again. At the same time, he had built a second studio at the cabin owned by Wendy’s family, on Pine Lake, Wisconsin. In the summer of 2009, he was walking through the woods around Pine Lake with his son, David (who is also a writer, and author of the forthcoming “Gentlemen, Behave!: Manners for the Modern Man”) when he felt a pain in his chest. He sat down, felt tired, and didn’t want to walk any more. His son ran off to get help, then drove him to a local hospital. From there, he was flown to a hospital in a larger city. Along the way, Coggins had time to think about all the work he still wanted to do. “I always had it in mind that I wanted to do something with our time in Paris,” Coggins. “Then you get older. Then you’re in a helicopter, flying through the night to a hospital and they’re rushing you into surgery. You realize that you need to get the things that you really want to do done.” In the end, it turned out Coggins’ heart was fine. The attack was minor and may have been related to stress. But the incident did change the course of his work. He decided to take a more contemplative, less combative approach to making art. First, he embarked on a series of line drawings, which he called “Yoga,” in lieu of actual yoga. “The Yoga drawings are pattern drawings,” he says. “They’re repetitious. They’re meditative. It’s a whole different way of working. Before it would be the long, arduous process of working on the canvas. I always wanted the painting to be the result of a conflict within myself about which direction it should go, and never being satisfied. But when it’s ink on paper, you’re just

putting down the marks. You’re not reworking it, you’re not erasing. Maybe you have second thoughts, but you let it go, then you realize you didn’t need to have those second thoughts.” Coggins has also been more focused on books and memoirs. In 2009, he published a limited printing of “Birds of Pine Lake,” and in 2010 he published an eight-volume set of his “Daybooks,” which are small collages he makes in leatherbound notebooks. In 2012, he published “Breath,” about his father’s death. Then in 2015, he finally published “Paris in Winter,” his memoir in words and watercolors of the family’s stays there between 1997 to 2010. Currently, he’s working on another memoir about the island of Saint Barthélemy in the Caribbean, where his family spends a few weeks each year. After that, he’s planning a memoir about Pine Lake. “When I did my early landscape paintings, they were all inspired by where I am now, at Pine Lake. Because when I look out, there’s this big expanse of water and trees and the sky above. It’s these very fundamental, very powerful elements.” When we left his studio, Coggins got in his car and drove back to the lake, where he will work until he must close it down for the winter. Then, he will pack up his brushes and return to his “total work of art” in Minneapolis, where he will keep painting and writing. “I have gotten more productive over time,” Coggins says. “Because time is finite. When I started out, I wanted to be a great painter, and I still do. But from the very beginning, whether I was writing a novel or making a painting, I wanted to create something important and meaningful, that makes a difference in some way. I don’t need to make a zillion dollars. If someone comes up to me and says they loved something, that’s all I need. That’s the gift. That’s why I’m doing it.”

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Welc ome by STEVE ABBOTT

On an ancient doorway’s threshold I pause, not contained or released. A hardwood frame defines departure and arrival, a permanence the nomad and refugee seek where they settle at last.

They carry their stories in goatskin and blanket, in the grime of windshields and the smell of onion broth, spices that make scents of the wind that brings the unfamiliar into parlor and kitchen.

This opening recognizes what a traveler needs—a small portion of whatever relieves the road’s weight and rinses dust from tired shoes, a place protected from the teeth of wind and sun.

Across a field, a tree opens the hand of its bare branches, green buds piercing morning’s chill. By a sturdy hearth we accept the spaces between words and silences where we warm to each other.

Steve Abbott co-hosts The Poetry Forum, the Midwest’s longest-running poetry reading series, and edits Ohio Poetry Association’s annual journal “Common Threads.” His work has appeared in dozens of journals, including “The Connecticut Review,” “Birmingham Poetry Review,” “Rattle,” and “Spoon River Poetry Review.” He has published four chapbooks of poetry, and his full-length collection, “A Green Line Between Green Fields,” is forthcoming from Kattywompus Press.


VOLUME 16 ISSUE 6

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