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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

POET A RTIST

Chaun Webster, MN | A R T I S T Katherine Simรณne Reynolds, MO Rachel Gropper, IL | R E S T AU R A T E U R S Michael & Tara Gallina, MO

DE SIGNER S

Liz Gardner & Josef Harris, MN | A R T I S T Jun Kaneko, NE


We tell the stories of interesting

people doing remarkable things in the middle of America.


L E T T E R F ROM T H E E DI TOR The scraping of putty knives and the sawing of drywall muffled the normal shuffling of unsteady toddler feet. Thick dust flying from freshly sliced sheetrock filled the home with a hazy cloud that could have been confused for a clap of powdered sugar falling slowly to the ground and caking the scratched wood floor. A hot mist poured from my handheld garment steamer. I burned my fingers and realized that this tool was not meant for releasing decades-old wallpaper from centuries-old pine walls; and these singed fingers were not meant for renovating this once-beautiful historic home that now seemed to be falling in around me. The mood boards packed with Moroccan rugs, peacock chairs, stone countertops, modern art and warm paint swatches ached to be realized. When my husband presented the option of renovating a home, what I may have heard was “decorating a new home.” What I definitely didn’t hear were “months of repairs on a dilapidated money pit complete with sore muscles and sleepless nights.” Four months into a marriage-testing renovation, I turned a corner. My cell buzzed at work, and my husband shared that he had just visited the resting place of the man who built our home. He had been researching the home’s 131-yearold history and found records from the early 1800’s, when the original builder first broke ground. Columbus Strome was a carpenter, not unlike my husband, and a farmer, not unlike my family. When he built the Victorian Italianate, the suburban neighborhood that now surrounds it had not yet been imagined. It stood alone, in a field; a nearby train station was the only local civil animation. The home was his work of art, and now it could be ours. It was energizing to be reminded that while traditional works of art are critically important, we’re all contributing to the conversation with our life’s work as well. The artists in this issue are special, because while at once accomplished fine artists they are also accomplished fine humans. For more than sixty years, Jun K aneko has crafted a prolific career in the arts. Together with his wife Ree, a sort of magic partnership formed where culture, art and humanitarian work collide to create a humble empire of creativity in Omaha, Nebraska (page 62). Liz Gardner and Josef Harris are the duo behind Bodega Ltd., a multi-disciplinary creative studio in Minneapolis, Minnesota. When they aren’t serving up inspiration to their long list of clients, they are renovating an old building dubbed #maisonbodega and inspiring the rest of us (page 48). Another Minneapolis-native, Chaun Webster, is our literary highlight this month, writing poetry from the heart of a father, a Black man, an entrepreneur—whatever iteration his soul speaks at the moment his pen hits paper (page 28). Michael and Tar a Gallina take turns igniting every sense with the earthy-modern décor of their Saint Louis, Missouri restaurant and the recipe they share with us on page 32. K atherine Simóne R eynolds and R achel Gropper are exciting visual artists, both positively impacting the way culture looks at femininity whether it’s among the beauty supply shelves or hanging from a carefully constructed mobile. ››› As drywall dust settles on the floor around a framed photograph of my son—prepared for the home that will be—I feel at peace with the challenge ahead. Let these pages help you find spirit in the quotidian calendar. Let us craft our days so that our journals become our memoirs, and mundane tasks become the quarter notes in our symphony of life. Love, Rachel Brandt @RachelEBrandt

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TA B L E O F C O N T E N T S 20 Artist | Katherine Simóne Reynolds 24 Artist | Rachel Gropper 28 Poet | Chaun Webster 32 Restaurateurs | Michael & Tara Gallina 38 Fashion | “Tone On Mute” 48 Designers | Liz Gardner & Josef Harris 62 Artist | Jun Kaneko 80 Poem | C. D. Albin

COVER PHOTO

Home & studio of Liz Gardner and Josef Harris. Minneapolis, Minnesota. RIGHT

Jun Kaneko at work in his studio. Omaha, Nebraska. B AC K C O V E R

Mobile by Rachel Gropper in the home of Attilio D’Agostino. St. Louis, Missouri. Photography:

Attilio D’Agostino


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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 gallery’s latest show is a photography exhibit called “Amongst Friends” by New York-based artist and St. Louis native Dario Calmese. The show features photographs of Calmese’s muse, the impeccably stylish Lana Turner, of Harlem, New York. 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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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

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THE R EGA L, THE R E A L St. Louis ar tist Katherine Simóne Reynolds. by EILEEN G’SELL / Photography by ATTILIO D’AGOSTINO

It’s quiet in St. Louis’ Cherokee Art District—the sky a flat gray, The Luminary gallery a haven from the February blahs. Inside waits photographer, sculptor and performance artist Katherine (“Kat”) Simóne Reynolds, curator of the “Mane ’n Tail” exhibition on view through early March. Investigating “how beauty supply [stores] manipulate the way women of color feel about themselves, as well as the relationship between the purchasers of beauty and the people and spaces that supply it,” “Mane ’n Tail” visually moderates a conversation across race, class and creed, bringing together a triumphantly broad array of artists from across the nation. Reynolds has been busy. With fifteen shows and artist talks in the last year alone, she has taken the region by welcome storm since graduating from Webster University. But even when not feeling her best—turmeric-carroting through a fever on this frigid afternoon—she exudes a focus and clarity that surpass her peripatetic 26 years. “Because I’m not from here, there’s still this dissonance with St. Louis,” she reflects. “I’ll never understand it fully, but I truly don’t think anyone really does.” Born at an American military base in Germany, Reynolds spent much of her formative years in Illinois’ Metro East region, taking trips across the river to visit the Botanical Gardens in St. Louis or Seafood City with her grandparents. Her open demeanor betrays a life of constant adaptation—“For sure, for sure” a calm reply that bridges our exchange, less to express ready agreement than affirm understanding. The artist’s multidisciplinary output reveals similar empathy and discernment. In Reynolds’ 2018 portrait “Manes n’ Tales” (a riff of the title of the Luminary exhibition), a revisioned Rapunzel lounges in pink beauty supply slippers, her decadent blonde hair offset by a tattoo above her crossed left ankle. In her 2016 series “This is a Soft Space for my Hard Black Body,” Reynolds herself bathes in a veritable sea of red velvet and flower petals. As she stares into the camera lens, long acrylic nails framing

her right brow, the feel is both sovereign and sumptuous. “Kat’s work is so self-aware that it generously embraces you with an evocative richness intricately woven into the pith and teeth of her message,” says artist Heather Bennett. “The two are never separate but earnestly part of one another.” You’re best known for photography but earned your BA in dance. How has that shaped your other disciplines?

A huge part of my background is performance, and integrating that into photography came quite easily—looking at it as a form of choreography rather than posing one’s subject. That’s something I didn’t realize I was doing until last year, when I saw how I was interacting with my subjects and how much care went into just setting up. My photographs are more about documenting the process of working with someone through movement. For that reason I’m starting to move away from being classified as a photographer. As I see myself more as a documenter of choreography, or just as an artist. The process really started to click for me with the series “Soften”—looking at Black male sensuality. And then moving more towards video work, looking at timing and spatial awareness, articulating exactly what I need of the subject for the shot to be clear and correct, to make something cohesive, physical and tangible. In the summer of 2016, I started doing a video series called “Structural Humor,” in St. Louis, branching out into public work—looking at gated communities, bus stops, basketball courts and closed schools while working with two artists, Vaughn Davis, Jr. and Todd Anthony Johnson. In each of these spaces, I filmed them laughing loudly, as a way of thinking about laughter as a literal form of humor. Watching them laugh became a kind of intervention into spaces that often have serious connotations of structural racism in this city. Laughter can be a productive disruptive force—it’s almost erotic in its presence.

Yes, it’s a release. I’m a pretty emotional person, so whenever I

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do see issues that bother me in St. Louis—even though I’m not from here—I still think about humanity, Black people and socioeconomic divides, especially when you see these companies buying up these properties here but not actually doing the homework. A lot of fake care going around incentivizing Black communities to think that they’re being valued when actually it’s just gentrification. One of my first series, “The Divide,” was about housing on both sides of the Delmar divide—Section 8 Housing on top of mansions, and thinking about the layering of these properties in the same zip code. These juxtapositions are something I work in, that feeling of angst, of emotional need. Not to help—because I’m not helping, I’m documenting—but to understand what’s actually happening; to physicalize emotions and what’s happening to people. Do you feel like the process of documenting can, itself, bring a sort of resolve? Can it help to reckon with these tensions and contradictions?

That’s a good question—it makes me think of the Arthur Jafa quote that says something like, ‘no matter who’s behind the lens, it’s a white gaze.’ And yet I’m a Black woman still taking photos generally of Black people, Black housing and so on, trying to understand. In terms of my process, I do share my work with others, but it is therapy for me—to understand my own Blackness, and my own role, because we all play a role in everything. For me to walk through neighborhoods I don’t live in, that none of my family members have lived in, to think that I will be accepted because I’m Black—that’s not true. So, trying to understand my own narrative is why I’ve gone into spaces where I have felt uncomfortable, but still comfortable in community, where I need to take time to understand. “Mane ’n Tail” is an exploration of Black beauty, but also the ecosystem of what else is at play at the beauty supply store. It’s not just Black people—or even Black women, though we are the majority and keep the beauty industry in business. I’m learning a lot about myself through the process of looking at something larger. There seems to be a common misunderstanding that more overtly autobiographical art is closer to the artist, but that isn’t always so.

Definitely. I find out more about what I do by talking to different people about it. For my series “No One Loves me, Like I love Me,” I didn’t really know what I was doing, shooting this man in a rock quarry wearing a pink suit. All of the emotional content is from me, put onto another person. I can be a lot more vulnerable when working with someone else. I’m not necessarily trying to make others feel what I’m going

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through, because I don’t think that’s possible. But I do think there should be some sort of intimate relationship between artist and audience that is set through work. This show was your conception from the beginning. Can you say more about the catalyst for “Mane ’n Tail?”

Ever since I was little, I’ve been passionate about the language that people use with each other. My mom is a speech-language pathologist, so whether it’s verbal language or body language, questions of communication and respect are inherent in my work. A language barrier can lead to a lack of respect between both parties. The whole concept of this show originated with me wanting to do a performance at a beauty supply store. But the owners don’t necessarily trust Black women, or Black people generally. There’s a lack of trust between both parties that I wanted to bring together in one space. You have a lot of Black women going to these spaces spending a lot of money—or not a lot of money. So there’s a socio-economic divide in beauty, too. Who can afford Remy? Or Kanekalon? How can you manifest with your pocketbook what you want to look like? With this show, I wanted to see the connectivity of these relationships. It goes back to me as a little girl watching “Sesame Street,” thinking, “I get it. Everyone can be together about one thing.” I’ve always wanted to explore the tensions in these relationships, because they’re everywhere. As an artist working in St. Louis, how do you feel the city has affected your practice or creative goals?

Since I’ve been so nomadic—moving practically every three years as a kid—it’s hard for me to think of spaces as home. In some ways, I feel more like a “Midwestern artist” than a “St. Louis artist.” Artists from the Midwest have a history of being looked over, and because of that we’re often seen as underdogs—with this fight and bitterness for the need to be seen. I still hear a lot of artists here say, “I just wish we had more press. I just wish people would see what we’re doing.” But being here has also influenced how I take risks as an artist, and with curating “Mane ’n Tail.” I’m allowed to do that in St. Louis because this is an incubator city, and that’s something I really love. But I think that there needs to be more risks being taken—for seeing weird shit, work that makes you uncomfortable. I think a lot of people here really want to engage with that. I’m not an art critic, and I haven’t seen all there is within the St. Louis art scene—there are a lot of very talented artists here—but there still could be less black and white. I want to go to more shows and say, “Wow! You took a huge-ass risk with this.” Ultimately, I want to feel something new.


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LIV ING COLOR CHICAGO ARTIST RACHEL GROPPER. by EILEEN G’SELL / Photography by ATTILIO D’AGOSTINO

The revolutions of a mobile beget a quiet hypnotic quality—shape, shade and light conspire to soothe and stir the mind and eyes. The mobiles of Chicago artist Rachel Gropper—comprised of dangling geometric forms in black, white and a select few primary colors—appear simple, but in motion feel instantly choreographic, each piece dancing at a certain pace while synchronized to the rest of the company.

For all the ways she plays with perception—sculpture, photography, drawing, styling—the aesthetic coheres through a consciously sunny, quirky color palate. Gropper grew up near the Blue Ridge Mountains in Ruckersville, Virginia, a small town outside of Charlottesville, “always drawing and creating,” and soon ran out of art classes to take in high school. “Like any kid in a small town who is artistic, creativity was my whole outlet,” she reflects. Today, her apartment overlooking Humboldt Park also serves as her studio, her probing vision not only an outlet, but a livelihood.

“I was given an education on function and form,” says Gropper, who earned her BFA in graphic design from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, “and I’ve poured that background into my mobiles, website, everything I do.”

Tell me about how you came to make mobiles—they

At the heart of her practice is the blog and retail site Curio, “an exploration of the elements that rule the way we visually experience the world.” Tiny painted tulips blink below a photo of a street curb; red-andyellow palm trees pulse over thick outline portraits.

I took some time off from the type of art I was doing all the time and just explored different mediums. When I made the first iteration of the mobile, I realized, “I really like this! I need to keep making these.” I usually do the mobiles in a batch—so it takes about a day to

remind me of scaled-down Alexander Calder.

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make each one if I’m completely focused. I lay all the pieces and strings out and look at them from every angle. “If this rope will turn this way, and this one this way, how will it look?” There’s no plan going into them. I literally string each piece one at a time. Your work has a playful aspect that reminds me of

things all the time. I’m a very emotionally charged person, and since life is short, I’m trying to be as happy as possible. Some artists see art as a way to get through hard times, but I just want to be happy with what I’m making, while I’m making it and with the final product. I want to make something in my home that will make me smile when I look at it.

Andy Warhol and Pop Art. What artists or movements have proved influential to you?

How did the miniatures come to be? They’re so

In high school, you find Andy Warhol and think, “This is the best stuff I’ve ever seen!” But I’ve almost grown out of it. Now I would rather see something else. Like a lot of designers these days, I’ve very inspired by Henry Matisse—his cut-out works especially. Graphic design-wise, Stefan Sagmeister was a huge influence—he broke the mold of what graphic design can look like.

Everything is made of polymer clay—there’s no mold, and I make everything by hand. I have been drawing a lot, as a daily practice to draw whatever comes to mind. I can get really repetitive and obsessive. For a while, I was drawing basketballs and bananas all the time, and to take a break from drawing I thought, “Why don’t I just make a little sculpture for myself?”

Clothes and fashion are also a big influence. I love getting dressed, and seeing what other people wear. The form and the movement come together. Similarly, with the mobiles, because they’re moving, they’re different from every angle. Everyone sees something different. I noticed a skater motif in some of your work. Is

charming and humble as objects.

I made a miniature basketball sculpture for myself, and the bananas, too. There’s something about the form and color of both that I’m obsessed with. I’m also really obsessed with their details—there’s something about getting detailed with something that can still fit in your hand. Some of my friends say that they should be ornaments, but they’re just made to sit on tables.

that of influence to you?

Skateboarding is a creative outlet for one of my friends, and I’m always carrying my camera. Capturing moments of movement is such a big thing for me. Like when I photograph my mobiles, they’re in movement, so there’s just this little moment I’m capturing. I’ll take a ton of pictures to get the right one. It’s clear you take great joy in things that are often overlooked—like movement and color.

We’re living in a time where there are so many sad

It all seems to come back to a very deliberate, organic process.

In my head I call it “slow art”—because I don’t like to rush through it. I like paying attention to detail— getting it right through the whole process—so I don’t have to redo any part of it later. This philosophy has become a way to house any of my endeavors. My drawing, photography, embroidering, woodworking, making the mobiles—all influence and push each other. The focus on color ties everything together for me.

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WOR DPL AY Minneapolis-based wordsmith Chaun Webster. by JORIE JACOBI / Photography by ATTILIO D’AGOSTINO

Chaun Webster grew up in North Minneapolis and still lives within a mile from his childhood home. “North Minneapolis is read as Black space which is used as a convenient shorthand for poverty, crime and other kinds of deviance. It’s more of this white gaze on Black life. These are things I’ve been thinking about for a great deal of time,” he says. In a poem titled “U.S. Urbanity: a folktale,” Webster writes: our concentration marked us vile so we elected ourselves bandits jackals howling cunning things The piece will appear in Webster’s second book of poetry, called “GeNtry!fication: or the scene of the crime.” The image on the book’s cover is an aerial map of Minneapolis, which looks like it was torn from the kind of atlas that every motor vehicle was seemingly always equipped with before the invention of GPS, before everyone had a cell phone. “I’m interested in how people think about place, how it’s racialized and how memory is attached to place. When you think about places like North Minneapolis, whose memory of it survives?” Through the lens of Webster’s poetry, the answer is not hard to deduce. Webster founded the publishing company Free Poet’s Press in 2009 as a platform for authors of color, and also co-founded Ancestry Books with his partner Verna Wong, a local bookstore and community space

centering around the narratives of authors of color. But it hasn’t been easy. “I still take a number of odd jobs. I have three kids, one who is not school-age yet. It’s important for me to be at home with our youngest child. There is instability with this kind of life, which is leading me to consider going back to school to get my Ph.D. I don’t want to try and live life without health care.” He grew up fascinated with rhetorical gesture and language play, an inclination fed by the church environment in a variety of forms. Webster and his two sisters were primarily raised by their mother in a strict religious home. “I grew up in the Black church environment. I was interested not so much in the doctrinal matters of the church as I was in the performance that was happening during sermons, the songs and the kind of life of that music as well as that oratory. Those are places where I first got interested in poetry.” Webster’s deeply rooted, intellectual understanding of the world grew as he became exposed to the many writers and philosophers he brings up in conversation: in his teenage years he discovered the world of Black poetry, delving into the works of writers like W.E.B. Du Bois, Amiri Baraka, bell hooks, Audre Lorde and Édouard Glissant. Webster had mostly been exposed to white authors in school and had trouble reconciling their perceptions on the page with his experience of the world. “That was very difficult—to try to pair what I was reading in school with what I was experiencing,” he says.

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“And finally, when I discovered those other authors, I was able to relate what I was seeing on the page to the rhythms of my upbringing. There was a poetry to the way my mom played with language when she was praying and what the preacher did while delivering a sermon.” Through the eyes of his linguistic heroes, he began seeing the accoutrements of the Black church not only as rituals but as discourse—contributions just as worthy as those of a great literary scholar. “Édouard Glissant talks about this notion of ‘den,’ of the scream, this howling mixture of noise and how that’s thought of as something outside of discourse. But what’s really remarkable about Black folks that I learned from the Black church environment is that there is a strong discourse present. That’s what Glissant would say: the howling and the humming, and those deep moments of exhilaration of pain or grief. That they represented a kind of discourse. I try to represent that within my work.” When asked about how his understandings of race began to codify, he says it began back in elementary school, where the majority of his classmates were students of color. “Our teacher population was predominantly white. I came up against a lot of assumptions about what my abilities were and about the kind of changes that take place when you become a teenager. You’re not cute anymore. Instead, you’re a threat. I had a number of experiences where I had to start to think about what that meant outside of the insular space of my home and church. But my Blackness was mostly politicized in college.” After graduating from high school, Webster attended the University of Northwestern – St. Paul, a Christian college where he began as a pastoral studies major and planned on a religious profession. However, it was also the scene of massive shifts within and around him. “It was one of the most overtly racist places I’ve ever experienced. There was a conscious understanding of the political meaning of my Blackness there and the ways it was negated at every single turn. Going there forced me to seriously think about what that meant, which helped me develop a more critical lens. That can happen at a place like Northwestern—not because of, but rather in spite of it.” Brought about by a deep process of interior questioning, he left Northwestern no longer desiring to work in a religious field. Webster describes the letting-go process of his preconceived

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religious beliefs—and his belief in God—as he took in his surroundings and drew his own conclusions. He raised questions like, “Why is there no recognition of women as ministers in the pastoral studies major?” Women, particularly Black women, had been an integral part of the church environment he experienced growing up. “That posed some large concerns for me. Being raised mostly by my mother and not being broken as a result led me to question this notion that someone without a father is somehow injured or not whole.” He doesn’t describe the process as mourning so much as arriving at a truth. “As people develop this idea of who they think they are, that plays into their deity and what their deity represents,” he says, describing many of his classmates whose experiences were radically different from his own. “That drew a lot of concerns for me. And eventually I just thought, ‘Wow. I don’t believe any of this anymore.’” Webster always loved bibliographies and footnotes in the books and novels he read, which connected him to a number of writers he admired. It inadvertently led him to transform that creative impulse into a way of living, particularly when connected to other Minneapolis-based creatives and writers. “That, as a practice and a discipline, helped me to carve out a space for writing,” he says. “I had to find what gave me life.” His children know he is a writer, and he does talk about race and racism with them, which informs so much of his work. “They live their life around a lot of artists. But I don’t know if we lay into it hoping for a complete understanding. I’m 33, and I don’t know if I’m at a complete understanding of things that happen in our world,” says Webster. “We try to be very open with them. We have to be, in particular as it relates to police authority. We had an extrajudicial killing of a Black resident by police less than a mile from here. Those topics are very present and real in the conversations we have with our kids.” Minnesota, and Minneapolis—which Webster says are often perceived as flyover country due to its abundance of farmland and agriculture—don’t show their diversity at first glance. But the many populations they hold—like West African, Latino, Somalian—fuse into the kind of inspiration that moves Webster forward each day. “I felt like I was shaped by that,” he says, of growing up around so many different human experiences and their overlapping geographies.


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FIRST, W E E AT TARA AND MICHAEL GALLINA OF VICIA IN ST. LOUIS. by JORIE JACOBI / Photography by ATTILIO D’AGOSTINO

Hometowns often have a way of suctioning their natives back in if they stray too far. Such was the case for chef Michael Gallina, who grew up in the St. Louis suburb of Brentwood. His wife, Tara Gallina, is originally from Boca Raton, Florida, and they met at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, a hybrid farm and restaurant just north of New York City where they both worked. Michael was delving deeper into his craft as a chef, while Tara took on a farming and service apprenticeship. “I never thought I’d even date a coworker—let alone marry one,” says Tara. After much deliberation over the concept, genre of food and location, it was in St. Louis that the duo was able to develop, plan and finally open their own restaurant. They called it Vicia, meaning “vetch,” a restorative crop which farmers plant to enliven soil with vital nutrients. Here, they were able to craft something truly their own.

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The interior has the crafted feel of a performance space in which all of its inhabitants are in on what’s supposed to happen at each moment, where the food is prepared like a painting or a song. The restaurant was also recently announced as a semifinalist for the James Beard awards in the Best New Restaurant category. How did you both make your way into this industry? TARA: I went to the University of Central Florida, where

I studied journalism. Soon after, I started working for a payroll software company, basically running the H.R. department. But I just knew I couldn’t sit behind a desk for the rest of my life. I applied to The French Culinary Institute in New York City and lived there for several years working various jobs. Then I accepted an apprenticeship at Blue Hill at Stone Barns. MICHAEL: Neither of us knew this was what we wanted

to do. I went to Webster University and then trans-


ferred to the University of Missouri, but eventually decided to head to the West Coast and attend the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. I got connected to chef Daniel Humm and moved to New York City with him when he went to take over Eleven Madison Park. I met Dan Barber in New York, who is the co-owner of Blue Hill Farm and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, and worked with him for about nine years. Growing up, I remember my grandfather loved different types of food and would get us out of our [suburban] shell. He’d be like, ‘Let’s go to this new French restaurant in the city.’ What quality do you think is absolutely necessary

do this together. It’s really hard to have a spouse who doesn’t work in restaurants. You work crazy hours, it’s a lot of stress and pressure, and there are a lot of things that are really hard to explain if you’re not here. I wouldn’t know how to translate what happens in a day here to someone who wasn’t living it with me at the same time. We both get to contribute to our success. It’s really personal. MICHAEL: We’re talking constantly—whether it’s on the way to work or talking about ideas and putting the menu together. Or it could be about staffing, or what’s going on in the back and front of house. We’re always talking throughout the day.

to be a great chef?

Patience. That’s what I was going to say.

MICHAEL: TARA:

What was the inspiration for the prosciutto-wrapped sunchoke recipe you shared?

I’d say most people don’t know what a sunchoke is and would probably be terrified of eating it. But they’re really sweet, nutty and very creamy.

MICHAEL:

How do you balance a restaurant and a relationship? TARA: It’s not easy. I think we’re in a unique situation,

because as long as we’ve known each other, we’ve worked together. We don’t really know another way. We both also have our skill sets that we focus on: mine is service and front-of-house operations, and Michael is back-of-house operations. We’re lucky that we’re not having to entrust either of those areas to someone who isn’t as invested as we are. But it does not come without its challenges. We’re two people who are very passionate about what we do and maybe slightly hard-headed sometimes. We have our moments. But it’s usually just because we want everything to be perfect. It’s not personal.

ing—kind of like the opposite of pigs in a blanket. To start, we roast the sunchokes in the oven until they’re nice and creamy and cooked-through. Then, we stuff them with a little blue cheese, which gives them some tang, and wrap them in prosciutto to bring in a salty taste. It really seasons itself, so we don’t have to add any salt or seasonings. We just drizzle a bit of vinaigrette on top, which is a mixture of reduced balsamic and a bit of sesame oil. TARA: It hits all of the notes on your tongue when you

You have to. We’re really lucky that we get to

eat it, for one little bite. It’s a great party snack. Very simple, but there’s a lot going on. It’s so delicious.

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But we’re able to turn it off once we get home. And we have two little dogs, so once we see them and settle down, we can deal with whatever it is tomorrow.

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It’s a tuber, in the same family as a sunflower. They look like little potatoes with a similar starchy texture, but much sweeter.

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Prosciutto-Wrapped Sunchokes Makes 12 Pieces

Ingredients

12 small sunchokes, about 1-2 inches in size A neutr al cooking oil, such as canola Salt, to season

1 head crushed garlic 12 slices high-qualit y prosciutto, such as La Quercia

1 cup blue cheese, such as Point Reyes 1/2 cup sesame oil 2 cups balsamic vinegar Procedure Toss sunchokes with oil and season with salt. Roast with crushed garlic in a roasting pan at 400 degrees for 50 minutes-one hour, or until tender. Allow to cool. When sunchokes have cooled, make a slit in each and stuff with a small piece of blue cheese.

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On a large cutting board or work surface, lay out the slices of prosciutto. Place the stuffed sunchokes at the top end of the slice and roll until fully wrapped in the prosciutto, with the end piece tucked into the bottom. Keep refrigerated if not serving immediately. To make the vinaigrette, place the balsamic vinegar in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until reduced by half, being careful not to let it burn or reduce itself down too much. The mixture should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon when finished. Whisk in the sesame oil, and set aside. To serve, place wrapped sunchokes on a sheet tray lined with parchment paper and heat in a 400-degree oven until the prosciutto is crispy and the sunchokes are warm all the way through. Place on a plate or platter and drizzle with the sesame balsamic vinaigrette.


TONE ON MUTE A COLL ABOR ATION WITH IDUN IN SAINT PAUL, MINNESOTA, AND MAHNAL JEWELRY BY SHAYBA DIA Z MUHAMMAD IN ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI. Photography by ATTILIO D’AGOSTINO

MODEL:

Jessica Felter @ Mother Model Management and NEXT Models LA

Trudy Fogarty-Hayden

ST YLIST:

HAIR AND MAKEUP:

Sharday Johnson

IDUN

shopidun.com MAHNAL

mahnal.com VINCE SHOES

vince.com

Tr ademark Satin Shawl Coat + Mahnal Earrings

OPPOSITE:

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La Garรงonne Moderne Georgia Organza Shirt, Samuji Ardelia Trousers, Tr ademark Madeleine Mule + Mahnal Petite Pod Earrings

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Zanotta Giotto Stool, centro-inc.com

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Zanotta Max Bill Stool, centro-inc.com

ABOVE: Maison KitsunĂŠ Romi Aviator Jumpsuit, Eckhaus Latta Lapped Tee + Mahnal K absula Earrings + Vince Warren Leather Platform Sk ate Sneaker RIGHT: Sauji Suella Jumpsuit + Mahnal Staple Filament Earrings + Vince Warren Leather Platform Sk ate Sneaker

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Maison KitsunĂŠ Romi Aviator Jumpsuit, Eckhaus Latta Lapped Tee + Mahnal K absula Earrings + Vince Warren Leather Platform Sk ate Sneaker RIGHT: Studio Nicholson Pino Top, Nomia Midi Pleated Skirt + Mahnal Solar Basin Earrings + Vince Warren Leather Platform Sk ate Sneaker LEFT:

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R achel Comey Wilder Dress, Tr ademark Madeleine Mule + Mahnal Solar Basin Earrings

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Jesse K amm Trench Coat + Mahnal Eclipse Earrings + Vince Warren Leather Platform Sk ate Sneaker

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Zanotta Giotto and Max Bill Stools, centro-inc.com

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STEWAR DS OF BE AUT Y MINNEAPOLIS’ LIZ GARDNER AND JOSEF HARRIS. by EILEEN G’SELL / Photography by ATTILIO D’AGOSTINO

“Imperfection takes longer than perfection,” says Milano architect Vincenzo De Cotiis, referring to the process of building renovation. The quote appears Halloween night on the blog of Bodega Ltd., the multidisciplinary lovechild of creatives Liz Gardner and Josef Harris. While the credo directly refers to the mammoth restoration project that the Minneapolis duo dub “Maison Bodega”— a 100-year-old building purchased last May to transform into a live/work space—it could just as well apply to their ethos at large. In a world airbrushed within an inch of its pixel-ridden life, design can often err toward the slick and pretty; a case of surface over substance, a pantomime of actual style. Not so for Bodega, a studio as down-to-earth and multi-purpose as the neighborhood corner store for which it is named. “A bodega is an everyday spot where you get everything you need, but at the same time that experience can be elevated and made beautiful,” explain Harris, 30. “Not only are we a creative firm,

but we also have aspirations toward product design and retail.” The pair are currently designing furniture and pursuing product design for a home brand to debut in 2019. “To stay interested, we have to do different things constantly.” From creative direction for Adidas Originals to prop styling for Food & Wine magazine to curating a “capricious, biased, filtered, flawed, and very personal” Guide to Minneapolis-St. Paul, the firm is a one-stop shop for an array of innovative platforms. “We try really hard to pull inspiration from places that don’t necessarily go together to create something interesting,” Harris says. “The idea of being a creative has become very sexy, but in actuality, it’s like, ‘What do you want to live out in your work?’ That’s the only thing that matters.” Their seductive aesthetic notwithstanding, in practice Gardner and Harris are less glitz and more grunt— working veritable bodega hours to serve over thirty clients each year. Whether designing individual flat-

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ware tables for restaurant Upton 43 or meticulously vetting terrazzo for their new home, the pair are a rare example of self-described “control freaks” who are willing to compromise in the interest of progress. “The reason Josef and I can have this unique partnership is that we have developed really good language around disagreeing,” Gardner, 34, reflects. “Sometimes people overhear us and ask, ‘Are you guys fighting?’ and I’m like, ‘No, we’re talking through this idea ….’” From a couch in Maison Bodega—she wheat-blonde, donning a white top and clear plastic frames, and he casual in a gray tee and jeans, their Siberian husky Aggie snuggled between them—the couple comes across as both cool and minimalist and warmly unassuming. “She’s like Christy Furlington,” Harris jokes when Aggie abruptly ditches the conversation. “Only gets out of bed for $10,000 a day.” Raised in St. Louis Park, a suburb west of Minneapolis, Harris studied studio art at Indiana University, later shifting to psychology and ultimately earning a business degree. Gardner moved from the logging town of Mora, Minnesota, to an advertising program at The Art Institutes International Minnesota. She then went straight into the agency world. “Because I was an outsider, I could offer a different perspective,” says Gardner, “and see us more clearly as a city. My work ethic has also been a major observational draw. My parents worked really, really hard—and taught me the value of that. I could work circles around people. It helped me progress really quickly—just the sheer volume of hours.” “Liz is a Capricorn, and I’m a Sagittarius,” adds Harris. “Our backgrounds and our brains are complete opposites. When I’m like, ‘Freedom!’ she’s like, ‘We have work to do.’ But the more we disagree, the better the work is; the more contentious we are in the process, usually the better the product.” Following a brief philosophical detour into the merits of dialectical thinking, it becomes clear that the pair’s synchronicity has as much to do with a shared respect for alternate perspectives. “You only grow

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by having those conversations,” says Harris. “Not by simply having your ideas affirmed by the person sitting next to you.” A natural extrovert and raconteur, Harris waxes nostalgic when it comes to how he and his partner met, fell in love and developed the company. They first crossed paths at a small-city regional outlet, Metro Magazine—she as creative director and he in events marketing—but after a year, the publication shut down. ‘Metro’ was too out there, too creative. They didn’t know how to support it with advertising long term. After it closed, we started dating, and one night I got super drunk and told Liz how I felt about her. Then she was like, ‘Oh, my God, I kind of like you, too.’” Over time, they began working together more and more on their own projects, forming Bodega along the way. “We’d always had dreams of working with our partner,” says Harris. “After a few years, we ended up quitting our day jobs within a month of each other to pursue Bodega full time.” Where they differ in personality and background they correspond in character and values—privileging a successful collaborative process over individual egos. “What comes from Liz is the value of vulnerability,” says Harris. “For her, vulnerability correlates to bravery. For me, initially I was constantly fighting the inner typical male assumption that vulnerability is weakness. But it’s the biggest way to be successful as a creative person.” Gardner reframes the concept as a process of risk and remove. “Vulnerability is a buzz word, but for me it’s about attachment and detachment at the same time. When I’m working on a creative project, I have to love it to the utmost. But I need to look at it with a critical eye at all times. A lot of times designers have this attitude of ‘This is the best idea ever because I came up with it.’ For me, staying critical is the best way to make something really exceptional.” Gardner may be—according to Harris—the natural workhorse, but he’s the early riser, taking Aggie to


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the park before brewing a pot of coffee. At the root of their synchronicity lies an honest sense of their differences. In his own words, Harris “grew up in a privileged Jewish family,” whereas Gardner “worked for every single thing she’s earned … becoming an art director for a major brand right out of college, paying and working her whole way through.” Where he may be idealistic, she tends to be more practical. Where he affably interjects, she reasons and faithfully plans. “It’s been a huge learning process learning what ‘work’ means to her,” confides Harris. “And discipline, too—because I had none!”

Harris, “our responsibility is to make something so cool and so awesome, and so perfect, that people want to write about it. We try to take influences from New York, L.A., Europe, Tokyo and apply them to things locally, to stand out from the crowd of reclaimed barn wood. There’s a place for that, of course, but life is long and there are so many out things out there.”

A few days later, Gardner will suggest to me that his description of her may be “too sweet,” and she wants to make sure to “communicate reality—I didn’t part the sea this morning.” But during the course of our phone conversation, nothing he said seemed off. Reserved in tone but candid in content, she confirmed her partner’s account of a trailblazing woman with uncompromising drive.

With whatever project they’re on, a narrative impulse presides, shaping a sensory experience beyond whatever immediate product is at stake—from the watercolor bar coasters at the James Beard-nominated Esker Grove at the Walker Art Center to the velvet-paneled walls at St. Paul’s Gem Salon and Spa, to a molecular gastronomy photo spread for the travel section of The New York Times. “The ultimate goal is that every single little detail has to be part of the story,” says Harris. “We’re building a world—so what does that world look like?”

“Where I grew up—about seventy miles north—the environment was such a key part of what I’m doing today,” she shares. “It was 300-acre farm in the middle of nowhere, with no TV. My parents said, ‘Go outside and find something to do,’ or ‘Here’s a room of books. Here are some arts and crafts.’” Marooned in Mora ultimately proved an unlikely advantage. “Growing up, I felt like an outcast,” Gardner recounts. “Society tells us that country kids can’t be aesthetic. I moved away the day that I could—a citymouse, country-mouse kind of story. It wasn’t until I was working in the magazine world that I realized how much my upbringing had developed my point of view. In that type of isolation, you’re forced to forge your own creative lens.” That distinct editorial lens now sets Bodega apart as an emerging leader in its realm. “As a brand,” says

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Gardner likewise stresses their unconventional approach to the field. “In terms of what we do in Minneapolis, it’s disruptive. We’re throwing everyone off in this market.”

Maison Bodega boasts a story of its own, a manor of many hats and historic occasions. Smack dab between the Minneapolis Institute of Art and the Walker Art Center, it neighbors both multi-milliondollar mansions and a halfway house for the learning disabled across the street. Vacant for two years before Bodega claimed it in 2017, the building served as an outpatient-treatment center for those recovering from addiction. As soon as it hit the market, the couple knew the moment was right, despite all the time it would take to renovate. “A house like this is a living, breathing thing,” says Harris. “You have a relationship with it. We have to put every ounce of everything into it. With restoration, it’s like you’re essentially building a new body.”


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This body happens to be haunted (or graced) by echoes of the past. Built as a winter home in 1920 for a wealthy business family, it was the helm for Mrs. Earl Raymond Woodward, a magazine editor and leader of the Womens Christian Association. Hosting Greekthemed galas, opulent weddings, and musicians and actors visiting from New York, the three-story served as a neighborhood cultural hub for decades. “The energy of the space is exactly what we need to accomplish what we want for the community and beyond,” says Harris. “We want to respect it, but modernize it at the same time.” To do so, the pair has enlisted architect Toby Rapson, who is helping to return the “slightly Spanish, slightly Scandinavian” space to its original structural integrity. On a midday virtual tour, Gardner offers a clearer sense of life at Maison Bodega, having moved in but two weeks earlier. “We found the original signature of the builder right here, underneath some layers of wallpaper,” Gardner points out on a wall on the top floor, which is in the process of being converted into their apartment space. Harris pokes fun at their “glamorous life,” and one can appreciate why: since moving in Feb. 1, they’ve been living and working amidst exposed plumbing, wood beams and Durock floors; their laptops abutting color swatches and tile samples. But it’s also easy to see the house the way they do, with its tall windows,

high ceilings and arched doorways. As Aggie howls from the top of a staircase, the space takes on a Gothic vibe at odds with its glorious natural light. Heading down to the second floor, five archways intersect at the entrance to the ballroom, where the two are currently “officing”—a verb apropos for a pair who take work with them wherever they go. A mood board features layers of thumbtacked letter-sized paper, arranged in vertical and horizontal patterns like a round of Tetris. “With my magazine background, I love all the tactile elements,” relates Gardner, “being able to touch and feel all the samples.” The first floor will house a future pop-up retail space, photography space, and prop room. “Here is where they used to put the ice directly through the wall into the former ice box,” Gardner points out in the kitchen, her voice lifting ever so slightly. “Crazy, really fun.” Bodega’s pleasure in idiosyncrasy seems to seep into all ambitions, aberration a strength rather than a flaw. Pulling back ten layers of wallpaper, they uncovered the original plaster on the third floor, graced with the occasional hairline crack and crowned-in sea-foam green molding. “It’s original, and I love it,” Gardner affirms. “Keeping that forever.” This labor of love for the unexpected becomes a kind of art in itself—one of patience and resolve that, as Harris puts it, “takes your whole life to practice.”

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CR E ATI V E HE A RTBE AT Jun Kaneko and six decades in the ar ts. by JORIE JACOBI / Photography by ATTILIO D’AGOSTINO

To make one of his signature five-ton “dango” sculptures, renowned Omaha-based artist and ceramic sculptor Jun Kaneko works with thick slabs of clay that have previously been worked by hand to remove any air bubbles, melding them together using any number of techniques: it could be digging his fingers into the sides and moving them back and forth to create grooves that will be seamlessly sewn together in all of the materials’ pliable splendor; it could be smoothing the clay over with a number of tools, or just his palms. Completing the thing is a chaotic feat. Working at a scale this large requires pageantry: several studio assistants, rolling wooden platforms with wheels, levers, a massive kiln— and time. It can take up to three weeks alone for the base of each piece to become dry enough to support the additional slabs of clay that come next. The finished piece looks like something only a mythical giant could complete, when in fact it was done by an

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unassuming artist with wild, wispy graying hair and colorful sweaters. “Creative energy is nothing special. It’s just like a heartbeat. Without it, I’m dead. I need art to survive,” he says. “If you’re a practical thinker, you shouldn’t do art. You don’t think practically about how to make your heart beat. It’s a necessity. Art is the necessity of your being.” Originally from Nagoya, Japan, Jun has been living in Omaha since 1986 and his prolific career spans over six decades. “What do I like about Omaha? Nobody bothers me,” he says. “I shouldn’t complain. But I don’t like the chaos of the art world. I want a quiet environment. Omaha is a great place for that.” Clay crusts and dries over his fingers and hands as he squishes it back and forth with strong, playful resolve. It makes his hands look like they’ve actually become part of the sculpture themselves. At once wistful and bizarre, Jun has said before that’s actually one of his greatest desires: to become the medium. “Then there are no technical problems, because I’d know everything,” he says in a documentary by Emmy Award-winning director Joel Geyer, who has been following the artist for over two decades. Jun was born in Nagoya, Japan, in 1942, at the height of World War II. Nagoya, an industrial city, produced a large portion of Japan’s combat aircrafts and was targeted by the U.S. Air Force. The city was bombed several times between 1942 and 1945, and when Jun was a toddler his home was destroyed in one of the attacks. His parents sent him to live with his grandparents in the mountains, where walking to school took 45 minutes. In interviews, Jun frequently discusses his disdain for school. The fact that each student was required to do as they were told by the teacher, the same assignment, the same way, bred skepticism in him beginning at a young age. As a teenager, he eventually refused to

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attend traditional school and began painting and drawing during the day instead. His mother, a successful dentist who was one of only a few female dentists in Japan at the time, was also an artist and had long desired to become a painter herself. At the behest of her own parents, she never did. “They said, ‘No. You won’t make any money and survive. Women aren’t painters in this country,’” says artist and longtime arts innovator Ree Kaneko, who is also Jun’s wife. Growing up, Jun continued voraciously drawing and painting, and his mother showed his work to friends of hers that were artists. With their reassurance, she found him a painting teacher who grounded him with the technical tools that would begin a career as a professional artist spanning decades. He completed school at night while painting during the day and developing a deep desire to move to the U.S. His painting teacher happened to know sculptor and ceramicist Jerry Rothman, a member of a group of ceramic sculptors in Los Angeles who were pushing the medium far beyond the utilitarianism of practical pieces. Jun, who had never been away from his family for a significant time, had never been to the U.S. and spoke no English, came to the U.S. for the first time in August of 1963, at age 21. Through sheer luck, he became connected to Los Angeles-based collectors and patrons Fred and Mary Marer, who invited him to stay at their home and helped acquaint him with American culture. “They made sure Jun had food for about the first nine years he was living in the U.S.,” says Ree. They showed him the lay of the land, taking him to movies, museums and restaurants. Their home was also filled to the brim with ceramic sculptures. Language and cultural barriers were a struggle at first— and, particularly as an immigrant, he does not attempt to sugarcoat his opinion of the current U.S. political landscape. “It’s a disaster. We are losing respect for each other. There’s no respect among the people living in the world. And, unfortunately, our president doesn’t demonstrate how important that respect is,” he says.


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At first, he had to call home to figure out how to complete simple tasks, especially when all the directions were written in English. Ree narrates a story Jun told her about his attempt to demystify an American laundromat for the first time, which still makes her laugh. “He had no clean clothes, so he went to the laundromat and watched how people used it, trying to figure it out. He bought 10 boxes of soap and loaded up clothes in 10 of the washing machines. Then he went to go get a coffee, and when he came back there was soap and water all over the floor, and the laundromat owner was so upset with him. Then he finally got all of his clothes in the dryers and ended up shrinking everything,” she says. “I can just picture him doing this. It was the same at the grocery store. Think about it: cat food often has a picture of chicken or fish on it. He had to ask people about those things. The language disconnect was a real issue.” Jun also witnessed the destructive racial tensions that plague America firsthand. He was in Los Angeles during the summer of 1965 when the Watts riots broke out, set in motion by L.A.P.D. police brutality against Black citizens. “I have experienced both subtle and overt racism in the U.S.” he says. In the ‘70s he attended an artist’s residency at the Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts in rural Montana at an old brick factory, not knowing that Montana is also home to many coal mines employing Chinese workers, who have faced a long history of racial discrimination. Driving up to the brick factory in a Volkswagen, with a giant sculpture in the back he’d been working on, he couldn’t figure out why people would throw rocks at his truck. He also tried to rent a nearby apartment marked “vacant,” and the landlord told him it had been rented. The next day, the apartment was still marked “vacant.” It happened several more times until program director David Shaner made a call and Jun was finally able to rent an apartment. Amidst many layers of struggle, Jun became indoctrinated into a movement of artists who were doing radical things with ceramic sculpture—artists like Peter Voulkos, Paul Soldner, John Mason and Henry Takemoto. “At that time in Southern California, there was a huge contemporary ceramic movement. I got shuttled into that movement without knowing it. I saw I lot of interesting things and thought I’d give it a try,” says Jun. His first ceramic piece was a small raku vase, created with an

ancient Japanese technique of working with clay. Staying in the U.S. was not a hard and fast choice; Jun did move back to Japan for a time before deciding to return to the U.S. “I’m obviously from Japan, but I left there when I was so young that I didn’t really know anything about it. People thought I knew a lot about Japanese ceramics, but I didn’t, because I started working with ceramics in the U.S. Every time someone would ask me about Japanese ceramics, it made me sick. I didn’t know the answers.” He went back, opened up a studio and worked on some exhibitions before deciding that where he’d grown up was not where he ultimately wanted to settle. “I knew it was not the place for me. The U.S. is much freer as far as exchanging ideas and working together. There’s also so much space here, which there isn’t in Japan, and it’s so expensive. That really limits art activity. In my mind, I couldn’t survive without a large studio space.” In an ironic clash with his long-held disdain of formal education, Jun has taken a number of prestigious teaching positions throughout the years at art schools like the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence and Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan. He accepted a tenure-track position at the University of New Hampshire before resigning after one year. “It’s always exciting to work with younger people, but Jun never really wanted to be a professor full time,” says Ree. “He wanted to see if he could survive as an independent artist. And I think he made the right decision.” Ree first met Jun back in the 1980s. She had been working on a residency program that placed artists in industrial worksites, which Jun attended. They later married. “We share a deep desire to help other artists. Though much of her time has been spent running several arts organizations for decades, she still does play around with clay from time to time. “Jun says I’m rusty. I’ll be in the studio with him, and he says, ‘You can work in that corner.’ And then he says I’m taking up too much space,” she says, laughing. After completing college in Omaha, she remembers being told she needed to “get out of the Midwest,” which led her to New York City and then the West Coast. “But I wasn’t finding what I needed. I couldn’t find those ‘inside things’ that are more quiet—that fertile underbelly where things are really hap-

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pening,” says Ree. “I figured there was a lot to do in my own community.” She moved back to Omaha, set up a studio and began working with local artists. When she originally invited Jun to partake in the Alternative Workspace program, she assumed it would be a long shot that he’d actually come, as he was already a well-established artist at the time. “I thought, ‘He’s probably inundated with requests and likely doesn’t pay attention to his mail,’” she says. They serendipitously met again at the Los Angeles International Airport, where Ree was picking up her children, who had been visiting their father. “I turned around, and Jun was behind me. I told him, ‘You should come work at the brickyard in Omaha.’ Jun came to Omaha for the first time, where Ree had somehow managed to secure a massive kiln that was 40-feet across and 20-feet high. It made it possible for Jun to continue engaging his fascination with large, heavy pieces. His very first public commission came in 1984, in Detroit, while he was teaching at the Cranbrook Academy Of Art. He was commissioned to create a piece for a transit station in the Detroit People Mover, the city’s public train system. The first three times he was asked, he said no. With much prodding, he eventually ended up taking on the project, which turned into a giant wall of colorful, glazed ceramics. Dozens of commissions followed, including large sculptural installations in Japan, the University of Connecticut in 1997, Honolulu Museum of Art in 2000, three giant head sculptures on Park Avenue in New York City in 2008 and a sculpture installation in Chicago’s Millennium Park in 2013. One of Jun’s most recent pieces is a giant glass sculpture in front of the Buffett Cancer Center in Omaha, a colorful display of fractionated light and glass measuring 82 feet high that lights up at night.

It was crafted out of 1,800 square feet of glass and more than 20 tons of steel. “They just came to me. I didn’t apply for it, and I didn’t know what it was. They wanted to have some kind of gateway to this whole medical school campus, which is huge,” says Jun. He spent almost a year and half driving around it, ideating and talking about it. “It’s not just the object itself—the environment is half of it. That really influences the way it looks. Next to a large building, a 20-foot piece looks small. Next to a one-story building, it looks huge. So, it’s not just about the object itself. All of that becomes part of the design process.” A doctor from the facility saw Jun’s design for the piece and remarked on how similarly it resembled chromosomes patterns from DNA. He worked with a fabricator in Germany to develop the exact shade, type and dimensions of glass that would be laid into the piece to create a physical shape from the design. “There are important relationships to the creator and material and knowledge. If all of that doesn’t work, the piece doesn’t happen. I do larger pieces to get to know new possibilities, to go beyond what I’m doing.” Ree and Jun have worked on a number of projects together, including the Kaneko, an arts nonprofit space for exhibitions and creative exploration. They’ve dubbed it “an open space for your mind,” as a creative community-engagement center where the Kaneko’s hope to instill a creative spark in Omaha’s artists of the future. “The only thing I know is being creative,” says Jun. “Kaneko is about, ‘How can we make something that inspires people to be creative?’” The bright, open space was developed in three rehabbed turn-of-the-century warehouses in the Old Market district of Omaha. “The bones of these buildings are so strong, so good,” says Ree. “Everyone has curiosity,” says Jun. “If you wonder, you have creative energy. That’s why I say everybody must have it. That’s my guess.”

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Cicero Jack Ponders Relics of the Osage

by C. D. ALBIN

I’ve hunted arrowheads deep in Ozark woods, rummaged lengths of dry creek beds to swell my cache of hand-chipped stone, layer the bottom drawer of the parlor desk with a litter of flaked flint and chert. But now, as a killing drought lowers water levels, turns the rich soils of lakes and streams, I read of scoundrels digging bones, thieves harvesting relics of the long dead Osage, and I must count myself kin to both tribes. I have plundered precious things, and beyond my final breath I and mine will be plundered, soil of my progeny turned like the loam beneath the lake.

C. D. Albin is a native of West Plains, Missouri, and has taught for many years at Missouri State University—West Plains, where he founded Elder Mountain: A Journal of Ozarks Studies. He received the 2017 Missouri Author Award in Fiction for his short story collection “Hard Toward Home” (Press 53, 2016). More information can be found at cdalbin.com.


VOLUME 17 ISSUE 2

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ALIVE Magazine Issue 2 2018  
ALIVE Magazine Issue 2 2018  
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