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Frost has settled on the swings
Oh, what a maze a blizzard brings
We pace the empty streets
Until our fingers sting

Lying on the marble lawns
We bask in haze of endless dawn
And face a quiet life
With all that lingered gone

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Sun

Mist can creep between your bones
And whisper things you’ve always known
And seep into the edges
Where the fences groan

Skating on the sleeping lake
We fall along with frozen flakes
And scream to see if ice
Will wince and break

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untitled

A hundred nights on snowbank bed
I wonder when I’ll lift my head
And see the light touch vast horizon
Dark and dead

‘Til the melt with you I’ll stay
Rooted here in hardened clay
Preserving things past felt
In hibernating day

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Georgia

In winter the whole world is left exposed
We’re honest as the weather so we know
We’re only stuck together cuz we’re froze
And so we wait and hold each other close

Photos by my dad, poetry by me!

*See the frozen shapes. Wonder how the last shot got its title. Compose the music for me.

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This is Fred.

Fred spent the hours of 3 to 7 pm yesterday dancing in the drizzle along Coburg Road in a Statue of Liberty costume. The 26-year-old Eugenean is going to “tax school,” but in the meantime he’s stuck on the lowest rung at Liberty Tax.

Some might be discouraged by this, but not Fred. I spotted the enthusiastic gent on a drive, and was so impressed by his dancing and sign twirling that I had to get an interview. I caught him right at the end of his shift but still bubbling with energy.

Here’s Fred on life, liberty and the art of marketing:

Fred is clearly one of those people who puts his heart into everything he does. He’s been complimented by a fire dancer for his sign twirling, and was scouted off the street by Papa John’s for another sign holding job.

“Do you consider your job art?” I asked him.

“Well it depends,” he said. “You get a lot of sign shakers and sign wavers that are just like…” He gave an unenthusiastic smile and thumbs up to a passing car.

I think it’s fair to say that Fred elevates his job to an art. Along with Michael Jackson and MC Hammer, he said that Charlie Chaplin, the Marx Brothers and the Three Stooges all influence his moves. Something tells me Fred’s on his way to being someone else’s dance idol. Or possibly the president of Liberty Tax. Watch out world!

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untitled, Ariel Michelson

Once upon a time, a long time ago, I had a blog about my life as an intern at the Springfield Times. Every week I would hop on the EMX and head across the river to cover high school dodge ball games (beaned in the head), Springfield’s recycling day (beaned in the head… with garbage) or the perpetual struggles of Springfield’s downtown (beaned in the head with garbage… by a pimp*).

*Okay, that last one’s a lie.

The accompanying blog was so boring that only my mother read the thing. Years later when I was starting the blog you’re reading right now, I found a very helpful article that would have saved me a lot of time. Its basic advice was, “Never blog about writing. It’s redundant.”

Anyway, the very first post on that blog sported a picture of a Birkenstock and an old brown boot. Guess which one represented Eugene and which stood for Springfield.

When I started out at the Times, my only real experience with Springfield had been going to the Splash! wave pool and looking with fearful amazement at the industrial wasteland that lines I-105. Though it was often eerily empty, Main Street showed me an entirely different side of Springfield. Here was a place filled with plucky small businesses and sweet, feisty people.

My cold Eugenean heart was slowly melting in the hot Springtucky sun, and a lot of it had to with Springfield’s art scene. Surprise, surprise.

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untitled, Danyelle Hintz

Springfield’s small but fierce arts community could be mapped like a zipper along Main Street.  First there’s the Academy of Arts and Academics, an alternative high school filled with creative (and sometimes pierced) kiddies who routinely cover every window of their building with art. AAA has a new contract with the Wildish Theater across the street, a pretty little venue that routinely produces very fine plays. Then there’s the Springfield Museum, which shows local art in its front room and has a history display upstairs.

When my sister Sarah and I attended a birthday party in Springfield yesterday, I couldn’t resist swinging through the museum. That’s how I found this wonderful exhibition by students of the Springfield School District.

Take another look at the moody psychological portrait in the first photo. Its pensive subject peers into the sun but is simultaneously being swallowed by a starry infinity. Observe the eerie, powerful gaze of the creature in the second portrait. It reminded me of some of the cover artwork for Eva Ibbotson’s novels.

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untitled, Christina Bergman

This was my favorite piece. The landscape is painted on a humble square of cardboard, but the artist has a confidence with color and shading that belies her years. The composition is equally as brilliant. A steep bump in the slope balances the weight of the dark shrub.

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After our artventure we headed up the windy staircase and tried to take in the history exhibit. It’s as good a display as anyone could make about the history of Springfield, but is unfortunately overshadowed by that Simpsons prop the town scored during the battle of the Springfields. I gathered very few facts about Springfield, but I did discover how goofy my sister gets when she hangs out with Homer and the gang.

In the end, I suppose I’d still call Springfield a boot next to Eugene’s Birkenstock. But really, there’s not much difference there. Both are made of comfy old leather.

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Promenade, Anne Teigen

“This costs $4,000,” said my little brother. My jaw dropped. I’d been too busy trying to figure out what was on the other end of the Yellow Queen’s leashes (I’m going to say rabbits wearing winter jackets) to glance at the caption.

We had an hour to kill in downtown Eugene, so of course an art rumpus had started. Promenade hangs with several other Teigens on the ground floor of the Hilton. It caught my eye because I’d never seen a graffiti wall depicted in a painting, but the price tag instantly turned me off. The four thousand dollar lady was clearly turning up her little bourgeois nose at the democratic mentality of street art. Promenade indeed!

I decided that we’d have to exit through the gift shop and hit the streets. We would seek tags that weren’t trapped in oil. We would demand our art en plein air.

A couple steps into the shadowy downtown, I started to wonder whether this was the best thing to do with an 11-year-old. Then we took a detour through a parking garage and I realized just how prepared my little hooligan was:

Being a big brother is all about scuffing the line between lazy supervision and mischievous camaraderie, which is how we ended up behind Smith Family trying to climb up the side of a building using balcony railings as a ladder. Don’t worry, we only got a couple feet off the ground.

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We discovered the work of an amateur typographer in the same alleyway. Here, my little brother tries to pick a lock with a leaf stem. You might call him a debonair burglar in that he could hardly care whether he gets in. You couldn’t call him a debonaire burglar, though. He aces all his spelling tests.

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Next we swung through Park Blocks, site of the original Occupy Eugene camp. It turns out the movement is still organized enough to do angry sidewalk chalk scrawling, which is more than I expected of them. Along with all the usual Occupy slogans was this delightful message. We approved.

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Wind-Rain Song, Weltzin Blix <;;;–another fantastic name!

Between the Hult Center and the Hilton is this downed windmill of a sculpture. It’s always been a mystery to me, so I asked my little brother for his interpretation.

“What is it saying to us?” I said.

“It’s a place to sit,” said my bro, plopping himself down.

There you go.

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The last stop on our tour was the Hilton again, where we crashed a meeting and sipped (presumably) expensive water from crystal goblets. Mischief managed, I’d say.

BONUS: Click here for Anne Teigen on those mysterious leashes, graffiti and the costs of artmaking!

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The Family Group, Dan Geise

The campus was a snowy Venice today, minus the gondoliers to ferry us around. We grudgingly splashed through the great swirling canals that hid the sidewalks. It was raining, of course, and branches were loosening and tipping. They shed their coats in small threads and heavy bolts. The crackling of fireworks signaled earthbound spears that quivered alive on the ground.

When the forest thaws it screams and sighs back to life, but statues simply sleep through it all. The Family Group had spent the night clasped tight, trying in vain to squeeze heat from stone skin and unaware that only Michelangelo could carve a warm embrace from stone.

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The Pioneer Mother, Alexander Phimister Proctor <— what a name!

The Pioneer Mother sat with a plump frost baby in her lap. Her loving look was blind to the truth that her miraculous child would soon seep away. For the moment she gazed down at her elemental changeling, as sure as Giotto’s Madonna.

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Flying Ducks, Tom Hardy 

Hardy’s ducks rise with the thermals on summer days, but in the cold they hung motionless like dark stains or strange hieroglyphics tattooing the wall behind them. What do frostbitten wings feel like?

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Sylvester 

Then there was Sylvester, still waiting for his magic pebble to return.

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The Stone Table

They say that Oregonians don’t use umbrellas, which is true in my case. Most of the time I don’t even have a hood. My winter days are spent rushing down the shiny sidewalks, my head bowed at an unnatural angle. This posture does not lend itself to street art hunting (unless it’s by Volvox)  or people watching, which are two of my favorite things.

The last two days have been a different story though, because it hasn’t been raining or pouring. The sky has been bawling. It’s been sobbing like a feverish infant, weeping like Kristen Bell when she’s near a sloth. The Eugenean firmament has been blubbering like it’s auditioning for a part in the Notebook.

The Notebook, cameo by Eugene’s sky 

All of this melodrama still hasn’t forced me into a mackintosh, but I also haven’t been studying the cement. When the sky gets this ridiculous I can’t help but laugh. I take leisurely strolls through the downpour, my upturned face sporting a goofy grin. Visiting Californians may see tempests like this as a sign that God has truly forsaken our small patch of Earth, but I slow down and enjoy the waterworks.

Today I’d barely gotten home before dashing out again for a jog through Hendricks Park. If the sky was going to provide Hollywood effects, I would be imagining some accompanying story lines. First I found Narnia’s Stone Table. The little altar has always puzzled me, though I’m not sure I want to know its true history. I’d rather imagine Aslan rising from it as Lucy and Susan look on in amazement.

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Fairies in the woods

A heavy rain is a temporary paint job for the world. It deepens the hue of nearly every surface it touches, and casts glistening highlights on rocks and roads. It greys and fuzzes the sky, slightly depresses the treeline and changes the texture of the lawns. It’s as though the heavens are setting the scene for a Brothers Grimm tale. I’m sure I saw fairies flitting through the rhododendron bushes.

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Even as I dipped back into the outskirts of suburbia, the rain remained an enchanted elixir. A surreal cavern appeared among the houses. The water thundered on the structure’s roof as its long tethers whipped in the wind.

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I got as close to the monster’s great mouth as I dared, and then I ran away. Maybe I’ll come back to meet it in the sunlight.

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Red Tulip with David, Sherrie Wolf

“This is my least favorite piece,” I said.

“It’s certainly… a conversation starter,” said the desk lady at the Jacobs Gallery.

I’d returned roughly one month after seeing Red Tulip with David for the first time. That was during February’s First Friday Art Walk after my Eugenean identity crisis, so maybe I was in a bad mood. All I know is that something about Red Tulip deeply irked me.

The painting hangs at the very front of Eugene Collects, which proves once and for all that Eugene art collectors aren’t quite as rare as unicorns. The exhibition is what you’d imagine a wealthy art connoisseur’s attic might look like. There are the hidden treasures (Renoir! Dürer!) and then there are the castoffs like Red Tulip.

It’s a great juggling duel between two contemporary styles. Caravaggio’s Baroque David with the Head of Goliath tangos with a Dutch/Flemish still life. The melodramatic macro is mimicked and eclipsed by the intricate micro. Do you see how the leaning flowers create a similar shape to that of David’s chest and arms? Did you notice how Goliath’s massive head is dittoed by the fragile glass orb?

In the end, the tulip wickedly subverts David using tricks from Caravaggio’s own bag. The artist has placed the edge of the tulips’ shelf at the bottom of the picture plane, a very Baroque trompe l’oiel– a trick of the eye. By pushing the flowers out into the viewer’s space, Wolf has declared victory for the Dutch.

I know, I know. I just broke the nerd barrier. I might be dorkily fist pumping except that… I’m supposed to hate this painting. I’ve been frustrated with it all month. At first it was the color of the flowers, which have a lurid red glow but cast no light on the orb. Then it was the territorial composition with its hoity-toity interplay of ideas.

And now I find that this painting is intriguing in a good sort of way. It has won me over, which somehow makes me hate it even more. I love it I hate it I love it I hate it…

I stared down the piece, the poor little desk lady hovering beside me.

“I thought maybe the artist was just trying to show off her skill,” she said consolingly. “You have a portrait, a still life, lots of different textures and surfaces…”

I wasn’t buying it. Sherrie Wolf and I were having a meta-nerd battle, and only one of us could win. Who would be David, and who would be the ugly tulips? I had a feeling that the Wolf was dressed in red. Dang.