Growing up, Phil Hansen knew he wanted to be an artist.
When I was in high school I did lots of pointilism, making images out of thousands of dots. I did so much pointilism that I ended up causing a tremor in my hand. I'd hold the pen too tight, and then my hand would shake a little bit and so I'd hold the pen even tighter. I went off to art school, but this tremor became so bad that I ended up quitting.
It was horrifying - my dream had always been to an artist, and I had to let go of that. At least I did for a while, but that creative urge just kept coming back.
Hansen eventually went to a neurologist, looking for a solution. Instead, he found out he had permanent nerve damage in his hand. But the neurologist said something that stuck with Hansen: "Maybe you should embrace it instead of fighting it."
I went home and started experimenting and what I found was that if I worked with different materials every single time - I avoid that repetitive motion, and my hand doesn't hurt as much.
Hansen realized he was actually becoming more creative because of his limitations. So he started creating new ones. For six months he worked on a series called "Art Happening" in which every week he would pick a news story and then create a work of art responding to the story within the next couple of days. Then there was his series "Goodbye Art" where for a year he destroyed every work of art he made once it was complete. Hansen says it forced him to stop coveting the end result.
If we're willing to destroy something and let go of the result, then we're more connected to the creation process. You're essentially saying the end result isn't as important as the creation process, as the experience. If you let go of what you've already made you'll stop trying to recreate it - you can move on to other things, new ideas.
Hansen says he became much more experimental, and found new ways to make art. One of his more popular projects on YouTube is his portrait of Jimi Hendrix made out of 7000 matches.
Now Hansen is sharing his creativity with anyone who wants a boost of their own. He's created a website of ideas for making art with everyday objects, and now he's published a book called "Tattoo a Banana" that provides instructions and templates for dozens of projects.
So you've seen a banana your entire life. Well the book is called 'Tattoo A Banana' because you actually take a pushpin and just by poking holes in a banana, you can put any image onto a banana. And so the idea is if you can see and experience materials you already know - if you can see them in a different way - you can take that new experience, that new way of viewing things, you can take that to your job or other aspects of your life.
Hansen says people are often encouraged to "think outside the box" - but it's also important to be extremely creative within the box, too.
When we're kids we have the ability to just do whatever and we don't care what the results are. But when we're adults we lose some of that, and not caring what your art is going to look like is tough for a lot of people. So the idea is that all of these projects have a starting point, but from there you can really expand upon it and make it your own.
Hansen says his hope is that "Tattoo A Banana" will encourage more people to make art, enjoy it, and bring creativity into all aspects of their lives.
Back in March we reported on the bizarre and debilitating illness that had forced performer Kate Eifrig to take an extended break from performing.
This weekend the Star Tribune reported Eifrig has decided that break is a permanent one.
"I've been very fortunate with work, which has kept me putting one foot in front of the other, which is what it always comes down to," said Eifrig. "But the personal toll was too great. Nobody likes to talk about the tremendous financial insecurity of it all. You win a McKnight [fellowship] and do a show on the Guthrie stage, and people can't quite believe that you have to get government assistance. You live public and very glamorous lives, and yet you have to go around the house and sell anything you can get your hands on to make the bills. If you worked every week of the year, you would make only about $30,000 a year. How are you going to pay the mortgage or keep your health insurance? Combine those with a medical issue and ... ," her voice trailed off.
"I know a lot of people who have severe anxiety and depression who are actors," she continued. "Acting sometimes can be like a fun house of mirrors. Everything is distorted and nothing is true. It is fun to lose yourself in it, slip into someone else's soul. But in this business, burnout is inevitable. I've been experiencing this sense of aging very quickly. I'm now playing myself, and it's the hardest role I've ever played."
On a positive note, Eifrig's friends and fellow theater professionals raised nearly $30,000 to help pay for a mental health service dog. Eifrig is scheduled to get the dog early next year.
Posted at 3:38 PM on September 4, 2012
by David Cazares
Filed under: Music
Anyone who wonders whether the Twin Cities jazz scene is vibrant enough to produce strong new players need only look to the young musicians who left to develop their craft elsewhere - and how eager they are to perform back in Minnesota.
Among them is saxophonist Nick Videen, who performs tonight at the Icehouse restaurant in Minneapolis in a band called Minnesota Nice, which includes Twin Cities musicians Bryan Nichols on piano, Jeremy Boettcher on bass and Sean Carey on Drums. They'll perform a mix of jazz standards and the saxophonist's compositions.
"I love playing with these guys," said Videen, 29. "They are great musicians, and their playing has great energy and comes from a good place."
Videen, who has been playing saxophone since age 9, is inspired by jazz greats Miles Davis, Cannonball Adderley, Charlie Parker and, John Coltrane. He played in the concert and jazz bands through high school in Cambridge, Minn., and later studied at the University of Minnesota. After studying jazz at New England Conservatory, he toured with the Superpowers, an Afrobeat band inspired by Nigerian multi-instrumentalist Fela Kuti.
"The rhythms were West-African inspired, and we were lucky enough to have a great Senegalese percussionist in the band," Videen said. "I loved that band and I learned a ton. The band is no longer together, but the horn section is, and goes by "The Superpower Horns."
At the Icehouse, he intends to explore a diverse musical background that relies on rhythm and artistic freedom, thriving in the company of homegrown talents.
"There is something special about the Midwest and its music," he said. " I feel very fortunate to have grown up here, to have had great teachers, to have had great bands to go watch, and to have met and played with so many inspired and inspiring musicians."