Management! by! portraiture!

Welcome to my management style, which is called…MANAGEMENT BY PORTRAITURE!

STEP ONE: Engage Keith Bridges Media. Could be somebody else, I guess, but Keith is the one who says “pick a place you like, you should like the place we shoot, cuz that’ll come through in the photos.” He tells you, “look normal, look like yourselves or it’ll be weird when you show up for whatever you applied for and you don’t look like your headshot.” Plus, many other things that make it seem the most normal thing in the world, some weeknight, to stand in Stephanie’s driveway smiling and smiling.

STEP TWO. Show up. Everybody show up after a long day, no exceptional primping. Accidentally coordinated necklines a BONUS!!!

STEP THREE: Now. Now comes the management piece. Tell your team: “We will all now apply for something that requires a professional headshot.”

Can be anything. Solo exhibition of your profoundly emotive photos of organic vegetables? Yes. Solo exhibition of your wrenchingly wrenching sculptures somewhere other than the gallery where you work? Yes yes.

Leader of a movement to replace the custom of coloring gray hair with the new custom of weaving in dreadlocks made from the felted shearings of an equally-or-more-graying alpaca from Golden Meadow Alpacas? [Which is kind of near Amboy, a beautiful drive, I got a speed warning last time and the cop was like “ma’am is there some reason for the speed” and I’m like “well it’s really pretty out here and I was just really enjoying myself.”]

Anyway. Yes. This is the intended focal point of my personal headshot. “Leader of a movement” doesn’t have an application process requiring a portrait but I’m not concerned about that right now.

Pick your thing. An exhibition, an audition, a job you don’t hate, a movement (but not my movement, mine is taken). You have options. For starters, though, get the shots. Look like yourself. Get the shots and then do the thing it forces you to do.

A portrait gives you more information than you can stand, sometimes. Because it’s not your own (possibly warped) version of you, it’s actual-you, through the nonfilter of generous human vision and talent. So. Here is Keith’s stuff.


This most amazing dress. I mean day.

Happy June 22! Rather than renewing our vows, or repainting, or weeding, or going on a cruise, Scott and I are officially committing to letting the yard eat the house.


Easier than downsizing. Plus, cheaper than travel. But also good for travel, because nobody has to mow!


Also, we decided to take out of the cupboards and actually use the finefine crystal people gave us on June 22, 1991. Use it in regular life. When you do your bridal registry, you envision the stuff in use at dinner parties or something like that. You would never think, I mean you can’t know at that point, that it’s a greater thrill to use the crystal to sprout some gross old potatoes from Aldi.

Goblets from my Uncle Tom. Don’t remember who gave the pink glass platter. Crystal pitcher from my boss at the time, and you guys, it came with instructions for washing ONLY IN WATER AND RICE. Swish with rice. Come on. I feel very good about this as a potato-sprouting vessel, 26 years on.  Tackle box courtesy of Scott just now because I mentioned that I need to upgrade my medication storage system.


Why not sort some office supplies.

Plus, the words of e.e. cummings, which Michele read at that sweaty ceremony.


So yes. This is the plan. Give over to the yard, let go of (like literally finally throw away) the instructions for swishing that pitcher in rice water. Sprout potatoes which have been sitting on the counter for oh I’d say a month now. Leap greenly. Be some humans merely being.


What else is June?!?! My Diabeteversary. Here’s the post about that.

Burlap, satin, passion. Pageant fashion.

It’s pageant season! Not as in The Miss America Pageant although it might be that season as well. I’m not sure. I quit paying attention to that in 1983 after I won a spot on the high school homecoming court, and wrote in my bio that my big life goal was “to win The Miss America Pageant,” which I thought was hilarious due to irony but that didn’t come through in the homecoming flyer distributed school-wide so basically I set myself up for a year’s worth of mockery and I think it’s understandable why I’ve worked since then to dissociate myself altogether from that kind of pageantry.

No, it’s church pageantry season we’re talking about, the type familiar to those who grew up in Protestant churches lucky enough to have a volunteer youth music director, some kids with decent singing voices, and a couple of moms who could craft.

By “craft” I mean they could take the blandest remnants of burlap, felt, yarn, trim, etc., and create wearable works of art evoking whatever it was our characters were supposed to evoke. A leader, a follower, a skeptic, a truth-teller, a mob. While the music and storytelling of Christmas and Easter pageants tended to be literal and easy to learn in a few rehearsals, costumery was high concept. More suggestive of the notion of “leper” than, like, actual face-latex representation of “leper.”

Pageant Momface

Jill Fischer, Pageant Mom of the Jesus Christ Superstar Pageant & Singalong, complete with purse which yeah probably has a tissue if you need it.

Forever and ever and evaaaaahhhhh

Lisa Noll, Artistic Director of Pageant Costumery, in bloodytoned lace-up Judas burgundy.

Like a whole lot of creative achievements, this arose from necessity. No church with a volunteer music director has a costume budget. You work with what you’ve got, you figure out how to evoke complex and epic states of being using only scrap and suggestion and hot glue. As the late music and fashion icon Prince said in his concept album about spirituality, sensuality, love and racism (The Rainbow Children, 2001) — “you do the work.”

Right now, In this same vein, about 20 Mankato-area music lovers are busy assembling costumes for the roles they’ll sing on Saturday, April 8, in the one-night-only free public performance of the world’s first Jesus Christ Superstar Pageant & Singalong.

The cast consists of local public officials, professionals, full-time parents, part-time students, radio hosts and others — myriad grownups, most of whom don’t perform publicly but have been belting out Jesus Christ Superstar alone in their cars or showers for years. They started showing up for rehearsals at the Arts Center of Saint Peter in September, and word spread and the band and cast formed, and now this. Allllll this…

Hey JC!

Willy Faulstich (violin, guitar), Shelley Pierce (bass), Joe Tougas (guitar), Scott Rahe (drums) & Gordon Aase (keyboards) are the badass Hey JC Band.

HEYYY, aren't, you, scared of me Christ

Suzanne Douma (Mary Magdalene) & Shane Frederick (King Herod) don’t always drape themselves in earth tones and librettos, but when they do it’s for the Jesus Christ Superstar Pageant & Singalong.

Shyboy Tim

Even Videographer Tim Lind dresses the part. The part of Videographer Tim Lind.

See eee eee how see how I die

Curt Douma, reprising his 1970 role as Jesus (in the Wilson Campus School production) (YEP) delivers a heartbreaking Gethsemane and wears the hell out of this tunic.


Shane Frederick as Herod. Strong autonomous brilliant local wymyn as His Ladiez.

heckyes kazoos

Suzanne Douma with I don’t actually know what this is. Kazoo maybe. Suzanne’s ideas are reliably good (see: RUFFLES!) so just trust it.

What if I just stayed here and ruined your ambition

LadyJudases Jenn Melby-Kelley & Lisa Noll, whose voices kill me and whose wardrobe choices to represent the skeptical inscrutable indispensable Judas are spot-on.

And they’re approaching costume-planning with fitting gravitas. Expected to appear in the wardrobe tableau: White tunics posing to represent ray-of-light-ish-ness. Burlap for historical accuracy (historical as in church pageants of our youth, not New Testament). Blood-red scarves, wearable coin purses, cowhide. Leaves (plastic and palm, both). Cardboard, bathrobes, sandals.

Don't let me stop your great self-destruction

Oh just Kim Henricks (Pontius Pilate) in laurel wreath relaxing near Pac-Man, with Jeff McConnell (Annas) in beanie that echoes the tones of the video golf screen. Pageant fashion, everyone.

Some of the choices come from cast members’ hopes of sparking reflection on the notions of service, sacrifice, leadership and followership — ideas first cracked open for them, personally, by way of this music. Some of the choices are inspired solely by a love of fringe or flared legs or other flamboyance that doesn’t get much wear in regular daily life.

My own style, that night, will reference the makeshift togas my choir friends wore to the last singalong party I hosted, which was in high school, not long after my “Miss America” screw-up. Choir was a sanctuary where self-expression met discipline met community. Choir friends got the joke and wore the togas.

Whether you’re a former choir geek or not, a fan of rock opera or not, a tunic-wearer or rainbow child or not, you’re invited to come out April 8 and wear your feelings on your sleeve. Or on your head or around your neck or whatever you’ve got. Make use of your personal style. Make use of your voice. Scour your closet and come flaunt, strut, share, get beeeautifully loud with us.

One more open rehearsal remains! Wednesday, March 30, setup 7-8 p.m., music 8-9:30 p.m. Lyrics provided. Talent absolutely not necessary. Free free free, and so is the main event:


Saturday, April 8, 8 p.m.

Patrick’s on Third, St. Peter

A co-production of KMSU Radio and the Arts Center of Saint Peter

Ann’s Fashion Tarot: Apotheosis Edition

Here’s a way to be less “I’m so sad these icons died because I wanted more-more-more of what they had to give” and more “WHOA I can’t believe the wondrous guidance these collective deaths provide, I wish we could sanctify and turn to them for inspiration and direction in the new year ahead.”

We can. I did. Let’s welcome a select seven of 2016’s lost icons to the Tarot’s Major Arcana:

The Princess

On one side of the screen, Carrie Fisher inspired and led revolts. On the other side she gave us an early definition of heroism and independence. In the sometimes unflattering spotlight, she helped others find their way through personal troubles by exposing her own and offering new hope.

What’s it mean when you pull The Princess card? When it shows up first in your seven-card spread? It means you better think fast and hard back to the most recent time when you were fierce, raw, fearless, genuine and generous. Whenever you were all that, reach back there and make your body and brain remember how you did it and do it again. Be that again. She was, and she expects you to do something useful, something real, with the gifts she gave you.

The Chocolatier

Because Gene Wilder followed his heart — and the heart rarely provides solid direction — he brought a gentle but intense confidence to seemingly impossible tasks. The mad spark in his eyes betrayed a drive that pushed him to explore creative landscapes including farce, action and fantasy. He found his way, always, and he invited us to laugh at his missteps along the path.

The Chocolatier says keep going. Weird times? Please. There are no not-weird times. Keep moving. Twirl things, twirl around things. Wear velvet.

The Eagle

Happy to blend in for the greater good, Glenn Frey nourished and deepened our love of timeless melodies and harmonies. He was rightly celebrated for his words and music, his voice forecasting the inevitable fear of a heartache tonight and his words celebrating a peaceful and sincere easy feeling.

The Eagle says yeah, it might hurt. Ok to shut down a little bit when that’s the case. Shut down and let me sing you through it and into the sweetness that follows, because hang on long enough and sweetness always follows.

The Spider from Mars

Never predictable, reliable only in that he would surely change directions and his new work would be strong, David Bowie was the restless and limitless possibility of art and music personified. He enraptured us with sound and vision and imagination, inspiring those who might have otherwise hidden in the fringe to accept and enjoy themselves, to dance to some of the most powerful music on this particular planet.

The Spider From Mars says the only thing in the way (if you think something’s in your way) is you. Change direction. Imagine a thing and then move to the pulse of that thing. Be limitless. Paint your face.

The Prince

Prince crafted music as others would make meals. He shared profusely. His music was yours and he released more of it than most could collect, each work noteworthy for newfound energy and direction. He preached love, sex, funk, and Jesus, with equal conviction and élan. He was the nasty that the 80s needed, the soul the 90s needed, and he was the hardest-working royalty of the 21st century.

The Prince says do it full-on. More than you already are. You think you already are? The Prince says, show me. Show me yours. Show me more. Whatever you’ve got, do it and make it and give it even more.

The Greatest

Muhammad Ali called out hypocrisy in unrelenting detail. Powerful in body and mind, he withstood scorn, hate and ridicule and stood with his people against injustice. He was discipline, discernment, strength and flight.

The Greatest says stay sharp. Love yourself with focus, without apology. Be relentless and beautiful and relentlessly beautiful.

The Worker in Song

Beloved as a poet, a musician, a monk, Leonard Cohen was evidence that art is more physical work than divine gift. He would spend years on a single song, months on a word. He practiced patience and used it as a tool, never mind whether it was a virtue. The results were staggering works of love and yearning.

The Worker in Song says, do the work. Sit with it, sure. Sit long enough to make damn sure you mean this. Then get in there and then do the thing. Do the work. It’s all there is.

mystic golden hanger

Catch The Frye tonight at Olive’s 9-12:30, lovingly covering some Bowie and Eagles and Prince and more.

Come get your real-deal Tarot read tomorrow 4-7 at Gold Lang Syne, a benefit for the cool-cool house concert series The Gold Mine. 

That’s a lot of music and magic for one weekend. You need it. We need it.

The writer wishes to thank Joe Tougas for verbiage about what these icons actually did. I was kind of just more into what they wore.

Ann’s Fashion Tarot: 3D Edition

So my friend Laurie’s like, yeah, I want a reading but I don’t think I want to know the future.

0 I II

     0. The Fool  I. The Magician  II. The High Priestess

I’m like, Laurie, they don’t do that. They can’t show you the future.


     III. The Empress  IV. The Emperor  V. The Hierophant

They’re clay.


     VI. The Lovers  VII. The Chariot  XI. Strength  VIII. The Hermit

They can only hug your finger and force you to stare at what’s right in front of you.

Which, if you’re doing this right, is a puppet. A puppet version of the Major Arcana. Those are the big-deal cards of the Tarot. The states and stages a person moves through over and over, like it or not, starting with 0.The Fool [open, empty, ready, assume nothing, zero] all the way to XXI. The World [wholeness, completion, fulfillment — not an ending, but completion of a cycle that starts right on over again at terrifying beautiful zero].


I’m like, Laurie, all the Tarot Puppets can do is help you see what’s in front of you. Things in your present. Things you weren’t already seeing, or things you kind of sensed were there but just refused or forgot to see. That’s all they can do.


     VIII. Justice X. The Wheel XII. The Hanged Man

To some people, when Tarot Puppets help them see what they kind of actually probably felt but didn’t want to see in their personal private hopes or fears or addictions, a lot of people feel like: OMG OMG HOW DID THEY KNOW?!?!?!?!


     XIII. Death XIV. Temperance XV. The Devil

But I’m telling you, they didn’t. They don’t know anything. They can only show you what you weren’t seeing.

I think what freaks people out even more than the feeling of HOW DID THEY KNOW is the fact that once you see what’s in front of you, and it’s huge and/or thrilling and/or stupidly obvious and/or embarrassing, you kind of expect the puppet to back off, like, be polite and get out of the way while you feel your feelings and decide what to do now.

But it doesn’t. They don’t. The Major Arcana are not polite and they also don’t judge. They just look at you.

That, I think, is the actual freaky part. The puppets keep on staring their lovestare, and they don’t damn you for not-seeing in the first place. Or for feeding any particular hopes or fears or addictions.

They also don’t damn you for starving any particular hopes, or fears, or addictions.

I mean. They’re puppets.


     XVI. The Tower

They are unflappable.


     XVII. The Stars

They’ve been around forever. Older than dirt. Technically speaking, they are actual dirt.


     XVII. The Moon XIX. The Sun

They have seen it all and they find all of it gorgeous.


     XX. Judgment XXI. The World

Including whatever Laurie’s not yet seeing but kind of wants to see but hopes somebody else will just see it first and point it out. Laurie. It’s gonna be cool. Call me when you’re ready.

mystic golden hanger


Wait, so how is this about fashion? A) Because you WEAR THEM. The puppets. B) Because I can’t give a reading without wardrobe suggestions at the end. Like, if your reading suggests that The Chariot is your thing — the yoking together of unlike forces which will move you forward all swift and steady — then I’m sorry but you’re gonna need to wear some very unmatching things to remind you of that. Pretty much all the time. Or start mixing your metals. Clash your shoes. I don’t know exactly but I think you have some shopping to do.

Here’s the original Ann’s Fashion Tarot if you want to see. I mean just if you want to.


December Style: Who wore it better

Mary, Queen of the Pageant known as Christmastime, has a signature look that breaks down to three basics: 1) Blue. 2) Tendrils. 3) Virtue.

Let’s see who wore it best during a recent gathering of Marys owned by Mankato collector Wilbur Neuschwander Frink.


This was close, because each of the three contenders wore her shade with a supersaturated confidence that was almost a swagger.  Hands-down, the win goes to Bedazzled Figurine Mary, whose blue here totally beams and dominates. Even up against her glossy walnut skin and gilded accents.


Bedazzled Figurine Mary won out over Peacock Halo Greeting Card Mary, whose blue is memorable but has disappointingly cautious yellow undertones.

servitudinal peacock

Also taking not-first-place was Framed Mary, whose nearly navy shade has some nice depth, and pairs well with the purple wall, but it comes across too inky. Too cold. She’s wearing the power pantsuit of vestments. And I simply cannot worship that.

i got yer blue right here

This goes to Monotone Sculptural Mary because contour is basically the only thing she’s got to express her whole look. Curves plus what I think is a tiny bit of color, just a blue wash. She really — and I mean really — works the contours, and of course I mean the ones in her hair but then also the thing she’s wearing or holding. Or maybe it’s an ethereal body part. Regardless, it is the tendril of tendrils rendered in both positive and negative space, and it says eeeeeverything.

Michael Cimino​. Madonna: Adorned #5. 2015. Ceramic, Glaze.

Michael Cimino​. Madonna: Adorned #5. 2015. Ceramic, Glaze.

It’s precise, yet organic. Flexible + infallible. Confident, but not showy, certainly not needy-whiny-showy.

[See also: Greeting Card Mary, above, who cannot win at this game at ALL, she just can’t. I blame the lillies at her feet. I wan’t raised Catholic but I had this one Catholic friend whose mom had a statue of Mary in their foyer, Mary with snakes at her feet. Once you see that, you can’t look upon flowers as an interesting style choice. It must be serpents. Serpents are to flowers as brand new John Fluevog teal/purple Babycake boots are to last summer’s dirty Keds.]


You’d think this category relates only to the eyes and the head tilt, but you would be wrong, because plenty of Marys accessorize with children. This is what it takes to win. Babies, and plenty of them.

And not just one self-sufficient toddler like the one here on Postcard Mary’s lap.

ombre periwinkle

Not the implied child, ie., the candle in Candle Mary’s hand. (I mean, I think the candle is supposed to stand for a child. Why else would she be holding a lit candle, while wrapped around an actual candle? We don’t need both. It absolutely has to be a stand-in for her light-of-the-world Son. And it does nothing for her look.)

pas de bleu

No, BEST VIRTUE goes to Behatted Figurine Mary who obviously just came from the hatmaker where she stood unruffled as her six baby children roamed freely up and down her gown. She stood there like that while all the other customers in the shop waited for the crown to be fitted and fixed in place atop the most beautiful barely-curled-under tendrils in the universe.

fertile peacock

And then, lo, each baby pulled a cookie from a secret pocket in Behatted Figurine Mary’s gently-but-firmly-blue gown. Secret but not too secret. Like, is if Mary made the pockets just secret enough to make the babies feel smart and special upon finding them.

And then Mary paid the hatmaker and drew up her skirts, and engaged her core so as to maintain balance, what with the babies clinging one-handed as they chewed. Babies hanging on, Mary standing all balanced and strong, and the mass of them strolled out of the store, baby wings flapping and crumbs flying and crown held high.

Because she is Mary, Queen of Balance. Queen of Secret Pockets. Queen of Blue, Queen of Tendrils, Queen of Virtue. Queen of Style.



Thanks for access to your magical collection of Marys, Wilbur Frink! I hope they know they’re all style winners. I mean they are. But I’m sorry but somebody has to win the pageant.



Black Friday: A lovepost in clay

I’m like, hey, Caitlin, you think I could get one of you guys to make me six bowls so I can push words into them? I have this idea for my fourth annual Black Friday lovepost to Steely Dan.

Caitlin says, sure, how big you want them. You want six? I can do six.


She did. She made six bowls while we talked about how deep, how wide, what to use for the letters. Important things.

A couple years into this job it still knocks me out how people who spend time here jump right into it like that. They don’t bother with “why.” Not “why bowls?” or “why six?” or “do you think Steely Dan finds it creepy that you do a  thing like this every year?” or anything. Everybody just gets right to the things that matter, they offer some help, and then they get back to their own thing that matters.

If you have a workplace like that, or a family like that, or a posse or whatever you have, spend a lot of time there. It is amazing. If you don’t have people like that of your own, but you’d like some, you can come hang out with ours. It’s the whole point.

Anyway. Couple hours later, bowls!

sure i can do six

Caitlin tells me to wait until they’re leather-hard and then do the lyrics. I don’t know what “leather-hard” means, though, and turns out it’s a not what I thought, so  the first line is sloppy. See the fingerprints on “gonna?” Turns out it doesn’t work to smudge away the first attempt and start over. But, you know, what’s done is done, and I’ve watched the people who hang around here turn screw-ups into fine fine things, so I find myself a paintbrush and go at it. 


The clay gets drier and the lyrics start looking better.


A little better.


Then I get cocky.


Also, it gets late. Midnightish late. Kind of expected this to be a quick thing, when Caitlin got started around 7 p.m. It probably could have been quick. Except that it felt so good, and silent, and, you know, the world falling away and all that.


Just the quiet and the clay and the sweetest damn set of letters.

let it roll

By now it’s reeeeally late and I clean the place up like I’ve watched them do in here, put my six bowls on the shelf to keep drying, lock up. Head home. Start wondering why I’ve never tried this. Like, what would happen if I did more of this.

Couple blocks later, St. Peter’s finest pulls me over. He goes, ma’am, you know you don’t have your lights on? Where you comin from?

“The Arts Center. I’m the director there.”

I don’t know why I added that. Upon reflection, I don’t think it elevated the Arts Center’s stature or my own.

The officer was cool, just let me go, also pointed out my driver’s side bulb was out and said to drive home with the brights on so I wouldn’t not-see any deer.

It’s a really supportive community for the arts we have here. Incredibly supportive. I didn’t ask whether he was a Steely Dan fan. Probably he was. Probably I didn’t ask because, you know, a person can only take so much bliss and still drive home.

oh man oh man

Get your own bowls — and vases, vessels, platters, cups, things you had no idea you needed — at This Show is For Sale at The 410 Project, an invitational of functional pottery curated by Juana Arias.  Reception tonight 7-9 p.m., and everything is for sale to take with you right then and there. Like, the $20-$50 range. So do-able. Such beauty. Happy shopping.


You can read the 2014 Black Friday post here. And 2013 is here. And 2012 is here. They haven’t called me yet to sing backup on a tour or illustrate an album cover. I know, I don’t get it either.