Friday, December 30, 2011

Washington DC's preeminent accordionist, Merv Conn died on December 20. I called him more than a decade ago when I was living with my Nana and Pop in Alexandria. I was trying to figure out the best way to go about learning the instrument and would call accordionists listed in  phone books in any city I visited. I think we must have spoken for 15-20 minutes, he gave me tips and told me about his own experiences in hopes that I might become one of his students.

I never did take a lesson from him, but years later when I heard that Jeff Krulik had made a documentary about him Kim and I went with Todd and Kristen to Silver Spring in the hope of seeing it. Alas, that screening was sold out (we saw Merv in lobby playing to his fans), but we did get to finally see it during the 2007 James River Film Festival. It's a great portrait of a beautiful person. 


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Blind Boy Fuller

Piedmont blues guitarist and singer Blind Boy Fuller (b. 1907, d. 1941). His song "Truckin' My Blues Away" was the origin of the phrase "keep on truckin'".

I heard What's That Smell Like Fish on Edge of Americana this week.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Jesse Fuller

Jesse Fuller wrote The Monkey and the Engineer. A song covered by many musicians, including the Grateful Dead, and more recently Dave Rawlings. He invented that contraption next to him named the "fotdella". 

From Wikipedia: The name "fotdella" was given to the instrument by Fuller's wife, who took to calling it a "foot-diller" (as in the then-current expression, "killer-diller", meaning exceedingly good); later, it became shortened to just fotdella.

Here he is (shoeless) playing all that stuff. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Yum (new favorite sign)

I love this sign. This bar is located in the Dingle, in Cumberland, Maryland.
Yes, the wood chuck is a groundhog.
In literary parlance, a dingle is a deep wooded valley or dell.
In contemporary Cumberland, it's an intersection, or what I like to think of as a confluence of streets.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

I recently scanned some old negatives for a chapbook I'm making and came across this image of my former neighbor Naomi's window. I lived at 195 E. Main Street in Frostburg, Md for a little over a year. She was a major reason why I wanted the apartment. In her mid 80's, nearly deaf and sweet as hell, I would occasionally play the accordion for her, she would give me jars of homemade beef stew, and I photographed her on a number of occasions. She died a few years ago. I'm glad I have these pictures.     

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Matt King

Mike, 2006
Plaster, mop, wood, paint, foil, work shirts, string, 6-pack ring
30" x 36" x 72"

Matt King is a sculpture professor at VCU.
More of his work can be found here.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Laura Sharp Wilson has a website!

Women's Relief Society, 2010
Acrylic and graphite on Unryu paper mounted on wood panel
18" x 12"

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The 14th Annual Theresa Pollak Prize for Excellence in the Arts

Just last night I received Richmond Magazine's Theresa Pollak Prize for Excellence in the Arts. The prize is given annually to a dozen (or so) visual, and performing artists who live in Richmond. The artists are chosen by a committee made of previous award winners. This year's selectors said of my work:  

Michael Lease's photography addresses the familiarity and accessibility of the snapshot with an enhanced awareness of the world. He is a community-focused artist who brings people together in a collective experience, as he did when he choreographed a performance event of onlookers gathering to admire the flight of chimney swifts. He sees things others do not and captures them for us. 

It's a real honor to be in the company of those who have won the Pollak in the past, as well as this year's winners: Tanja Softic, Ana Ines King and the Latin Ballet of Virginia, Rex Richardson, Susan Iverson, Samson Trinh & the Upper East Side Big Band, Eric Knight, Todd Raviotta, Scott Wichmann, Joshua Poteat, and Myra Daleng.

Damn good company! 


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Small Worlds

Former student and good friend, Ed DeWitt, asked if I'd put together a show for the grand opening of the gallery above his camera shop in Cumberland, Maryland. He suggested I do something with all of the unclaimed pictures that were left in the store when he bought it a few years ago. Agreeing that that was a fine idea, I solicited help from he and Kim, and we've put together Small Worlds: Unclaimed Snapshots from DeWitt Camera Centre.

The exhibit will run Sept 10 - Oct 29, with an opening reception on Sat Sept 10, from 5-8 pm.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

July 19, 2011--Dubuque, Iowa

July 19, 2011--Dubuque, Iowa

Northern MN is very flat with lots of lakes and rivers caused by the last ice age. Whenever you look out the car window, if you don't see a lake, you see a pond. Very wet. And flat. About 20 south of Minneapolis, however, it began to be full of rolling farm land, and then it became somewhat mountainous. Not the Rockies, but more than hills. Anyway...

After breakfast this morning we went to the Red Wing shoe store to see the world's largest boot. It's an actual boot about 20 feet high built by the Red Wing shoemakers, just real big! Anything to get into the record books.

Using his thumbnail, Dad carved his name into a hide that was on display at the Red Wing historical exhibit.
I did not do this. 7/18/2011

After our hearts stopped pounding, we continued on our way to Wabasha, MN. The National Bald Eagle Center is there, but there's an admission price, so it wasn't for us. We went to the riverfront and saw our own bald eagle. Wabasha is another one of those towns that died a long time ago but still struggles to stand up. Empty streets at 11:30 in the morning, lots of shuttered stores, etc. Sad. Michael loves to stroll through these towns.

Despite having the Eagle Center, Wabasha was empty. 7/18/2011

We then continued down the road to lock number 5 on the river and watched a boat push I think 12 barges (hooked together) through the lock. The barges had to be unhooked and it took two raisings and lowerings to get them all through. Very time-consuming, and there are lots of locks that have to be gone through. Not the most interesting work in the world. Not like accounting, say.

The gray things in the foreground are the covers on barges in Lock No. 5. We watched as the barges were lowered in the lock. 7/18/2011

The next stop was Winona (Michael said Winona Ryder is named after this town). Larger than Wabasha, and loaded with interesting architecture from the 1800s, but dead. After that we crossed into Wisconsin and drove through the Trempeleau National Wildlife Refuge that is attempting to bring back the prairie grasses. Interesting. We would have taken a walk there, but the deer flies were swarming the car, and we didn't dare.

Hills in the Trempeleau Nat'l Wildlife Refuge. 7/19/2011

The super cool, Prairie School, Merchant's National Bank in Winona was a surprise in the center of a town made up of mostly late 19th century buildings.

After driving through enormous farms of corn, and on our way to Dubuque, we were passing through the little town of Dickeyville, WI, when we stumbled upon the Dickeyville Grotto, an absolutely amazing roadside attraction. The grotto is on the grounds of a Catholic church, The priest, Father Matthias Wernerus, who was there for about 30 years, spent five years building the grotto out of bits of broken glass, shells, stones, and other pieces of stuff he found. It's indescribable; you'll have to Google it or something.

Dad at Dickeyville Grotto. 7/19/2011

The hazy evening made it difficult to capture the grotto's splendor. 7/19/2011

A detail of the grotto. It was made up mostly of shells, glass, and rocks. 7/19/2011

We're spending the night in Dubuque. Tomorrow we head to Hannibal, Missouri, Mark Twain's birthplace.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

July 17, 2011--St. Cloud, MN

Dad crosses the Mississippi River, Lake Itasca, MN. 7/16/2011

July 17, 2011--St. Cloud, MN

Calamity!! Michael's computer is broken, so I wasn't able to blog last night. Without constant internet service I feel like the pioneers must have felt (but with a cell phone, GPS, e-reader...).

Anyway... On Saturday we drove north to try to get into Lake Itasca State Park. Like other state run stuff in MN the park was closed, but we found an entrance which, though closed to traffic, was very close to where we wanted to be, so we parked on the road and walked in. The visitor's center was closed but all the info about the headwaters of the Mississippi was posted outside, so no problem.

The Mississippi flows out of Lake Itasca in a very narrow stream, so we were able to step across it. And it's shallow, so you can wade down the middle if you want. We saw some old guy (my age, probably) take off his shoes and wade down the river, but he didn't roll up his jeans, so they were soaked. Old people are crazy! We walked around the lake for awhile battling deer flies and then headed north towards Bemidji.

A wet-jeaned pilgrim's progress, Lake Itasca, MN. 7/16/2011

Bemidji, as all of you are no doubt aware, is the home of the famous huge statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe, the blue Ox. You've seen pictures of them. And it turns out northern MN is full of statues of Paul and Babe. We saw one today in which Paul was holding a bowling ball and babe had a bowling pin in his (her?) mouth.

Dad didn't mention the huge lake that Bemidji lay astride. Bemidji, MN, 7/16/2011

After Bemidji we headed south and stayed overnight in the small town of Brainerd.

This morning, while waiting for Best Buy to open so Michael could have the laptop checked out--they said it's toast--we hung around in a huge sporting goods/farming stuff/auto store called Fleet Farm. Among scads of other things, it must have at least 10,000 fishing poles. Fishing is very big here, as are hunting and snowmobiling.

Paul and Babe sculpture, Brainerd. Brainerd, MN, 7/17/2011

After Best Buy we took a walking tour of Brainerd that I had downloaded on to my Nook. Kind of interesting, but most interesting is that almost all the historic sites mentioned are long gone. So walking around looking at the sites is kind of dumb. But we did it. Interestingly, the place where we parked, the First National Bank, which is still actually there, was once robbed by Pretty Boy Floyd and his gang. They left town spraying bullets from their machine guns, just like the movies.

The bowling Paul and Babe were a highlight of Baxter, MN. Baxter, MN, 7/17/2011

Next stop was Little Falls. There's a dam there, and there used to be a logging operation, with logjams and the whole nine yards of logging. No longer there, of course, but still fun to look at the old stuff. We walked around town looking at old stores, etc. The town may bustle during the week (though I doubt it), but on Sunday it is completely dead. And that's part of its charm if you're just visiting.

A big mural in Little Falls depicting River Pigs shepherding logs down the river. Little Falls, MN, 7/17/2011

Some random observations: It's very, very hot and humid. Every time I get out of the car or a building, my glasses fog up. It's supposed to be this way most of the week, with temps in the mid to high 90s. It's hard to believe it gets so cold in the winter. And speaking of snow, mailboxes along the highway are designed so they can be raised as the snowplows pile the snow higher and higher.

Tomorrow it's on to Minneapolis; Michael needs an art gallery fix.

Monday, August 01, 2011

July 15, 2011--St. Cloud, MN

Over the next week (or so) I'll be republishing the entries from my Dad's blog that record our recent trip together down the upper half of the Mississippi River. If you'd like to read his blog, go here.

July 15, 2011--St. Cloud, MN
Because my wife of almost 46 years wouldn't take her husband and son to the airport--she had a yoga class she couldn't miss--Michael and I spent Thursday night at Donna's, and she graciously drove us there.

Anyway, we flew to Kansas City, MO, from Reagan, and then got stuck in KC for about five hours because of storms in Minneapolis, our final destination. The KC airport is designed in such a way that if you're stopping there awaiting another flight from the same airline, you can't leave the boarding area and return unless you want to pass through security again. So you can't take a walk, browse in a bookstore, get something decent to eat, unless you do that. We didn't. We just sat in the boarding area for what turned out to be five hours and watched peoples' Kindles, and Nooks, and laptops run out of battery power.

There really are a lot of lakes in Minnesota. 7/15/11

But we finally got on the plane, and now we're here in St. Cloud, along the Great River Road. Tomorrow we'll continue north to Itasca State Park where we'll be locked out because of the State's budget problems.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Headed down Big River

Image lifted from

My Dad and I are are headed down the Mississippi River for the first ever father-son Lease vacation starting this Friday. We're flying into Minneapolis, renting a car and then driving north to the headwaters in Lake Itasca, MN. Dad will be writing a daily journal and I'll be illustrating it w/ the best pictures of the day. My Dad is a great writer. He's efficient, funny and candid. He'll be posting to Travels with Kenny, and I'll be re-posting here at Annabelle's Aspirin.

Do check in!

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Original Rhinestone Cowboy

Loy Allen Bowlin

Here he is on his tombstone in Mount Zion Cemetery, Franklin County, Mississippi, USA

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Laura Sharp Wilson at McKenzie Fine Art

Utah Laura Sharp Wilson's exhibit of new paintings opens tonight at McKenzie Fine Art in Chelsea. Show runs through April 30. Wish I could be there.
See more of her work here.

Screen, 2010

Ode to a Dead Misogynist, 2010