Alec Soth, Kevin Kramp, Robyn, and more: Artists of the year

Influential artists of 2010

With the start of the new year, Jackson's work will be on exhibit at the Northern Clay Center in Minneapolis from January 14 to February 27 for the 2011 Jerome Ceramic Artists exhibition. See her work and you, too, may fall in love.

Emma Berg is the director and founder of the visual arts calendar Berg has been the in-house curator for the Gallery at Fox Tax since 2008. She is also a fashion designer, most recently showing her art-inspired designs at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

Bret Easton Ellis

By Ray Cummings

Photo: Jeff Burton

Want to take a risk? Make a sequel. Whether it's a well-known movie, album, song, or book, improving on an original may be the biggest challenge in art.

With his latest novel, Imperial Bedrooms, author Bret Easton Ellis has elevated the concept of the sequel by essentially reinventing it. This fraught rejoinder to his 1985 soulless sensation Less Than Zero revisits the dramatis personae of the original novel a quarter-century later. We're back in the dark heart of Los Angeles. Blair and Trent—Zero's object of affection and bi-curious wingman, respectively— resurface as a married socialite and agent. Rip, who we knew before as a morally ambivalent drug dealer, now specializes in gruesome disappearances. Teen prostitute/junkie Julian? He's an ex-pimp who's trying to stay on the wagon. Clay, Zero's compromised-Holden Caulfield narrator, is no longer an aspiring writer, but a schlock screenwriter running away from something in New York. Bedrooms is full of loose ends connected to the dead past that suggest that we aren't experiencing the second entry in a saga, but maybe the 24th.

A lengthy opening coda acknowledges Less Than Zero the movie, its whitewashed script, and the unreliability of the first book's author as an objective chronicler of its events. Critics condemned this as superfluous revisionism, a gloss on the self-satirizing intro to 2005's Lunar Park. They missed the point. Ultimately, Zero was a fictionalization of what was already fictional reality. Ellis was mocking two widely held ideas: a) that a reader can really ever know an author's characters and b) that time—25 years, say—doesn't change people. If Bedroom's central storyline—Rip, Clay, and Julian tussling for the affections of an aspiring starlet—casts the decisions they make into stark, Zero-contradicting relief, no one has any right to cry foul. Bedrooms is Zero's sequel, but at the same time, it isn't—and that's what makes Ellis's new ironies so delicious.

Ray Cummings writes regularly for City Pages' music section. He lives in Round Rock, Texas, and is the author of two books of poetry—Assembling the Lord and Crucial Sprawl—available from Twentythreebooks.

Michelle Hensley

By Ed Huyck

Michelle Hensley and Ten Thousand Things deserve plaudits for their efforts to bring theater to the disadvantaged. Each production tours around Minnesota, playing prisons, homeless shelters, and community centers—all to reach people who may have never seen a live show before. If you strip away all that, Ten Thousand Things simply presents invigorating theater.

There's no passive sitting in the dark here. All the shows are presented with the house lights up, so you can't hide from the actor's gaze. What really makes the theater sing is Hensley's work behind the scenes. Her choices of what to present are thrilling, challenging, and even playful. After all, who would think that bringing My Fair Lady to prisons would work? But she saw the underlying conflicts, of class and gender roles, and ran with it (through the strong work of director Lear de Bessonet).

This dedication to crafting a stimulating experience draws in plenty of talent—the cast lists read like a who's who of Twin Cities theater—who relish the opportunity. The company's most recent production, Life's a Dream, ranks among the best shows of 2010. Hensley's direction and staging, combined with the performances of the entire company, made for the rare transcendent night of theater. I can only recall a handful of those experiences over the past five years, and two (the other was last year's Othello) came at Ten Thousand Things. Hensley has been well recognized this year, including a nod as Best Director in these pages and an Ivey Award, while New York's Public Theater brought her in to direct Measure for Measure and to help them launch a similar project. Now she can add another as a City Pages Artist of the Year.

Ed Huyck is City Pages' theater critic.

Brian Teare

By Juliet Patterson

Brian Teare writes beautiful, beautiful poems. Highly charged with sensual details and the action of syntax, Teare's work reminds us of poetry's ability to reinvigorate and inspire not just our speech but our whole idea of being human. That may sound like rhetoric, but it's not an overstatement. You'll be changed by these poems, by their intensity, drive, and emotional necessity.

Brian Teare is the author of three volumes of poetry. If you're a student of contemporary poetics (and even if you're not), it's interesting to read his books in order of completion (not publication) to see how much his work has advanced over the years.

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