Artists of the Year 2011

Alan Moore, Louis C.K., Bethany Larson, and more

Epp's biggest triumph came when he married the two halves together in Come Hell and High Water, a piece created by Epp, Jeune-Lune colleague Dominique Serrand, and their nascent group the Moving Company. Using a William Faulkner novella as its base, the inventive piece merged music and movement, with astonishing moments of transformation. Some of that came from Epp, who played a man freshly freed from prison after decades, reflecting back on the last time he was free–during a 1927 flood that altered the landscape and his life.

Ed Huyck is City Pages' theater critic.

Holly Newsom

By Andrea Swensson

"Transcendence" is a word that gets overused a lot these shock-and-awe days. But how should one describe that moment when an artist tugs on the gauzy corners of space and time and seems to stand the room on its ear? How to put into words that intoxicating and otherwordly element of musical expression that pushes the performer onto another plane?

Holly Newsom
Staciaann Photography
Holly Newsom
Dorothea Tanning
Peter Ross
Dorothea Tanning

Transcendence isn't the end goal of Holly Newsom's art; rather, it seems to be its basis. Newsom's public and proud relationship with her own muse has made her one of the Twin Cities' most alluring and elusive young voices in rock music. There's a reason nearly every interview with the Zoo Animal frontwoman inevitably discusses her religion—those of us living the mortal life down here on earth can't possibly comprehend her raw and wrenching stage presence, her fearless earnestness. There is a purity to her purpose that is unparalleled in the muddy world of overdriving amps and crowded, chatty clubs.

To watch Newsom alone onstage, spine curled forward and limbs folded around her guitar to nurture it one moment before pushing off of it with all her might the next, is to witness a private communion between an unflinching, unrelenting woman and her rock 'n' roll-loving god. To watch her is to glimpse the kind of greatness that won't be contained on these small stages for long, and to affirm the power that something as simple as an electric guitar and a lone, searching voice can wield over a congregation of concertgoers. Screw transcendence—it's a revelation.

Andrea Swensson is City Pages' music editor.

Dorothea Tanning

By Leslie Adrienne Miller

Artist of the Year? How about Artist of the Century? Dorothea Tanning has my vote. At 101, she's just published her second volume of poems, Coming to That. The celebrated surrealist painter, whose work is represented in major international museum collections, has also designed costumes for Balanchine's ballets, worked in soft sculpture and printmaking, and authored several memoirs and a novel. Her 30-year marriage to Dadaist artist Max Ernst probably counts as significant artistic work as well. Self-described as "the oldest living emerging poet," Tanning published her first book of poems, Table of Content, at the age of 93.

Though most will remember Tanning the painter, someone who rubbed shoulders with Picasso, Orson Welles, Truman Capote, André Breton, and Joseph Cornell, readers should be prepared to find her poems memorable too. Lucid, funny, wise, full of sentiment without being sentimental, and highly visual without being arty, Coming to That is grounded in wistful views of her own advancing age, but Tanning also keeps her keen intellect and merry wit trained on the hazards that contemporary commercial culture present to the artistic imagination. In a Salon interview she advises, "Keep your eye on your inner world and keep away from ads and idiots and movie stars, except when you need amusement," advice echoed in her poem "All Hallows Eve": "don't take faucets for fountainheads." In "Artspeak" the poet muses that, "If Art would only talk it would, at last reveal/itself for what it is, what we all burn to know," but finally, Art speaks in a code, the alphabet, and requires human imagination to make something of it.

In poem after poem, Tanning sets us up for what appear to be straightforward narratives of daily life—a man running on a beach who stops for water, a woman taking a walk—but once the reader settles into the relative comfort of a familiar scene, Tanning shifts by increments into the realm of the surreal. The runner's dog ends up being interviewed by reporters. The woman taking a walk discovers the joys of her own personal "Kook" in "Interval With Kook."

If you've become disenchanted with all the difficulties, the do's and don'ts, isms and ists of contemporary American poetry, this little gem of a book is for you. You could give it to your hip grandmother or your punked-out teenager, and both should find much to admire. A Peruvian penis, "a crumb tattoo on midnight's/naked back," or the "beautiful paralytics" of trees in an urban park—Tanning's images are delivered with "my bedrock/insouciance," and a childlike plainness that belies the poems' open-eyed awareness of the inevitable.

Leslie Adrienne Miller ( is the author of six collections of poems, including Y, forthcoming from Graywolf Press in 2012, and The Resurrection Trade. She teaches at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul.

Toni Pierce-Sands and Uri Sands

By Linda Shapiro
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