A sneak peek of a showcase of state's talented female artists

  • Article by: BARBARA FLANAGAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 5, 2008 - 10:33 PM

There may be more than seven famous women artists who worked in Minnesota, but Julie L’Enfant is sticking with the seven for a new book.

The Flanagan Memo: Re: Reporting things about people and houses and Chanel's "forevers-ville'' handbag.

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There may be more than seven famous women artists who worked in Minnesota, but Julie L'Enfant is sticking with the seven for a new book.

How I came to know this before publication is that L'Enfant engaged me in conversation about some of the artists -- the ones I knew, including the late Frances Cranmer Greenman.

Greenman was a superb portraitist and a jolly social being. I interviewed her at the time that she had completed portraits of some doctors at the Mayo Clinic. She also did governors of Minnesota; famous actresses such as Mary Pickford and Delores Del Rio; well-known local society types and their children and, of all people, me.

My picture was a sketch in oil. She did it in 1961, actually insisting on doing it after our interview. Since those of us who worked for the paper were not allowed to accept such fripperies, I protested. She persisted, and I admit now that I was stuck with it.

The picture was shown last year in St. Paul with paintings by some of the other female artists. That show inspired Patricia McDonald.

McDonald heads Afton Press. Her plan is to do several books about local art and artists. The first will be L'Enfant's.

The other six women in the book include sculptor Evelyn Raymond, painter Jo Lutz Rollins, whom I also knew and interviewed, and Clara Mairs, another great St. Paul painter. I knew her favorite gentleman friend, artist Clem Haupers. (For the record, I also own a sketch by Haupers and a painting by Mairs.)

L'Enfant, a Ph.D. and chairwoman of liberal arts at the College of Visual Arts in St. Paul, expects her book to be published by next autumn.

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The Wall Street Journal, in an item last month about actress Shirley MacLaine's TV role as Gabrielle (Coco) Chanel, the world-famous designer, said this about Chanel's quilted pocketbook: "Every girl still needs one, whether she knows it or not.''

Hear, hear!

Every day from September until May, I carry a Chanel quilted "pocketbook'' or purse or handbag or whatever you want to call it. It is a real one from France and an old one, but it wears.

Believe it or not, about 45 years ago, I was in Paris on assignment and I went to the Chanel boutique wondering whether there was anything affordable for me. That Chanel bag was. It cost about -- are you sitting down -- $58. I thought I had splurged, but I figured I could save elsewhere.

That black purse with its nifty chain handle and its red lining continues to look good. So does the navy-blue twin that was a gift from my husband about 10 years later.

So I am cheered when a member of the new gang of hotties picks the bag as among her favorite items of clothing. In the New York Times recently, actress Mary-Kate Olsen said, "I wouldn't change a thing about this bag. I think that's why it's a true classic.''

Again, hear, hear!

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Before we get to restaurant trivia, here is a question:

Why is the city allowing a developer to knock down the building where the restaurant Hell's Kitchen has been doing so nicely?

It is a part of the historic brick building on S. 10th Street and Marquette Avenue that was built by the Handicraft Guild around the turn of the last century. It is a charming building that used to house artists and advertising people and others, and it should stand forever.

Happily, Hell's Kitchen is moving into the former Rossi's restaurant on S. 9th Street, and it will, as always, draw crowds.

But don't ignore the old building. The plan, apparently, is to build an enormous condo at 10th Street and Nicollet that we do not need, at least not right there. Let's hope somebody is looking into it.

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As for restaurants we love, how about the 5-8 Club Tavern & Grill, home of the Juicy Lucy sandwich.

The Grill at 5800 Cedar Av. S. opened 80 years ago as a speakeasy. It started serving its version of the cheese-filled burger a bit later, and the rest is history. The Club 5-8 plans to celebrate until Dec. 15.

There will be a Juicy Lucy-eating contest this month, and on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, there will be free burgers for all vets.

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Norman Larson, a retired professor at the University of St. Thomas and before that a fellow toiler on the old Minneapolis Tribune, sent along an explanation I've never heard.

He said, "My uncle, the late P.J. (Jack) Dusenka, is the original Jax.

"The story is that when he was having a sign made for his new restaurant on University Avenue NE., he'd save money by having fewer letters in it -- thus, Jax rather than Jacks.''

Dusenka sold it to the Kozlak family and now they are celebrating their 75th year.

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The 40th season of VocalEssence, Philip Brunelle's amazing group of singers, began last month, and I missed it. Fortunately, the tap dancers didn't.

Ah, yes, Philip thinks kindly of tap dancers, and as a longtime tap dancer, I am happy. Some performed at the 40th opening, which also featured songs from Vern Sutton and Maria Jette and dance by James Sewell, plus, some funnin' around by Garrison Keillor, an old friend and colleague of Brunelle's.

The show continues over the winter with a spectacular finale on May 3 when for the first time, seven professional and community choirs of Minnesota will join the VocalEssence chorus to sing the world premiere of a work composed by Dominick Argento, of course. It is going to be a very good year. Bravo!

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Finally, the Turnblad Mansion, now the American Swedish Institute, is 100 years old.

On Oct. 11, from 1 to 4 p.m., there will be an open house and a program where we can all sing "Happy Birthday" to the house. In Swedish or English. You get to choose.

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