Author Archives: Steven Lang

About Steven Lang


The Twelve Songs of Christmas, 2014 Edition

Christmas is of course (or at least should be) a state of mind more than a festival or a religious holiday or a societally-enforced shopping spree. I like to spend about three weeks sunk deep into the funk of the thing, whatever it is, call it yuletide or jul or nog or clog. Whatever it is, I hope this list brings you a little bit of it. Here goes…

1. Kicking this off with the immortal Charles Brown — “Please Come Home for Christmas.”

2. This is one I’d never heard before I started putting this list together. Etta James, “This Time of Year (When Christmas is Near). A little wistful for a list like this, but sometimes you need to take a moment.

3. Okay, bringing it up just a little bit from the last one. I’ve always loved Chris Rea’s voice. He is unquestionably yet another great British vocalist, but I was surprised to learn he has sold over 30 million albums.

4. Tip of the hat to my dad, his all-time favorite, Mahalia Jackson:

5. Nothing against Minnesota’s own band by this same name, but here’s the British rockabilly band The Jets with the Fifth Song of Christmas, “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.”

6. The immortal Nick Lowe, with “Christmas at the Airport.” (Highly recommend his Christmas record, “Quality Street.”)

7. I’m not the hugest Elton John fan, but the bass line on this song is great, and he really was in prime in this video.

8. And now for something completely different. Southern Rock and Christmas songs kind of go together like whiskey and yoga, but I was taken by surprise with this one. Has a nice groove and you can’t go too wrong with Charlie Daniels singing about Santa Claus.

9. Here’s something a little less rough-hewn, but still guitar oriented. B.B. King’s awesome tone is in full force on this one.

10. You probably thought I was going to leave Minneapolis’ The Jets off this list, but this song is worth it just for the 80s perfection of the video itself.

11. Conner Oberst can get  under your skin, but I’ve always been a reluctant fan. I think his nasal drone fits this song perfectly.

12. It’s hard to just stop at 12, but if you’re going to stop, there is no one better to end with than James Brown. And “The Christmas Song” is (everybody knows) the greatest Christmas song of all time. Made most famous by Nat King Cole, but I like this version, too.

Blind Contour (Monster Drawing Rally)

Last night was the annual Monster Drawing Rally benefit for Midway Contemporary Art. I was happy to participate again this year. Since I’ve been exploring the realm of photography more and more in my work, this time around I chose to perform one of the exercises I do when I really want to study a great photo: making a blind contour drawing.

I only had an hour, so I decided to focus on just one photographer whose work is definitely worth detailed study, namely Alec Soth. I picked four images from his book, Niagara, and spent 10-15 minutes on each. While wearing a pair of ski goggles with tape over the right eye to keep me from cheating (see the drawing someone did of me*), I traced the contours of the image until I felt I had a complete picture. The results are always strange, and I felt rushed during the event, so these aren’t necessarily the best examples. But in my opinion there is no deeper way to study a photograph than to make a blind contour drawing of it. Try it. I guarantee that even if you’ve looked at a particular photo 100 times, new insights will suddenly appear and at the very least you’ll never see that picture the same way again.

After “Impala“ _IMG6064

After “Melissa” (one of my all-time favorite photos) _IMG6061

After “Comfort Inn“ _IMG6062

After “Rebecca” (another favorite)_IMG6060

(My apologies for the poor-quality photos. I had to snap these at the event before giving them away to be sold.)

*Here is the drawing another artist did of me while I was working. I can’t make out the name. She just quietly handed it to me. I was in the middle of one of the drawings, so I didn’t get  a change to catch her name. Anybody know who this is?


Update: I believe the artist is Claire Strautmanis.

Darkroom Interviews at TuckUnder Gallery


“Darkroom Interviews” was a night of intimate audio interviews and photo portraits conducted in the Leaky Sink Gallery at TuckUnder Projects. On Thursday, July 31 from 6-9 p.m., participants entered the Dark Room for a two-to-ten-minute Q & A and one (or more) sudden flash photo portraits. Topics ranged from free range eggs, to nuclear power, to the moon, stars, and beyond. The interviews and portraits are compiled and presented here.


1. David Biljan



2. Colleen MacDonald



3. Justine Di Fiore



4. Zoe Shulman



5. Nick Vlcek



6. Judy Gonzalez and Linda Seebauer Hansen



7. Peter Morales



8. Savita Bettaligo



9. Samuel Bjorgum



10. Masami Kawazato



11. Rochelle Woldorsky



12. Carolina Borja



13. Carolyn Payne



14. Anne Birch



15. Clarence Reel



16. Jessica Sigafoos



17. JoAnn Blohowiak and Morgan Zehner (not shown) and Kasadora



18. Ben Kreilkamp



19. Christi Furnas



20. Matthew Allen



21. Jenny Jenkins



22. Caitlin Cook-Isaacson