Painted Drawings: Nora Venturelli's "Vice Versa" at WSG Gallery


Vice Versa 43 (excerpt) by Nora Venturelli

Nora Venturelli has maintained a significant interest in figure drawing and painting throughout her career, and specialized in studying the human form in college. Her work addresses themes of movement, shadow, and the body in its relation to interior thought processes. These concerns are evident in her most recent work on display at WSG Gallery in an exhibit titled Vice Versa, which runs through June 10. In addition to her series on the human figure, Venturelli has worked with a number of other subjects, including landscapes and still life.

Venturelli was born in Rosario, Argentina, and emigrated to California in 1968 after graduating high school. Today, she teaches both drawing and painting at Eastern Michigan University and University of Michigan STAMPS School of Art & Design, and lives in both the United States and Argentina. She is active in the arts community, showing her work locally and internationally.


Everyday Objects: "Text/Image" at Ann Arbor Art Center


Underdog by Christopher Schneider

We live in a hyper-literate age of endless imagery and short attention spans.

We seldom pause -- and really, when do we have time? -- to consider the process by which we create meaning for ourselves from the constant interaction of words and pictures in books, magazines, on television and the web, on our phones.

In Text/Image now on view until June 3 in Ann Arbor Art Center’s Gallery 117, Detroit-based artist/curator Jack O. Summers has thoughtfully collected for our consideration some artworks that refer to everyday objects whose meanings “are enhanced or subverted by the multi-dimensional interplay of text and images.” The exhibit concentrates on still imagery, leaving aside the more kinetic treatments of text and image interaction such as video and animation.


Motion Lights: UMMA's "Moving Image: Performance"


Universal Everything, Presence 4; 2013, two-channel video, stereo sound; running time 2 minutes; edition 1/6. Courtesy of Borusan Contemporary.

The art of motion is currently on display in the University of Michigan Museum of Art’s spirited Moving Images: Performance.

The second of UMMA's three presentations drawn from Istanbul, Turkey's Borusan Contemporary museum, Moving Images: Performance illustrates the subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) relationship of performance and moving-image media that’s been fostered by the advent of the portable video camera.

The exhibit complements the concurrent UMMA installation Rafael Lozano-Hemmer: Wavefunction, Subsculpture 9, which is a subject we’ll get to in a forthcoming review. But for the time being, the four short videos in this exhibit stand as prime examples of experimental filmmaking.


Rooted in the Community: Westside Art Hop


Some Art Hop highlights, from the top left: handwoven art by Carol Furtado, Lisa L's Grixdolls, paintings by Sophie Grillet, glass work by Larry Nisson, and paintings by Barb Anderson.

What is the Westside Art Hop? Is it an art fair? A historic home tour? A block party?

Well, it’s all of those things plus a nice stroll, and it’s scheduled for Saturday, May 13, from 10 am to 5 pm on the streets and in the homes, garages, porches, and artists’ studios of Ann Arbor’s historic Old West Side.

The district’s resident artists, friends, and neighbors will be showing off -- and offering for sale -- a broad array of paintings, ceramics, blown glass, photography, and assorted fine crafts. On hand to greet visitors and converse will be the artists themselves. Organizers of the free event describe Art Hop as “artists supporting artists … rooted in the local community. We present high-quality art and hand-made crafts for sale to the public in a festive atmosphere.”


Revival: “Whipstitch: The State of Contemporary Textiles" at Ann Arbor Art Center


“Exploding Stars Quilt," Libs Elliott / "View III," Anna Von Mertens.

The Ann Arbor Art Center’s “Whipstitch: The State of Contemporary Textiles” does the rather nifty trick of reimagining yesterday’s art today through a conceptualization of what may be the art of tomorrow.

Granted, this notion may sound convoluted, but it’s really quite simple: Fiber, like architecture, can reasonably vie as the oldest of all arts. The reason for this is quite apparent with little consideration.

Yet the art of fiber (like another such ancient art, ceramics) has been essentially aesthetically dormant for millenniums -- and this is also for the same reason already considered. For as a practical artisan regard, fiber’s use has been largely defined rigidly as either being functional or fashionable with little thought outside of this.


Michelle Hegyi's superb sense of spatial balance on display at the WSG


“Wild Forest No. 1,” pigment on paper.

Illustrating the principle that an artful passion can arise from the coolest of mediums, Michelle Hegyi’s “Wild Forest” manages to encapsulate both passion and discipline in a further consolidation of aesthetic strategy.

This is the fifth time I’ve caught Hegyi’s art in her WSG context. There was a streak of exhibits—June 2006’s “The shape of the Sky”; August 2008’s “Gardens of Love and Fire”; August 2010’s “Do You Remember the Shape of Trees…”; and November 2012’s “How the Day Changes with the Light”—where it was possible to chart Hegyi’s growth transitioning from old school printmaking to digital printmaking.

It’s been a privilege to see her work advancing technologically even as she consolidated her print expertise. It’s equally good to note that she’s still as restless in her study as she is in her craft.

In this instance—and working happily in the juncture between abstraction and representation—Hegyi continues to craft a hybrid computer-based painting where her abstraction is comingled with her inspiration.


Two U-M exhibitions examine the battle for equality on campus

Constructing Gender: The Origins of Michigan's Union and League, The Student Experience: Flappers, Mappers, and The Fight for Equality on Campus

A fine example of "Young American Womanhood" from the "Constructing Gender: The Origins of Michigan's Union and League" exhibition.

Two local art exhibits highlight equality on University of Michigan’s campus: one focuses on two particular campus buildings while the other looks at the students and campus as a whole.

"Constructing Gender: The Origins of Michigan's Union and League" at UMMA

You’ve driven by them dozens of times: the Michigan Union and the Michigan League. You know that inside these iconic campus buildings are study rooms, eateries, visitor suites. But did you know they were originally envisioned as being separate facilities for male and female students?

The UMMA exhibit “Constructing Gender: The Origins of Michigan’s Union and League” highlights the fascinating -- and very gendered -- beginnings of these structures. Early planners intended the entire university to be gender segregated. President Marion Burton said in 1921, “[M]en’s interests will center south and west of campus … while new buildings for women will go to the north of campus” and these buildings were no exception. The Union (opened in in 1919) was intended for men while the League (opened in 1929) was to be the domain of women. To raise funds for the buildings, fundraisers pitched the League as “The House That Jill Would Build” while the Union used the slogan, “What 2,000 Michigan men go after they are certain to get.”


Supple Wrists: Vintage Flipper World, aka The Ann Arbor Pinball Museum, preps for its quarterly showcase

Ann Arbor Pinball Museum, Vintage Flipper World

Not old dolphins but rather rows and rows of pinball machines populate Vintage Flipper World. Photo by Jason Buchanan.

Strolling the aisles at Vintage Flipper World, aka The Ann Arbor Pinball Museum, is like talking a walk in time. As cascades of colorful flashing lights fire up your synapses, the frantic medley of familiar themes, playful taunts, and ringing bells transport you to a place where all that matters is keeping that shiny metal ball from slipping between your flippers.

Turn left, and perhaps you'll find yourself standing in front of a vintage game from the 1950s. Or round the corner and prepare to do battle with the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man on Stern's luminous new "Ghostbusters" machine.

Stick around long enough, and eventually you'll cross paths with Clay Harrell, the gruff yet not-unapproachable proprietor of this wedge-head wonderland.

It was a chilly Wednesday night in March when Harrell welcomed me into Vintage Flipper World to talk about his passion for pinball and the fast-approaching Michigan Pinball Showcase the first weekend of May. From Friday May 5 through Sunday, May 7, pinball fanatics from across the country and around the world will descend on this secluded gamer's paradise to test their skills on over 350 of the best fully functioning machines around.


Carving Out a Niche: Marian Short's "Cakeasaurus: Scenes From a Picture Book"


Quimby Law Awake is now a part of the Ann Arbor District Library's borrowable prints collection.

Cakeasaurus, the gleefully cake-thieving, sweet-sneaking monster brainchild of Ann Arbor printmaker/storyteller Marian Short, will be lurking on the walls and in the halls of the Taubman Health Center's North Lobby from now until June 11, 2017. Cakeasaurus: Scenes From a Picture Book is curated by Gifts of Art, a program designed to bring art and music to patients, visitors and staff in the University of Michigan Health System.

Amusingly paired with this series of Cakeasaurus prints are the sweet yet dangerous-looking glass confections of Janet Kelman. A combination of pate de verre, slumped and sheet glass, the sugary looking cupcakes and gateaux look delicious, but engender feelings of both attraction and dismay at the thought of biting into one of these glossy but inedible desserts. Cakeasaurus beware!

The (mostly) wood block prints in Cakeasaurus: Scenes From a Picture Book describe the exploits of the cake-stealing monster through its 8-year development from inception into what Short hopes will soon become a children’s book. They track the artist’s process as she refines, rethinks, and develops the story visually and narratively. Short is generous and humorous in her explanations of her creative process and thoughtfully provides several large explanatory prints, visually satisfying in their own right, to accompany the smaller artworks.


Stimulation and Possibility: Dick Siegel's "Digital Manipulations" at Kerrytown Concert House


The singularity is near: We digitally combined Dick Siegel and his digital artwork Further.

Local award-winning singer-songwriter Dick Siegel’s return to the visual arts has been a long time in coming. But having found his chosen medium, his return is both assured and insightful.

In a recent interview at the Kerrytown Concert House, Siegel said both the visual arts and music were passions that run through his family experience. But as his personal interest was in music -- and a reasonable one at that considering his award as Best New Folk Artist at the 1991 Kerrville Folk Festival and multiple Detroit Art Awards -- it was only until the turn of the millennium when working with a computer and scanner that his visual arts creativity began to take hold.

As Siegel says in his artist statement for this exhibit, “Through digital manipulation of color, shape, and image I enter a world of enormous visual stimulation and possibility. In this realm I discover things to construct that move me, amuse me, and amaze me. I then work to bring them into physical reality with their vividness and vitality intact."