Ann Arbor District Library 2016 Staff Picks: Books, Movies, Music & More

Ann Arbor District Library 2016 Staff Picks

We don't just lend media; we indulge in it, too!

The Gregorian calendar rules most of the world, but time is a continuum. That's why our 2016 Ann Arbor District Library staff picks for books, music, film, and more include items that go back as far as 1865. Our list is comprised of media (and a few other things) that made an impact on us in 2016, no matter when the material came out.

Libraries have always acted as curation stations, helping sort through the vast amount of media released every year. On our website, we have more than 50 staff-curated lists of recommendations, but we don't just advocate for things digitally. We share our "picks" in person every time you step into the library. Books with prominent positions in our spaces, whether facing forward or on shelf tops, are chosen by staff members because they want you to pick up those pages.

Consider the massive post below featuring 55 books, 25 films and TV shows, and 20 albums -- plus a few odds and ends -- as a continuation of those curated lists, those forward-facing books, and the Ann Arbor District Library’s ongoing mission to bring high-quality art, entertainment, and information into your lives.

So, ready your library cards: Most of the recommendations below are in our collection; just click on the {AADL} link at the end of each pick to be taken to the item's page on our website.

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A Deep Welles of Ideas: “It’s Still Terrific: Citizen Kane at 75”


Citizen

A stand-up Citizen

Get over it: Citizen Kane is smarter than you. It’s smarter than any and all of us—or even its own creator, for that matter.

It’s smarter, because—if as has sometimes been said—the making of any movie is a miracle, then Citizen Kane is more than a miracle. It’s the Mona Lisa of film-making: inscrutable, ineffable, and unfathomable to whomever views it.

It’s also not a bad effort for a 25-year-old first time-out-of-the-chute theatrical amateur who by his own admission in the University of Michigan Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library’s It’s Still Terrific: Citizen Kane at 75 tells us that he had no real idea of what he was doing.

Indeed, as this exhibit at the U-M Hatcher Graduate Library Audubon Room illustrates through both sight and sound, it’s very likely the film is superior because enfant terrible Orson Welles didn’t know what he was doing. Which, of course, only makes the film that much more impressive.

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Prêt-à-Potter: Avant Garden — Matthaei Botanical Gardens 2016


Get ready to shop deep local at craft fairs the weekend of December 9–11.

“Succulent Dress” (different species of Echeveria, Sedum, Sempervivens, and Senico) and “Moss Suit” (Green Mountain Moss, Ginkgo Leaves, Birch Bark, Spanish Moss, Air Plant).

With the coldest temperatures of the year forecast for this week, you’ve surely noticed that winter has finally arrived in Ann Arbor.

If you’re not quite ready to accept the frigid temps or crunchy snow underfoot and are still in the denial about the transition to winter (which, by the way, officially arrives on Wednesday at 5:44 am EST), treat yourself to a visit to Matthaei Botanical Gardens for a respite in the lovely Conservatory, which is currently hosting the Avant Garden: Weaving Fashion and Nature Together exhibition. (Fun fact! Alden Dow designed the Conservatory in 1964, and he also designed the original part of the Downtown Library building at 343 S. Fifth Avenue.)

Avant Garden is a whimsical convergence of planting design and fashion design in the form of seven “fantasy outfits.” I asked Bob Grese, Professor of Landscape Architecture and Director of the Matthaei Botanical Gardens & Nichols Arboretum, about the exhibit and the use of plants in unexpected ways. He said, “The exhibit is a playful look at plants as a direct material for the fashion industry, with fantasy use of plants for dresses, vests, and suitcoats. Beyond the artistic use of plants in the exhibit, the real message is that we rely on plants for a variety of things in clothing—fibers, dyes, and representation on fabric patterns.” (Full disclosure: Grese was one of my professors in the Landscape Architecture program at U-M’s School of Natural Resources and Environment)

Part of the joy in this exhibit is wandering through the Conservatory to find each of the creations. The Conservatory is separated into three “Houses,” each replicating a different climate: Tropical, Temperate, and Desert. The dresses are thoughtfully placed within each of their respective garden spaces and the feeling of discovery and exploration is part of the exhibit experience. The shades of green and variety of textures in each of the plant selections bring richness to each design. Each dress has a different style, and all are charming and elegant. I particularly enjoyed the bromeliad dress, which comes complete with a fascinator hat.

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Animal Magic: Donald Hall's "Eating the Pig"


Donald Hall

Donald Hall's poetry is the apple of our eye.

If you’re a vegetarian, Donald Hall’s poem “Eating the Pig” might make your stomach churn.

But if you’re a meat eater and are disgusted by Hall’s imagery -- or the pictures in the Eating the Pig: A Dinner Party in Poetry, Photography & Painting exhibit, on display at the Ann Arbor District Library, that document the evening described in the poem -- you need to get in touch with where your animal-based protein comes from and the often brutal ways it gets to your plate.

(Read the "Eating the Pig" poem here or listen to Hall read it here.)

In 1975, Hall left his teaching job at University of Michigan and bought his maternal great-grandfather's farm in New Hampshire, where he spent many summers as a child. With so much of his life spent in a rural area, the 2006 Poet Laureate is deeply in tune with nature and the creatures that populate it. His poems show a clear-eyed vision of how real life is always an ongoing mix of beauty and struggle, inextricably linked and forever a source of consternation and inspiration. Hall recognizes that a gorgeous horse can become a broken down beast of burden; that a majestic but aging rooster’s final morning crow is lost to the wind before his head is chopped off; and that a cute little suckling pig can also be a source of human sustenance.

Hall has written many poems that feature animals -- and no, they aren’t all about eating them. Below is a selection of those poems, which display Hall’s reverence for animals and the many things they provide for humanity. These poems also give additional context to “Eating the Pig,” which ties a single October 1974 Ann Arbor evening spent carving and devouring an animal to a historic ritual of life and death that stretches back to the Stone Age when flint cutting tools first appeared.

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Interview: Photographer Michelle Massey/Omeeomi, UMMA/Tiny Expo Award Winner


Michelle Massey/Omeeomi

Omeeomi, we have a winner!

Tiny Expo has become an annual tradition for the Washtenaw-area arts and crafts community, and the juried artists who exhibit their works often leave the downtown Ann Arbor District Library brimming with dinero from all the sales.

But this year there was a chance to take home some bonus bucks.

For this year’s event, which was held December 10, the Tiny Expo/UMMA Store Vendor Contest allowed patrons to cast votes for their favorite artists, with the prizes being:
-- 3rd place: $20 gift card to the UMMA store
-- 2nd place: $30 gift card to the UMMA store
-- 1st place: Select products by the winning artist will be featured and available for sale at the UMMA museum store for 6 months.

The top 3 vote-getters were then vetted by Nettie Tiso, manager of the UMMA store, who chose which artist would get to sell his or her works at the museum.

And this year’s winner is ... [drumroll] ... [really long drumroll] ... [now the drummer is doing a jazz solo, so this may take a while] ... [security breaks the drumsticks and escorts percussionist out of the building] ...

Michelle Massey, a Ypsilanti-based photographer who calls her company Omeeomi.

We talked to Massey about her art and photography in the interview below:

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Preview: Winter Art Tour


Get ready to shop deep local at craft fairs the weekend of December 9–11.

Get ready to shop deep local at craft fairs the weekend of December 9–11.

Those looking for wonderful handmade gifts in Washtenaw County are in luck this December! Last year Pulp focused on four events in the county, but in 2016 there's a lot more going on. In fact, a local group has created an official Winter Art Tour that takes you to nine stops at craft fairs and art studios across Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti the weekend of December 9-11. There's even a passport you can get stamped when you visit one of the tour's locations, and if you hit up at least four spots, you have a chance to win cool handcrafted prizes. See the WAT website for all the details on the Winter Art Tour’s passport and prizes.

The biggest events of the weekend-long handmade shopping extravaganza are the two indie craft fairs: Tiny Expo in Ann Arbor and DIYpsi in Ypsilanti.

Tiny Expo takes place at the downtown Ann Arbor District Library and is an annual holiday fair that features 45 artists and crafters selling their wares in a festive library space. This one-day celebration (December 10, 11 am-5:30 pm) will also have several make-n-takes, including screen printing, button making, and tiny polymer clay snow globes.

The Riverside Arts Center in Ypsilanti is home to DIYpsi, which will host 90 vendors of the best in handmade from the Midwest. It’s a chance to enjoy handcrafted food and drinks while you get your shop on at this super-fun two-day show. (December 10, 11 am-6 pm; December 11, 12-6 pm)

Plan your weekend accordingly and hit up both events!

In contrast, if you’re looking for cozy spaces with unique art by local artisans, the rest of the stops on the Winter Art Tour have you covered.

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Review: UMMA's "Europe on Paper: The Ernst Pulgram and Frances McSparran Collection"


Emil

Emil Nolde, Actress, 1912, watercolor on brown wove medium-weight paper. University of Michigan Museum of Art, Gift of the Ernst Pulgram and Frances McSparran Collection, 2007/2.102 / Egon Schiele, Standing Female Nude–Back, first quarter of 20th century, charcoal and pen on paper. University of Michigan Museum of Art, Gift of the Ernst Pulgram and Frances McSparran Collection, 2007/2.99

Europe on Paper at the University of Michigan Museum of Art certainly delivers everything it says in its title. But as is often the case at the UMMA, there’s a lot more to this exhibit than meets the eye.

For the display is a handful of seriously handsome artworks on paper. And as Lehti Mairike Keelmann, UMMA Assistant Curator of Western Art says in her introduction to the exhibit:

[T]he 47 prints, drawings, and watercolors comprising the Ernst Pulgram and Francis McSparran Collection provide a unique perspective on a momentous change in European history.

The works were made between the 18th and mid-20th century,” says Keelmann, “as the continent industrialized and new modes of transportation began to crisscross the countryside, connecting growing cities. Geopolitical tensions arose as nations attempted to bolster their identities on the world stage, culminating in the violence and turmoil of the two world wars.

And as if these geopolitical upheavals weren’t dramatic enough, there was pretty good art being made all over the place, too. That’s where Pulgram and McSparran come into play. A young and adventurous couple as they had to be, they consistently evaluated and scooped up some of the finest personalized art of this explosive period through their lifetimes.

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PowerArt! Profile: David Zinn


David Zinn at Pop-X.

David Zinn at Pop-X.

David Zinn's art is all over Ann Arbor, but you may not know it.

In addition to two PowerArt boxes recently installed at Main and William (PenPals) and at Liberty and First Ave (Selfie Monster) as part of the PowerArt Project, the Ann Arbor native is also responsible for the witty trompe l'oeil rendition of Singin' in the Rain which can be found on Fifth Avenue across from the Ann Arbor Public Library's downtown branch. And recently he was one of the artists represented at Ann Arbor Art Center's Pop-X Festival.

Two PowerArt boxes by David Zinn.

PowerArt! by David Zinn. PenPals at William and Main St. (left), Selfie Monster at Liberty and First, Ann Arbor.

David Zinn is best known, though, as a master of comic ephemerality. He creates improvised temporary street art entirely from chalk, charcoal and found objects. His works feature fanciful creatures that pop into and out of our dimension, visitors from his wild imagination. He likes "walking around seeing places where art wants to be and putting it there."

Zinn's improbable career as a street artist began about 14 years ago as an escape from the tedium of his job as a graphic designer:

"The first day I did this, I had a really important job that I had to finish in two days, and I should have been sitting in front of my computer doing this very important job and doing all the very important things I was supposed to do. It was completely childish and irresponsible to go outside, but it was a beautiful day. The sun was out, it was 76 degrees and that does not happen here every day. And it made sitting in front of a computer seem kind of irrational."

Zinn's temporary artworks are relentlessly cheerful and entertaining. Sluggo, an amorphous blob with eyes on stalks and Philomena, a pig with wings, make frequent appearances in his temporary artworks along with a wide array of tiny monsters, valiant mice, elves and some creatures that are frankly, impossible to categorize. They bubble up out of his subconscious and dissipate just as quickly.

Zinn spends quite a bit of creative energy in subverting the status of his works as permanent art objects. He is not interested in showing his work in galleries, or in treating them as objects to venerate as high art. He values spontaneity and surprise above all.

"If it isn't going to be destroyed there's a lot I should be worrying about right now-- whether it’s good enough, whether it's serious enough. II feel bad for painters who paint conventionally on canvas, because when you finish a canvas, no matter whether you sell it, give it away or keep it in your attic, these are all things that you now have to do...but if you can't take it home, or somebody's going to eat it, or it's going to get rained on anyway, then you're free to just do what's going to make you happy now. And if you like it you can take a picture."

Lazy Leaf Raker (Sluggo) (left), Singing in the Rain at Fifth Avenue, Downtown Ann Arbor (right).

Lazy Leaf Raker (Sluggo) (left), Singing in the Rain at Fifth Avenue, Downtown Ann Arbor (right).

And that's exactly what David Zinn has done. He recently published a thoroughly entertaining book of his favorite temporary chalk artworks entitled Temporary Preserves. It includes not only pictures of his outdoor creations, but also photos of many of his smaller efforts made on the tables of restaurants in Ann Arbor during Michigan's cold winter months.

"The rationale for the book is that I went out on the sidewalk to get away from the computer and it was an increasingly sad irony to observe that now what I did to get away from the computer, people are sitting at the computer to look at."


K.A. Letts is an artist and art blogger. She has shown her work regionally and nationally and in 2015 won the Toledo Federation of Art Societies Purchase Award while participating in the TAAE95 Exhibit at the Toledo Museum of Art. You can find more of her work at RustbeltArts.com.


Take a walk and see the PowerArt! boxes up close and personal; a map of PowerArt! box locations is available to download. PowerArt is a partnership between the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority (AADDA) and the Ann Arbor Public Art Commission (AAPAC), The Arts Alliance is managing the selection and installation of artwork by local artists on power boxes throughout downtown Ann Arbor. You'll find more info about the project at the Arts Alliance website.

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Review: Unsettled: The Work of Edward Gorey


The Work of Edward Gorey

The list of Gorey's many pseudonyms open the exhibit. The Dracula set replica and the shadow of the Gorey Bat.

Edward Gorey: lover of cats, ballet, Victorian/Edwardian era aesthetics, fur coats, pen-and-ink drawings, the color black and bats. Becoming a fan of Gorey has come in/out of fashion many times over the years, but since his death in 2000 he has only grown in the public consciousness. If you don’t know Edward Gorey’s work you surely know of the legions of other artists who were inspired by his work. From Tim Burton to Lemony Snicket, and goth culture to steampunk Gorey’s influence is felt far and wide. And from Neil Gaiman to Emily the Strange, and Lenore all things, dark, atmospheric and vaguely historical likely started with a love of Edward Gorey. Gorey’s black and white aesthetic lends itself to tattoo work, and often seeing a Gorey inspired tattoo will be for some their first glimpse into his macabre and hypnotizing world view. Many people also discover Gorey from the many New Yorker covers he did, as well as the animated credits for PBS's Mystery!

Unsettled: The Work of Edward Gorey @ the Cranbrook Art Museum, in Bloomfield Hills, MI opened September 18, 2016 and will be on display through March 12, 2017. The show is a perfect primer for entering the pen-and-ink world of Gorey’s illustrations. Gorey was a prolific illustrator who started working in the 1950’s for Doubleday publishers in NYC as their in house illustrator. It was here he honed his craft and illustrated classics like Dracula by Bram Stoker, The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells, and Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Eliot. Later, he became known for illustrating most of children’s author, John Bellairs’s books, starting in the 1970s and continuing in the 90s.

The exhibit is a collection on loan to the museum from a local collector and it serves as an excellent overview and entree to the work of Edward Gorey. Newbies and devoted fans will both enjoy the variety of work on display and the opportunity to ponder and look closely at his detailed drawings. The size of the works and his simple yet complex use of black pen and ink begs to be more closely inspected.

The Work of Edward Gorey

One of Gorey's special boxed sets and The Fantod Pack tarot deck in the rear.

The majority of what is on display are the wide variety of books that Gorey illustrated for others as well as his own works such as: The Curious Sofa, The Beastly Baby The Sopping Thursday, and his most well known book The Gashlycrumb Tinies. Knowing that most of his original illustrations were the size that they were published makes his meticulous detail even more impressive.

The original prints, posters and ephemera are also a thrill to see. From the large framed poster print of the 1977 Broadway revival production of Dracula that he designed the sets for to the 3D replica of the stage set, that allows you to do your own version of the play, it’s a wonderful sampling. A bean bag filled Gorey bat with red rhinestone eyes, The Fantod Pack - Gorey’s version of a Tarot card as well as a few rare stuffed cats and pigs were also on display. The impossibly miniature and rare books on display are a joy to see - smaller than 2 inches in diameter with full, detailed illustrations.

Gorey’s humor is dark, clever and at times make you feel uncomfortable, but you may also find yourself smirking with knowing glee at the black humor and the dangerous places he fearlessly takes his audience.


Erin Helmrich is a librarian at the Ann Arbor District Library and an avid collector of Edward Gorey's books and more. She has three tattoos of Gorey's work - all black of course.

Unsettled: The Work of Edward Gorey is on display through March 12, 2017. Museum admission is $10 for adults and the exhibit is included in this fee. More information about the exhibit and the museum can be found here.

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Review: "Catie Newell: Overnight" at the University of Michigan Museum of Art


Catie

Untitled photographs from the Nightly series by Catie Newell [unframed color photograph] / Images © Catie Newell, courtesy of the University of Michigan Museum of Art.

I’ve always thought it was just me. That is, that my comfort with the night’s glimpse into the unknown was an element I alone enjoyed.

Little could I know that Catie Newell: Overnight at the University of Michigan Museum of Art’s Irving Stenn, Jr., Family Project Gallery would be such a vivid entry in the outsider’s world of artful darkness.

Atmospheric darkness is a rather difficult concept with which to fully come to terms. Simply said, there’s a seeming absence of something—through the presence of nothing.

Perhaps night light is the unacknowledged underbelly of the sublime - that exalted aesthetic quality distinct from manmade beauty. Which is to say, what we appreciate in nature is supposedly qualitatively different from the pleasure we receive from viewing art.

Think along the lines of standing aside Yosemite’s Half-Dome; overlooking Lake Superior at the Upper Peninsula’s Pictured Rocks Natural Lakeshore; or contemplating the dazzlingly azure beauty of Italy’s Amalfi coastline. All are indeed awe inspiring experiences.

But this yawning of nature’s infinity has always been a troublesome concept—or, at least, I’ve always thought it so. If only because there can also be no mistaking of the thrill to be found standing dead-center in the junction of New York City’s Broadway and Seventh Avenue at Times Square; or studying the overwhelming intricacy of Chartres cathedral; or, for that matter, walking the expansive panorama of St. Peter’s Square.

Yet all these glorious experiences—as magnificent as they may be—do not really hit the curious spot of simple night light. And Newell’s Overnight is as handsome an exploration of this singularity as one is bound to find.

It’s definitely been a long time coming for someone whose favorite backdrop encompasses the night’s perimeters.

An Assistant Professor of Architecture at the University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, Newell joined that faculty in 2009 as their Oberdick Fellow after receiving her Masters of Architecture from Rice University and a Bachelor of Science in architecture from Georgia Tech University.

Winner of the 2011 Architectural League Prize for Young Architects and Designers; the 2011 ArtPrize Best Use of Urban Space Juried Award; and the 2011 Architectural League Prize for Young Architects and Designers, Newell has exhibited at the 2012 Architecture Venice Biennale. And after attaining the Cynthia Hazen Polsky and Leon Polsky Rome Prize Fellow in Architecture for 2013-2014, she’s now a Fellow of the American Academy in Rome.

UMMA Director Joseph Rosa and Exhibit Manager Jane Dechants say in their introduction to the exhibit, “Newell’s fascination with light is also a fascination with darkness."

“Darkness and its surrogates—ambient light; residual light; shadows, haze, and other ‘interruptions’—give the environment what she calls its double-life in daytime. A landscape may be seen and known—familiar, predictable, trustworthy—but at night it succumbs to a darkness that, in her words, removes its walls, alters its spaces, and haunts—becoming risky, even dangerous, and ultimately alien.”

This nod to darkness—and the strategic absence of darkness—is the essential element of Newell’s installation and its spectacular accompanying untitled color photography.

Newell writes in her gallery statement, the “installation is attuned specifically to the gallery’s exposure to daylight and its transformation into night. During the day, natural illumination catches reflections on the aluminum wire, and provides the best light to view the 'Nightly' [color photographic] series.

“In the evening hours after sunset and for the duration of the show, the Museum will leave its exterior lights off, allowing the installation spotlights to draw out different lines of light on the aluminum [Overnight] and create the impossible architectural moment captured in the 'Nightly' series.”

Impossible might indeed be the right word here. Because these observations indirectly infer that what one sees of Overnight is only a portion of what one does not see—at least not directly.

The installation definitely is a nocturnal treat to observe overnight. Two chevrons of multi-strand aluminum wires shimmering as they hover from the gallery’s ceiling with a single spot light shining on each aggregation, Overnight is haunting in its suspension. Tiny LED lights at the bottom of selected strands give occasional bursts of light as one passes the UMMA. There’s a decidedly ghostly ambiance to the work.

Catie

Untitled photographs from the Nightly series by Catie Newell [unframed color photograph] / Images © Catie Newell, courtesy of the University of Michigan Museum of Art.

Yet perhaps it’s the photographs that are the most distinctive element of the exhibit. A series of 19 color photographs set in irregular groups of two, three, and four images around two walls of the Stenn Gallery, the 'Nightly' series is easily some of the most dramatic photography seen in Ann Arbor through this last year.

Each composition is really no more than a strategically placed spotlight that captures the mood of its surrounding landscape in an otherwise ordinary urban setting. The nocturnal iridescence of this light creates an otherworldly intimacy that dramatically dominates the photo’s milieu. As such, perhaps the most overwhelming effect of this masterly work is Newell’s keen sense of the psychological tension this imagery can have on its viewer.

If it’s a valid truism that profundity of art lies in simplicity, Newell has crafted some of the most insightful art we’re likely to see any time soon. Playing off the observation that absence can have as strong an attraction as presence, the simplicity of Newell’s Overnight installation and her 'Nightly' series is as visceral an experience as art can be.


John Carlos Cantú has written on our community's visual arts in a number of different periodicals.


University of Michigan Museum of Art: "Catie Newell: Overnight” will run through November 6, 2016. The UMMA is located at 525 S. State Street. The Museum is open Tuesday-Saturday 11 am - 5 pm; and Sunday 12–5 pm. For information, call 734-764-0395.

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