"Here and There": The voyeuristic art of Tracey Snelling


Tracey Snelling's art forces us to peak into worlds that might make us uncomfortable.

Upon entering the U-M Institute for the Humanities' gallery room that houses artist Tracey Snelling’s latest exhibition, lsa.umich.edu|Here and There, one is immersed in a life unfamiliar to some and unimaginable for others. Neon signs flash “drift” and “Lost City” to light up the darkened room while several tiny, connected rooms hang from one wall all bustling with sights and sounds to tempt the viewer to look closer and give in to their voyeuristic desires.

The rooms, each about the size of a shoe box, were completed during the Berlin, Germany- and Oakland, California-based Snelling’s recent residency at the University of Michigan’s Institute for the Humanities. While viewing the rooms from afar gives you an idea of how the entire piece moves as a whole, Snelling wants to get up close and explore the rooms. Upon closer inspection with the Bee Gee’s “Night Fever” as your soundtrack one begins to notice the details placed in each room to give them character; a shotgun leaning on a recliner, the Jack Daniels poster on a wall, High Fidelity playing on a screen in the record shop, or a pool cue leaning on a pool table in a bar.


The expanding light of British artist and Alternative Miss World founder Andrew Logan


The British artist, scene-maker, and Alternative Miss World founder Andrew Logan speaks March 9 at the Michigan Theater.

Artist Andrew Logan is probably best known as the founder, organizer, host, and hostess (he wears a costume split down the middle) of the Alternative Miss World, a "surreal art event for all-round family entertainment" he started 45 years ago in London.

Since then, he and a team of volunteers, including longtime partner Michael Davis, have staged a dozen more events for contestants of "any species, any size" competing in a dog-show-and-TV-beauty-pageant inspired dress-up party of daywear, swimwear, and eveningwear judged on "poise, personality, and originality." This longstanding celebration of transformation, imagination, and adult silliness is well-documented in the highly entertaining 2011 film The British Guide to Showing Off.

Some contestants -- many of whom are Logan's friends and family -- return year after year. Better known participants, serving as contestants or judges, have included film director Derek Jarman, artist Grayson Perry, and musician Brian Eno.

Logan is also a prolific visual artist who transforms metals, plaster, glass, and thrift-store finds into objects of "happiness and joy" in his U.K. studio with blue-collar dedication and eccentric flair. His works include large commissioned monuments, portraits of close friends, and wearable sculptures we might call jewelry. In the 1990s, he set up a small permanent display of his work in a remote part of Wales.

On Thursday, March 9, Logan will speak on his artistic adventure, the Alternative Miss World, and his "little museum" at the Michigan Theater as part of the Penny Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series.


“The Aesthetic Movement in America: Artists of the Photo-Secession” at UMMA


The Steerage by Alfred Stieglitz, 1907, photogravure.

The Photo-Secession movement is one of those rare historic instances where radicalism won -- and still wins today.

As seen in “The Aesthetic Movement in America: Artists of the Photo-Secession” at the University of Michigan Museum of Art, this turn-of-the-20th-century American creation became “the first truly international photography movement,” as noted in the gallery statement by UMMA Curator Emerita Carole McNamara. She also wrote that the movement's practitioners -- among them ringleader Alfred Stieglitz as well as Alvin Langdon Coburn, Gertrude Käsebier, Edward Steichen, Paul Strand, and Clarence White -- “sought to position photography as a legitimate aesthetic artform.”


Subtle Switches: "Nancy Feldkamp, Watercolors” at Kerrytown Concert House


Nancy Feldkamp's Simplicity House, mixed media. Photo by Patrick Young.

Sometimes what you see in an artist's work isn’t nearly as important as what you don’t see. Nancy Feldkamp’s Watercolors at the Kerrytown Concert House shows the Chelsea resident's transformation from a geometrically focused painter to one who uses subtle inferences to give shape to her renderings.

As ever, her pastoral themes remain, as Feldkamp modestly says in her KCH gallery statement: “My work honors the beauty of farm life and its interaction with nature in intuitive ways. The shapes and lines suggest distant farmsteads as they nestle together in their actual settings and this stirs my responses.”

Quite right, yet looking at Feldkamp’s work in this light only tells half the story in this show. While nature and rural settings still play a significant role in her paintings, how she depicts those scenes has changed considerably during the two decades I've observed her output. Back in the 1990s, Feldkamp’s art was rigorously geometrically driven. Her countryside settings were activated by a compositional style whose expression was subordinated to her rectilinear line.


Niceland and Forest Art House Are Using the Old Tiny Buddha Space for Pop-Up Art Events


Niceland popped-up a weekend of art, including this forest faun mask by Lavinia Hanachiuc. Photo by Patti Smith.

Art is everywhere in this town; you just need to know where to look. The Niceland art show, a pop-up exhibit that took place last weekend, is a perfect example of how tucked away spaces can be transformed into showrooms for painters and sculptors.

The Tiny Buddha Boutique was previously above Totoro at 213 S. State Street. But the shop, which specializes in yoga wear, recently moved to a new location inside Babo in the Nichols Arcade, though Tiny Buddha still has rights at the moment to use the old space.

"We wanted to take advantage of the space while it is available," said artist Helen Gotlib (sister of Tiny Buddha Boutique owner Risa Gotlib) to display works by local artists.

That led to the Niceland art show, which ran February 10-13. The show featured work from local artists Dylan Strzynski, Lavinia Hanachiuc, and Gotlib.


Behind the Black Star: Jonathan Barnbrook's Stamps talk at the Michigan Theater

Jonathan Barnbrook

Despite its simple presentation, Jonathan Barnbrook's cover for David Bowie's final album, Blackstar, is full of hidden surprises.

Designing album covers for a legendary musician has its perils and its perks. According to Jonathan Barnbrook, they're sometimes one in the same.

"Can you imagine how scary it is to have David Bowie sitting next to you when you're listening to his album?" the British graphic designer asked the audience at Ann Arbor's Michigan Theater on Thursday, February 9. "He's going, 'What do you think?'"

As the crowd laughed, Barnbrook's tone shifted from comedic to grateful: "It's actually fantastic."

The self-described "non-designer" was in Ann Arbor as part of the Penny Stamps Distinguished Speaker series. In addition to his collaborations with Bowie, Barnbrook's often-humorous talk covered highlights from his career, including his anti-corporate work with Adbusters magazine in the early '00s, the creation of several well-known fonts, and political and socially minded exhibits and campaigns, including his logo for the Occupy London movement.


Outer Devotion: “Protecting Wisdom: Tibetan Book Covers” at UMMA


Prajnaparamita and Deities, outer face, upper cover for a Prajnaparamita Sutra, vol. 25, Tibet, 15th century, wood with paint and gilding. MacLean Collection.

First times are always special. But a first-ever of something is especially special. Such is the case with the University of Michigan Museum of Art’s exhibit Protecting Wisdom: Tibetan Book Covers From the Maclean Collection.

Mounted in the UMMA’s Irving Stenn Jr. Family Gallery, this display not only presents us with an incomparable iconographic delight, it’s also the first time this art form's been exhibited in the United States -- and one of the first times these artworks have been seen by the public. So, yes, Protecting Wisdom really is special.

As the guest curator, Dr. Kathryn Selig Brown (U-M Ph.D. in Tibetan History of Art), tells us in her introduction:


From the "Neighborhood": A2 Native Ben Cowan's Art Installed at Westgate

The Ann Arbor District Library's Westgate branch is filled with new things. After all, it just reopened in September 2016 after a massive expansion and remodel.

But even newer than the computers, coffee shop, and shiny shiny bathrooms are three large paintings by Ann Arbor native Ben Cowan. The video above gives you a guided tour of Cowan's paintings. We also interviewed the artist about growing up in Ann Arbor, his influences, and how he came to create the works from his Neighborhood Views series, which have ended up finding permanent homes in the library.


It's Showtime: Japanese Prints of Kabuki Theater from the Collection of the University of Michigan Museum of Art


Detail from Toyohara Kunichika's Rough Wooden Statue of Minister Kiyomasa: Nakamura Shikan IV as Warrior Satō Kiyomasa, Meiji era (1868-1912), 1873, color woodblock print on paper.

There are only a handful of art exhibits of such sophisticated complexity that they can absorb the viewer’s attention for an indefinite amount of time. Japanese Prints of Kabuki Theater from the Collection of the University of Michigan Museum of Art is one of those treasures.

This display, mounted in the UMMA’s spacious second-story A. Alfred Taubman Gallery, represents a level of sophistication that could only truly be appreciated by two audiences: Those for whom these colorful prints were originally intended and subsequent experts who can identify the identity of the portraiture as well as the work’s iconography. The rest of us will have to take what we can get.

It doesn’t mean that one has to be an expert in Japanese theater or have an advanced degree in the history of that country’s culture to appreciate Japanese Prints of Kabuki Theater -- although it sure doesn't hurt. Rather, appreciating this imaginative display requires a unique kind of patience that will allow the show to open up to the viewer at its own pace and in its own way. But that seems to be the intent of kabuki all along.


Roundup: Collage Concert, Emergent Effect, and Mozart Mania

ALL MIXED UP: The annual Collage Concert is the starting line for U-M’s bicentennial year celebrations. The wide range of School of Music, Theater, and Dance (SMTD) ensembles coming together on January 14 at 8 p.m. in Hill Auditorium will provide a continuous sonic collage of styles to represent the many diverse elements that have combined to shape U-M for the past 200 years. (➤ SMTD)

RESIDENTIAL EFFECT: Ypsi Alloy Studios is teaming up with the Ann Arbor Art Center for an exhibit they’re calling Emergent Effect. Sixteen resident Ypsi Alloy artists are represented, with the exhibit focusing on their “intersecting work and common voice,” according to curators Ilana Houten, Elize Jekabson, and Jessica Tenbusch. The opening reception is free and goes down January 13 from 6-9 p.m., and Emergent Effect runs through January 28. (➤ Ann Arbor Art Center)

MOZART MONTH: There are more Mozart-related concerts in January every year for one reason: The powdered-wig wonder was born on this month’s 27th day in 1756. One such event in Ann Arbor is the A2SO’s 21st annual birthday bash (which we profiled here) on Saturday, January 14. But if you can’t make it to that performance, drop by the library on Sunday, January 15 at 2 p.m. for a screening of an all-Mozart concert performed in New York City's Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center in May 2013. The music includes Piano Trio in B-flat major, K. 502; Horn Quintet in E-flat major, K. 407; and Viola Quintet in C major. (➤ AADL)

Christopher Porter is a Library Technician and editor of Pulp.