UMS Artists in Residence 2016-2017 Announced

UMS Artists in Residence 2016-2017.

UMS Artists in Residence announced.

The theme of the 2016-2017 UMS Artists in Residence program is "renegade art-making and art-makers" and the artists have just been announced. According to the announcement, the "five artists (including visual, literary, and performing artists) have been selected to use UMS performance experiences as a resource to support the creation of new work or to fuel an artistic journey."

The artists for 2016-2017 are:

Simon Alexander-Adams - a Detroit-based multimedia artist, musician, and designer working within the intersection of art and technology.

Ash Arder - a Detroit-based visual artist who creates installations and sculptural objects using a combination of found and self-made materials.

Nicole Patrick - a musician and percussionist who performs regularly with her band, Rooms, and other indie, improvisation, and performance art groups around southeastern Michigan.

Qiana Towns - a Flint-based poet whose work has appeared in Harvard Review Online, Crab Orchard Review, and Reverie, and is author of the chapbook This is Not the Exit (Aquarius Press, 2015).

Barbara Tozier - a photographer who works in digital, analog, and hybrid — with forays into video and multimedia.

Congratulations to these artists - and look for blog posts and engagement with the artists throughout their term on the UMS site.

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Preview: POP-X AAWA Installation



POP•X 2015 pavilions in Liberty Plaza / Photo by Tom Smith (CC-by-NC)

The second annual Ann Arbor Art Center community festival and art extravaganza POP-X is set to open on September 22. This multifaceted, multi-disciplinary, multi-artist event will run for 10 days and 10 nights in 10 pavilions right downtown in Ann Arbor's Liberty Square Park.

Each pavilion features the unique vision of an artist or art collective, ranging from poetry to video to floral installation to caricature. There's even a mini-pub serving craft beers, and as if that weren't enough, the spaces outside the pavilions will feature art demonstrations, musical performances, social gatherings, panel discussions and participatory art making throughout the run of the festival, which ends October 1.

The goal of POP-X is to present work that actively engages the community, and this year’s POP-X artists have interpreted this in their own unique ways. Ann Arbor Women Artists, a 300 member non-profit artists' organization, has chosen to implement this vision in the broadest possible way, designing and executing a comprehensively inclusive art installation that cuts across barriers of age, gender, race and disability. Their art installation, Side-by-Side, is the result of many collaborative art-making sessions where professional artists were paired with non-professionals to create the painted faces that will fill the AAWA pavilion on September 22. Project partners range from the very young children of En Nuestra Lengua to the high schoolers of Girls Group, to seniors of the Silver Club and residents of Miller Manor, an apartment for the disabled, and others. Ann Arbor Art Center President and CEO Marie Klopf attended a session held at the Art Center, as did Omari Rush, their Director of Community Engagement. Three City Council Members, Sabra Briere, Chuck Warpehoski and Julie Grand also took time from their busy schedules to be part of the project.

Workshop at Miller Manor

Workshop at Miller Manor, City Councilman Chuck Warpehoski on right.

"Our plan was to reach out to individuals in the Ann Arbor Community, despite on-the-surface differences, and to create an art installation which honors both our unique individuality and our shared humanity," –Elizabeth Wilson, Lidia Kaku, Mary Murphy (co-chairs).

Community arts projects are a strange, hybrid beast, part crafts project, part encounter group, part social club. The success or failure of any project of this kind depends on the planning and design of the installation and its constituent parts. The faces made by artists and their partners will be mounted on a framework on the interior walls of the pavilion, with mirrors incorporated to allow visitors to see themselves in the installation. A sound loop of music will be interwoven with short clips of conversations from pairs talking about the work they are doing and discovering more about each other in the process.

Members of MISSION pose with their AAWA partners and portrait faces

Members of MISSION (Michigan Itinerant Shelter System Independent Out of Necessity) with their AAWA partners and portrait faces.

Barbara Melnik Carson, a core member of the working group, maintains that Side-by-Side has been the best example of cooperative art-making in her wide experience. "Everyone worked so well together–there were no egos getting in the way, which isn't always the case," she says. "Each member of the core group has different strengths, and they have all had an opportunity to contribute in their own way."

The members of the project Side-by-Side don't see the completion of this installation as a mission accomplished. They see it as a pilot project for an ongoing community engagement program which would organize citywide pop-up events with the purpose of building lines of communication throughout Ann Arbor.

"We plan to bring the whole world together one portrait at a time," says Barbara Melnik Carson.

Members of Girls’ Group and AAWA artists model their portrait faces for the camera.

Members of Girls’ Group and AAWA artists model their portrait faces for the camera.

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.


POP·X runs Thursday, September 22 – Saturday October 1, 2016 from noon to 8pm at Liberty Plaza Park, 255 East Liberty St., Ann Arbor. To learn more visit popxannarbor.com or the POP•X Facebook event page. POP•X is free and open to the public.

For more information about Ann Arbor Women Artists, visit their website.

AAWA POP-X Committee Members are: Elizabeth Wilson (co-chair), Lidia Kaku (co-chair), Mary Murphy (co-chair), Barbara Melnik Carson, Barbara Bach, Barb Maxson, Joyce Bailey, Lucie Nisson, Marie Howard, Susan Clinthorne, and Sharon St. Mary.

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Review: "Manuel Álvarez Bravo: Mexico’s Poet of Light," University of Michigan Museum of Art


Manuel

Manuel Álvarez Bravo. Window on the Agaves (Ventana a los magueyes), 1976, printed ca. 1981, gelatin silver print. The University of Michigan Museum of Art, gift of Lawrence and Carol Zicklin, 1987/1.174.3

The University of Michigan Museum of Art’s Manuel Álvarez Bravo: Mexico’s Poet of Light is easily going to be one of the most accurate art exhibition titles of 2016. This tidy 23-piece UMMA display shows the world-famed Bravo at his best: For he’s indeed a master of photographic light—as well as a poetic artist.

All photographers are capable of what is sometimes called a “privileged moment.” After all, it would seem simple enough to capture a moment with photography: You just point your camera and click.That's what's been happening photographically for quite nearly this last 150 years ... right?

Well, not quite. After all, you have to know what you're looking for because the most remarkable thing about photography is the camera’s utterly elastic way of recording an image. The world isn't as transparent as might seem apparent on first observation. And it doesn’t take much more than one’s last batch of photos for the confirmation.

Bravo, on the other hand, knew what he wanted to see—but the craft didn’t stop there. For the next rule consists of mechanistically knowing how to get what you want to see. And this is as complicated a task as knowing what one’s looking for.

It’s at this point that poetry arises—and was Bravo ever a masterful poet.

He’s easily one of the greatest photographers of the 20th century. For this poetry is, of course, the magic of all the world's greatest photographers. Like a mechanistic fingerprint, no two photographic styles are ever really the same. Time, space, intuition, and the very act of looking all mark the poetry latent in the photographic medium.

One glance at Manuel Álvarez Bravo: Mexico’s Poet of Light and it's obvious Bravo knew what he was looking for. Each Bravo artwork in this magnificent exhibit is an extraordinarily well thought-out composition where every visual element is accounted for; these physical elements being weighted against the tone of light, the density of light, the direction of light, the volume of light—and then there’s the poetry.

What’s left in the image is the world unto itself.

Granted, the time in which Bravo was working is romantic. Mid-20th century Mexico was a world where the natural and the supernatural seemingly melded together in a heady exotic brew and where the sacred and the profane coexist comfortably. There’s seemingly no separation between what is well and what is well-enough.

Born into an artistic Mexican family, Bravo was forced to terminate his education at the age of 12 when his father died in 1914. Studying accounting as he worked for the Mexican Treasury Department, Bravo freelanced photojournalism while learning the basics of art photography. It was through the friendship of fashion model and political activist Tina Modotti that he made contact with American photographer Edward Weston who in turn encouraged him to polish his craft.

Having lived through the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1920, Bravo was inclined to view his art through the prism of natural supernatural romanticism (and later surrealism) that marks early 20th-century Mexican aesthetics. As can be seen in the photographs of this exhibit, Bravo wrestled with the stereotypes that stamp much Mexican artistry while often using echoes of this stylization to comment upon them. Bravo's camera consistently catches these contradictions with a fluid grace that never editorializes while knowingly commenting on what’s depicted.

This means that every element of Bravo's photography is weighted against the composition's visibility as well as the reflection of Mexican culture as he lived and understood it. The result is indeed sheer poetry cum anthropology, as none of these photographs are never quite what they appear.

For example, Bravo’s 1977 gelatin silver print Señor de Papantla (“The Man of Papantla”) is a decidedly clever photograph whose background and meaning are richer than apparent in the already rich photograph of a Mexican campesino dressed in his best peasant garb. For the locale of the painting is as important as the image in that Papantla (in the state of Vera Cruz; in the Sierra Papanteca range, near the Gulf of Mexico) is famed as one of Mexico’s “pueblo mágico”—a city of particular natural beauty with historic and cultural relevance.

Manuel

Manuel Álvarez Bravo. The Man from Papantla (Señor de Papantla), 1977, gelatin silver print. The University of Michigan Museum of Art, gift of Frederick J. Myerson, 1983/1.101.8

Bravo’s Señor stands stiffly with his sombrero tucked under his right arm posed in front of a nondescript stone wall. Standing under the diagonal right shade of a tree with his hair parted in the same direction to create an internal symmetry, of equal importance is his eyes cast away to the left in the same way. Averting the photographer’s gaze, Bravo’s Señor reflects the subdued unwillingness to cooperate that’s often characterized the citizenry of a country that’s seen centuries of repetitive political, social, and cultural upheaval.

By contrast, famed Mexican artist Frida Kahlo adopts an opposite stance for Bravo’s camera in her 1938 Frida with Globe, Coyoacan, Mexico gelatin silver print. Where the campesino was not directly addressing the camera, Kahlo challenges the camera by looking directly at Bravo. This act, of course, is in direct contrast to the Mexican sense of social propriety where the expectation would decidedly be a repressed feminine averral.

Even in the late 1930s, Kahlo (and by extension, Bravo) were having none of this modesty. Sheer appropriateness is drawn from her forthright respectability, as though the appropriateness of one’s behavior is as much one of correctness as it is self-respect. Seated with her left elbow propping her left hand against her cheek, Kahlo is everything she intends to be.

But Bravo is also addressing his audience in that a single subtle compositional element twitches the history of art anachronistically. For in contrast to Diego Velázquez’s 1656 painting Las Meninas (where Velázquez paints himself painting the painting), Bravo eliminates himself from his photograph because there is no photographer reflected in the globe on the table next to Kahlo’s left. Surrealism was, of course, in full force in Europe at this time and Bravo opts to magically disappear in his own artwork.

If, however, one wants to find Bravo at the height of his power as a photographer, his famed 1932 gelatin silver print Retrato de lo eterno (“Woman Combing her Hair”) seals the deal. The exact translation of the title is “Portrait of the Eternal” and while the more prosaic “Woman Combing her Hair” is certainly accurate, the fantastic inference of “Portrait of the Eternal” is more enduring.

Manuel

Manuel Álvarez Bravo. Woman Combing Her Hair (Retrato de lo eterno), 1932-33, printed 1977, gelatin silver print. The University of Michigan Museum of Art, gift of Frederick J. Myerson, 1985/1.130.2

As I noted in the September 2002 UMMA Manuel Álvarez Bravo: 100 Years exhibition, Retrato de lo eterno captures Bravo at his haunting best. This darkly handsome portrait—of yes, a woman combing her hair—is everything its title says. Yet it’s also far more, as Bravo’s key lighting in this black and white photograph boldly exposes the model’s profile while also draping her in a controlled chiaroscuro where graded shadows create layer upon layer of profound mystery. The model’s self-absorbed beauty is veiled in an eternal mist.

Bravo’s Retrato de lo eterno is as much a staggering a work of genius today as it was in 2002. Just consider us lucky to look upon her likeness once again after fifteen years. If only because she’s indeed a portrait of the eternal—and this portrait will be so for a long time to come.


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


University of Michigan Museum of Art: “Manuel Álvarez Bravo: Mexico’s Poet of Light” will run through October 23, 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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Preview: The University of Michigan Museum of Art's "Nights at the Museum"

UMMA's Nights at the Museum

Settling in for a Night at the Museum / Photo by Leisa Thompson

Nights at the Museum, the University of Michigan Museum of Art's exterior media arts initiative, will illuminate the museum's facade with artwork, performances, and family-friendly movies from September 2 - 9.

Events are open to the public and will run each night from 8:30 pm to dawn along its State Street-side facade, on the west side of the Maxine and Stuart Frankel and the Frankel Family Wing.

A digital art installation by Quayola titled "Pleasant Places" will be projected overnight, from dusk to dawn, on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. From Tuesday through Thursday, UMMA will collaborate with U-M arts partners, including the University Musical Society, Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design, and School of Music, Theatre & Dance, with each organization showcasing a related video performance or art installation.

Here's the full schedule:

Friday, Sept. 2
7 - 10 pm: Artscapade! a Welcome Week events for students
10 pm - 7 am: "Pleasant Places" installation by artist Quayola

Saturday, Sept. 3
8:30 pm - 7 am: "Pleasant Places" installation by artist Quayola

Sunday, Sept. 4
8:30 pm - 7 am: "Pleasant Places" installation by artist Quayola

Monday, Sept. 5:
8:30 - 10 pm: Family-friendly movie night with a screening of Toy Story
10:15 pm - 7 am: "Pleasant Places" installation by artist Quayola

Tuesday, Sept. 6
8:30 - 10 pm: Performances by U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance students and faculty, including the Men's Glee Club, University Symphony Band, University Symphony Orchestra and Chamber Choir. Love, Life & Loss, a 30-minute film featuring the Michigan Men's Glee Club performing "The Seven Last Words of the Unarmed," will kick off the performances.

10:15 pm - 7 am: "Pleasant Places" installation by artist Quayola

Wednesday, Sept. 7
8:30 - 10 pm: Short art films created by U-M Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design faculty and students, including:

Zoe Anderson (BFA 2007): "Little Luminaries"
Ashley Bock (BFA 2018): "Fission"
Alexa Borromeo (BFA 2016): "Stay Out of the Sun"
Shane Darwent (MFA 2018): "Orquesta de las Calles"
Niki Horowitz (BFA 2016): "Personal Projections"
Carol Jacobsen (Stamps professor): "Prison Diary"
Andy Kirshner (Stamps associate professor): "Liberty's Secret" (segment)
Rebekah Modrak (Stamps associate professor): "Re Made Best Made Echo"
Zoe Brendan Widmer (BFA 2016): "Does My Undercut Make Me Look Queer?"
Niki Williams (BFA 2016): "Grimestone"

10:15 pm - 7 am: "Pleasant Places" installation by artist Quayola

Thursday, Sept. 8
8:30 - 10 pm: Screening of Snarky Puppy's Family Dinner-Volume Two in collaboration with UMS. (Snarky Puppy is a Grammy Award-winning "quasi-collective" that will perform at Hill Auditorium March 17, 2017.)
10:15 pm - 7 am: "Pleasant Places" installation by artist Quayola

Friday, Sept. 9
7 - 10 pm: UMMA After Hours
10:15 pm - 7 am: "Pleasant Places" installation by artist Quayola

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Preview: DIYpsi Summer Festival


DIY at the DIYpsi Summer Festival

DIY at the DIYpsi Summer Festival

As summer winds down and the nights grow shorter we find ourselves seeking out great outdoor events to attend to soak up as much summertime as we can. One such event to help send the month of August out with a bang is the DIYpsi Summer Festival, which takes place at ABC Microbrewery in Ypsilanti. This twice-a-year craft fair pulls out all the stops during its summer shows, as it continues to grow in size and amazingness each year. This not-to-be-missed show not only boosts the local economy and supports the arts, it combines so many elements to enjoy in one location, and this year they are going all out.

You’ll find over 80 top notch craft vendors from the Midwest selling superb handmade goods, as well as delicious foods on board, specialty craft brews, and a plethora of live music featuring local musicians that will be jamming out all weekend enhancing the already chill vibe. The organizers have some special treats in store this summer that include Theatre Bizarre working carnival games as well as a petting zoo at this indoor/outdoor extravaganza.

Between the crafts, food, beer, and a mini donkey, what more could you ask for in a summer weekend?!


Amanda Schott is a Library Technician at the Ann Arbor District Library and is a super mega ultra fan of craft fairs.


DIYpsi takes place at ABC Microbrewery (Corner) in Ypsilanti on Saturday, August 27 from 11 am- 8 pm (bands play until 11 pm) and Sunday, August 28 from 12 pm- 6 pm. Admission is a $1 suggested donation. The event is 21+ unless accompanied by a parent or guardian.

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Review: "Catherine Opie: 700 Nimes Road," University of Michigan Museum of Art


Catherine

Catherine Opie, Andy Warhol to Elizabeth (Self-Portrait Artist) from the 700 Nimes Road Portfolio, 2010-2011, pigment print, 16 ½ x 22 in., courtesy of the artist, Regen Projects, Los Angeles, and Lehmann Maupin, New York & Hong Kong.

The University of Michigan Museum of Art’s Catherine Opie: 700 Nimes Road is a star-studded two-for-one visual art spectacular. 50 photographs culled from over 3,000 taken in 2010-11 by Los Angeles-based photographer Catherine Opie at the residence of actress Elizabeth Taylor, the exhibit illustrates the six months this famed contemporary photographer spent taking photos at Taylor’s Bel Air residence through the coincidental period of Taylor’s death.

Drawn from two Opie photographic series—Closets and Jewels and 700 Nimes Road—where Opie had unlimited access to Taylor’s home, the display is organized by L.A.’s Museum of Contemporary Art with lead support provided by J.P. Morgan Private Bank; philanthropists Jamie McCourt and Gilena Simons, with UMMA support provided by the U-M Health System; Bank of America; Merrill Lynch; philanthropists Alan Hergott and Curt Shepard, with additional support provided by the U-M Departments of the History of Art; Screen Arts and Cultures; and American Culture.

As we all well know, Elizabeth Taylor had a way of galvanizing attention. And the range of these supporting groups indicates how galvanizing she rightly could be. For Catherine Opie: 700 Nimes Road is as fascinating a keyhole as we could imagine of this world-famous woman’s life.

Catherine

Catherine Opie, Handbag Reflection from the 700 Nimes Road Portfolio, 2010-2011, pigment print, 22 x 16 ½ in., courtesy of the artist, Regen Projects, Los Angeles, and Lehmann Maupin, New York & Hong Kong

Opie herself is quite the celebrity. An award-winning photographer (and professor of photography at the University of California at Los Angeles) who works in the intersection of portraiture, landscape, and studio photography, Opie specializes in crafting transgressive imagery that knowingly blurs the intersection of private and public spaces. Mingling her expertise in a variety of photographic and printing technologies with social and political commentary, Opie has consistently produced photographs that document the shadows of our society.

By contrast, these 700 Nimes Road photographs are about as above the photojournalistic fold as Opie’s art gets. Inspired by southern photographer William Egglston’s 1984 photographs of Elvis Presley’s Graceland mansion, she and Taylor shared business manager Derrick Lee, and after negotiating with Taylor’s longtime executive assistant Tim Mendelson, Opie was given full access to 700 Nimes Road. She was busily peering in and around the corners of Taylor’s residence when the actress died of congestive heart failure on March 23, 2011

It’s this dramatic turn of events that makes 700 Nimes Road a masterful display of unceasingly studied and provocative photography. For it’s indeed a perfect melding of professional fine arts photography and screen diva as Opie never actually met Taylor in person through the course of her photographic work.

Thus what’s most fascinating about this non-meeting is the Elizabeth Taylor that Opie illustrates—and not the Elizabeth Taylor she might have met. After all, by the time of this assignment, Taylor had gone through umpteenth career cycles as a screen star ranging from guileless ingénue to international screen icon to television guest star. For Taylor shined bright at each turn of her lengthy career: Winner of two Academy Awards for Butterfield 8 (1960) and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966), Taylor closed her acting career with a minor role in 1994’s The Flintstones for which she was nominated as Worst Supporting Actress by the Golden Raspberry Awards.

Catherine

Catherine Opie, Holiday Ornament from the 700 Nimes Road Portfolio, 2010-2011, pigment print, 16 ½ x 22 in., courtesy of the artist, Regen Projects, Los Angeles, and Lehmann Maupin, New York & Hong Kong

Yet this was also hardly the extent of Taylor’s lifework. She was an astoundingly successful businesswoman who launched her own best-selling fragrances Passion in 1987 and White Diamonds in 1991 that led to an estimated $600 million to one billion dollar personal wealth. After her death, her estate was dispersed by Christie’s auction house for a then record-breaking $156.8 million dollars with an additional $5.5 million dollars for her clothing and accessories. And her final career turn was an equally winning philanthropist for HIV/AID activism culminating with a Presidential Citizens Medal in 2001.

That’s a lot acclaim for one lifetime. So perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Opie’s art photography is her uncanny condensation of each of these many Elizabeth Taylors with visual references to her many loves—seven husbands; with countless friendships—through the sheer effect of being Elizabeth Taylor.

We certainly learn more about what it meant to be Elizabeth Taylor through Opie’s photos than through the proverbial thousand words. In some photos, Taylor’s pets make their appearance rummaging about her personal items. Other photographs feature personal Taylor keepsakes (including one photo of the box holding ex-husband Richard Burton’s 1972 gift of the famed Taj Mahal diamond necklace on her 40th birthday), with other photos featuring her raft of celebrity friends in informal guise. Yet other photographs give us extraordinary visual details of Taylor’s personal routine ranging from a massive number of orderly stashed handbags in one closet to an astounding number of awards in her “trophy room” to a single holiday ornament floating in midair.

Catherine

Catherine Opie, Trophy Room from the 700 Nimes Road Portfolio, 2010-2011, pigment print, 16 ½ x 22 in., courtesy of the artist, Regen Projects, Los Angeles, and Lehmann Maupin, New York & Hong Kong

Still, fine art will stand out in fine art photography exhibits. And a single signature Opie photograph of Taylor in the abstract as reflected through the visage of her celebrity makes 2010-11’s Elizabeth (Self-Portrait, Artist) archival pigment print a first among equals in this intriguing exhibit.

The bouncing signifiers in this photograph alone make it a superior artwork. For the photo features Opie photographing herself off a bounced image of Andy Warhol’s famed 1966 silkscreen Liz #6 [Early Colored Liz].

In a career unceasingly devoted to celebrity, Warhol’s Liz #6 [Early Colored Liz] is one of his most recognizable portraits. The silkscreen features a desaturated Taylor with a sharp near-monochromatic contrast with the exception of eggshell blue eye shadow and an equally strategic contrast between his framing red background and the actress’ signature brushy bouffant brunette hair. Inferring her beauty as much as painting it, Warhol creates an idealized, romanticized image of Elizabeth Taylor that represents her public image at the height of her glory.

Opie, on the other hand, is the blurred background image to the side of Taylor in Elizabeth (Self-Portrait, Artist). Crafting a superior art photo that bounces herself sideways off the print’s framing glass, Opie links Warhol, herself, and her subject’s idealized portrait in a single image that celebrates Taylor mystique as well as her own personal property autographed by Warhol with the phrase “with much love.”

In a single masterly image, Opie shows us how this actress held—and continues to hold—such strong affect on our emotions to this day. Opie’s Elizabeth (Self-Portrait, Artist) self-reflexively recalls Liz #6 [Early Colored Liz] today with as much love as Taylor was able to engender then.


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


University of Michigan Museum of Art: “Catherine Opie: 700 Nimes Road” will run through September 11, 2016. The UMMA is located at 525 S. State Street. The Museum is open Tuesday-Saturday 11 a.m.–5 p.m.; and Sunday 12–5 p.m. For information, call 734-764.0395.

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Review: Intermitten – Technology and Arts Conference

Intermitten 2016 logo.

Intermitten 2016 - The Confluence of Art and Technology was August 5 & 6 at the Ark and a few other Ann Arbor venues.

Creativity and passion hit the Ark stage last Friday and Saturday and impressed the value of hard work and following your dreams upon the completely engaged and enthusiastic attendees of the first ever (and soon to be annual – please!) Intermitten Technology and Arts Conference. The primary goal, as stated in their press release, was “to explore ways in which creativity has an ever-expanding role in our increasingly-connected world.” And they totally hit it out of the ballpark with a diverse and impressive mix of artists, musicians, filmmakers, startup founders, and techies of all sorts who came together to inspire us all to change the world with creativity, perseverance, and a little bit of business knowledge shared from those who went down that path before us.

So, what is Intermitten and where did it come from? Founded by a handful of Ann Arbor startup employees in the fall of 2015, it’s two days packed full of talks and social/networking mixers (at Rush, the Pretzel Bell, and the Hands-On Museum). There are also a few specially curated events and carefully selected stops to take in even more of what makes Ann Arbor such a great place to be – a guided bike tour by Nancy Shore of AAATA, a lithography workshop at AADL with local printmaker Jess Richard, a Pop-In at the Ann Arbor Art Center , and drinks at the Ann Arbor Distilling Company, to name a few.

Intermitten collage.

Intermitten 2016 - lithography created in the Jess Richards workshop at AADL (top left), bike tour with Nancy Shore making use of ArborBike (top right), origami tessellations by Beth Johnson (left center), and Saturday's Intermitten panel at the Ark (bottom).

And WOW. Just, WOW. I was blown away and left with my mind reeling with ideas and plans for where to take the creative energy that was absorbed by being in the presence of so many generous and wonderful folks. What I liked best about this conference was the small-town Midwestern friendliness buttered upon the toast of a technology and arts conference. I can’t wait to see what collaborations come from the connections made at Intermitten and – even more so – what they’ll come up with for next year. I don’t know how they’ll top this one!

It’s impossible to pack all of the excitement and enthusiasm of Intermitten into a few words, but here are a few highlights from two AADL staffers who attended:

Amanda’s picks:

Sean Hoskins is a choreographer and performer and is the dance technology coordinator and production assistant at the University of Michigan. His passionate talk focused on having the willingness to incorporate technology into your art form. He states that creativity happens through work and that it’s important to “notice what you notice and trust that what you notice matters.”

Kendall Burke is a customer happiness specialist at Acuity Scheduling and offered an energetic and hilarious talk comparing finding the perfect job to finding the perfect mate, and yes, she referenced Tinder and Beyoncé. Burke talked about first loves in the job world, as well as toxic relationships with jobs, and eventually… one true love – that job you were truly made for. She encouraged that one should feel comfortable, confident, and empowered when walking into one’s job, and if that isn’t happening something needs to change. Her talk also included a slide with a video of baby goats in pajamas, which delighted the audience.

Sarah Hatter is the founder and CEO of CoSupport, which offers customer support coaching, among other things. In her words, “we teach companies how to kick ass and survive.” Her inspiring talk went through her version of ten steps to running your own business. She quoted Walt Disney when saying “I think it’s important to have a good hard failure when you’re young.” In short, she encourages emerging entrepreneurs to get out there and try and fail and try again. Learn in freefall.

Jon Sulkow of ICON Interactive, a digital marketing agency, spoke about some of the projects he’s worked on. One of the Intermitten Conference evening events included the POP-IN at the Ann Arbor Art Center, where Sulkow and electronic musician Shigeto created a live audio-visual experience involving virtual reality. In his talk he discussed how the project came to be and how they created the visual images viewed through the HTC Vive headset.

Jesse Vollmar and Qasar Younis spoke together in the afternoon. Vollmar is the CEO and co-founder of FarmLogs, which helps growers use technology to create a better future for their farms. Younis is the COO of the Silicon Valley incubator Y Combinator. Keeping in line with similar themes from the conference, they spoke about using your passion to start a company, but also discussed how passion isn’t enough, and that it’s necessary but not sufficient. Know what drives you and stick with it, but also be honest about it.

Anne’s picks:

Joe Malcoun and Guy Suter: Who wants a little bit of the Google Campus lifestyle in their work? Joe Malcoun, CEO of Nutshell, and Guy Suter, developer behind the email management app Notion, presented In Cahoots: Getting Creative With Tech Space, a talk on the upcoming workspace Cahoots, scheduled to open in 2017. They’re planning to create a space where passionate and focused creatives can work along side motivated members of the tech community in a sustainable environment. It will be more than a tech campus co-op, though—Cahoots also promises an event space to serve as a destination for anyone in Ann Arbor with an interest in art and technology.

Beth Johnson: If you ask a person to tell you a story, most of the time they’ll stammer as they try to think something up. But if you ask them to tell you a story about their worst birthday party, they’ll leap right in and start. It seems counterintuitive, but limitations breed creativity, which was one of the themes of origami artist Beth Johnson's talk. In Creativity Through Constraints, Johnson revealed how working with an arbitrary set of parameters and presenting one’s self with a problem actually unlocks creativity. Your engagement within those parameters and the solving of the problem can reveal the art. Johnson also demonstrated how folding can be applied to engineering problems as well. From folding proteins to foldable structures to solar arrays, the art of folding can be used to solve a variety of technical challenges!

Shigeto: Part of the life cycle in making things is getting a reaction from a user or audience. So it’s natural that you might begin to anticipate their response before you’re finished with the making part. Zach Saginaw's (Ghostly International’s Shigeto) talk, The Pursuit of Passion, was a refreshing splash of water in the face, reminding us that one should make the work first to make ourselves happy. The monetary and service aspects of the artifact can be worked out later! He also delivered another useful reminder, especially to those of us just starting on our creative journeys: one should work with what one has, rather than waiting until one has acquired the right tools. The pursuit of passion must begin with the pursuit!

Leslie Raymond and Jason Jay Stevens: When we think of “Artist with a Capital ‘A’,” many of us imagine dour, serious, or inscrutable characters who defy us to understand or appreciate them. But sometimes artists can be mischievous experimenters who treat their work like structured play. Leslie Raymond and Jason Jay Stevens are definitely in the latter camp. Their talk. “Set the Moving Image Free,” was an exploration of the wide array of “collaborations, experimentations, curations & presentations” they create, such as animated GIF collages or mixing audio and video live in their Black Box Theater presentations at the Duderstadt. Their Peep Holes pieces present the viewer with an out-of-body experience by inviting your mind to exist in another space by virtue of the eye-sized portal. The most inspiring aspect of their talk, however, was the notion of collaboration between artists and between artists and their audience. They explored principles of UX design, which asks the artist to empathize with the recipient of the art and asks the recipient to act as a collaborator in the full expression of the piece. This was exactly what needed to be said at an event emphasizing crossover and collaboration between the arts and tech scenes!

The Intermitten 2016 crew.

The amazing crew that pulled together Intermitten 2016 – Jen Pakravan, Heidi Craun, Katherine Mays, Trevor Mays, Andrew Dooley, and Nick Oliverio. | photo by Jennifer Olmstead @JOlmsteadA2

Anne Drozd is a Production Librarian at the Ann Arbor District Library. Amanda Schott is a Library Technician at the Ann Arbor District Library and definitely notices what she notices.


Intermitten was Friday, August 5 and Saturday, August 6, 2016. Be sure to check their website for future plans.

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Review: The Final Ann Arbor Art Center Pop-In of the Summer

Origami pops up at the Pop-In.

Origami pops up at the Pop-In.

The Ann Arbor Art Center held their third and final Pop-In event of the summer last Friday, in collaboration with the Intermitten conference. The conference, which focused on creativity and innovation, took place in Ann Arbor on August 5-6. Curated by Intermitten, this Pop-In event, like the two before it, featured unique art focusing on creating an immersive experience for attendees.

Immediately upon entering the Art Center, the loose, electronic, trippy music of Shigeto enveloped the senses. A large screen showed sporadic movement around an orange-tinted landscape that coordinated with the music. It took a moment to realize that individuals participating in the ICON Interactive virtual reality experience beyond Shigeto’s DJ table were controlling the movement on the screen, and the music itself to a certain extent. Wearing virtual reality goggles and holding a remote-like device that allowed users to “move,” ICON Interactive was definitely a favorite part of the show for many. One young boy became progressively more amazed as he went deeper into the VR world, and volunteers had to stand against the walls near him to protect the art as he jumped around waving the remote wildly.

After ascending the stairs to the Art Center's second floor, visitors were greeted by a large, gray phone booth-like structure with a curtain hanging down from the front side. This installation was Switch Flip, created by Anna Nuxoll and Chris Czub. Described as a “hacked phone booth,” the setting of the piece is the year 2056. As explained by Nuxoll, she and Czub imagined an astronaut who has travelled beyond the solar system, only to realize that someone has been there before. The astronaut finds a series of communications booths, and Switch Flip is meant to be one of them. Inside the booth, along with lights and eerie plants, a telephone sits on a stand with a note inviting users to “dial Earth.” Apparently, upon picking up the phone one would hear an old-fashioned dial up tone, and then could push different buttons to hear up to 30 sound samples, but the Raspberry Pi computer running the exhibit broke just 45 minutes before the show began. The concept and the booth itself were cool, but the piece was marred by the technology failure.

a hacked phone booth from 2056.

A hacked phone booth from 2056.

Also on the second floor was the live screen dance piece iSelf, created and performed by Sean Hoskins. The gorgeous space that the Art Center had for this performance added to it immensely; the white walls and hardwood floors offered no distractions from Hoskins, who was framed by the sunlight filtering in through the trees outside the floor-to-ceiling windows on the north side of the building. A white linen cloth cut into three strips hung from the Art Center ceiling and after the lights were dimmed Hoskins stepped forward from a corner of the room saying, “I’d like to start off by introducing myself: me, myself, iSelf,” and commenced his dance. His image was also projected into the strips of cloth using Isadora software. Later in the performance, the images on the screen doubled and viewers saw the differences in the visual field from one frame to the next, and eventually saw Hoskins’ dance on a three second and seven second delay. The entire effect was of multiple dancers that had all choreographed a complicated performance together although it was really just Hoskins, essentially dancing with himself.

me, myself, iSelf.

me, myself, iSelf.

The third floor of the Art Center featured very different displays. In one studio, A2ESK8’s electronic skateboard display took up the entire room. Sadly for some, attendees weren’t allowed to actually try out the electronic boards, but there was a video, directed by Rik Cordero, playing continuously showing people riding them. There were five electronic skateboards on display, and they apparently have a top speed of 35-38 miles per hour and a range of 10 miles.

The room across the hall from A2ESK8 featured an origami exhibition by Beth Johnson, along with a demonstration and hands-on opportunity to make one’s own origami creation. Johnson’s origami is not of the usual type. She creates amazing flora and fauna out of earth-toned paper with exquisite detail. This Pulp writer was particularly intrigued by the origami sunflower and the jellyfish that Johnson managed to construct out of paper. Her designs have a distinctly geometric look, giving them all a modern feel that traditional origami lacks. The room was filled with eager amateur origami artists spread out across several tables constructing designs with the aid of books and Johnson herself.

I was delighted by the contrast of Johnson’s origami with the art exhibition by Jeremy Wheeler, which shared the same studio space. Wheeler’s posters often advertise local events past and present—some more obscure than others—and feature big words, bright colors, and eye-catching images. My personal favorite piece was the Boss Hog 2016 tour poster, depicting various people running away from a giant crustacean-like beetle. “17 years in the making! Now they emerge!” cries the poster. “Nothing can prepare you for… BOSS HOG.”

Overall, there cannot be any doubt that the Art Center’s Pop-In series this summer was a success. The diversity of the artists featured, the welcoming and accessible atmosphere that greeted attendees, and the Art Center’s ability to offer it all for free made this event and the two prior a truly special addition to summer in Ann Arbor.


Elizabeth Pearce is a library technician at the Ann Arbor District Library. She has no desire to travel 38 miles per hour on a skateboard but commends those who do.


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Review: "Real American" at the Ann Arbor Art Center


Shawn

Shawn Quinlan (Pittsburgh, PA), "The New American Heritage" (quilt/fiber)

The Ann Arbor Art Center’s latest 117 Gallery offering asks a tantalizing, if not also impossible question to satisfactorily answer: Who—and what—is a real American?

Indeed, more precisely: What physical, cultural, theological, and/or social features does a real American have? Do these perimeters have any boundaries that pertain to being a “real” American? And what are the political consequences—if there are any such consequences—attached to this definition?

After all, the presumption is (and it’s certainly been repeated enough during this present election cycle) that there is such a thing as a “real” American. And it’s a seemingly strong potion upon which to mount a political campaign.

But is there such a thing as a real American? This display of superlative art intends to find out—for better or worse.

As juror and Ann Arbor-based photojournalist Peter Baker tells us of his rationale for the exhibit, “Real American” seeks to “explore the generational, ethnographic, cultural, and anthropological ideals of what the word ‘American’ means. From fresh apple pie to Budweiser, the Star Spangled Banner to Party in the USA, what is the modern American experience?

“Are we entering the sci-fi World of Tomorrow, longing for the Norman Rockwell past, or painting ourselves into an Idiocracy? If our culture is our biggest export, what kind of image are we presenting to the world?

“This exhibition,” concludes Baker “seeks artworks that span the spectrum from whimsical to austere, nostalgic to provocative. Artworks may consist of images from popular and visual culture, contain everyday objects assembled in unexpected ways, or incorporate stars and stripes.”

Correctly said—and perhaps the best thing about Baker’s selections in this show is the extraordinary range of what a real American can be. After all, even if the common understanding is also obviously a caricature, Americans cannot by definition or description be said to be analogous to what a Frenchman or Irishman or Nigerian supposedly looks like—or supposedly is. The beauty of the term is that a real American can look like all stereotypes.

Local, regional, and national artists selected for inclusion by Baker are Jim Aho, Mark Bleshenski, Tina Blondell, CJ Breil, Sarah Buddendeck, Seder Burns, Barbara Melnik Carson, Vanessa Compton, Errol Daniels, Keith Downie, Dan Farnum, Kathie Foley-Meyer, Heather Freeman, Jonathan Frey, David Gardner, Sarah Hahn, Amber Harrison, Christian Helser, Timothy Householder, Melissa Lynn, Astrid Muller-Karger, Dietmar Krumrey, C.B. Murphy, John Posa, Shawn Quinlan, Jim Rehlin, Jaye Schlesinger, Geoffrey Stein, Marilynn Thomas, Seth Trent, Tamara Wasserman, Chad Yenney, and Micah Zavacky.

Baker’s Best of Show selection in the exhibition is Pittsburgh, PA resident Shawn Quinlan’s quilt and fiber “The New American Heritage.” Second Place is Tulsa, OK photographer Dan Farnum’s archival inkjet color photograph “Monster Energy, Tulsa.” Third Place is Ann Arbor John Posa’s untitled acrylic on canvas mixed-media deer hide and scrap metal Donald Trump portrait. And Honorable Mentions have been handed to Minneapolis, MN’s Tina Blondell for her oil on canvas “Antimony as Nubia” and Denver, CO’s Melissa Lynn for her “Mitchelen BigMan—Crow Indian/Iraq Veteran” chromogenic color photograph print.

As stated above—and is the case with most group exhibits—there’s no particular rhyme nor reason to the artwork in “Real American” outside of taking general aim at the topic. And interestingly enough, this speaks of both the pluralism of our society as it does these artists’ decidedly independent frame of mind. The exhibit proves it’s a good American place to be.

For example, Shawn Quinlan’s Best of Show quilt and fiber “The New American Heritage” is an emphatic satirical take on what is real about being a “Real American” as the quilt takes scatological aim at the U.S.A. through its lampooning of our society’s strengths and weaknesses. Uncle Sam is depicted as a red, white, and blue clown with straw hat atop and arms propped with disembodied six-shooters at waist-height standing in front of a cloud of newspaper smoke and fire. Add an exceptionally buff George Washington as well as a vaguely surreal exquisite corpse Abraham Lincoln charbroiling a steak and Quinlan’s “The New American Heritage” is a rather pungent view of what it means to be a “Real American.”

“The New American Heritage” is one of many artworks in this exhibit that have an overt political or social bent—this is the kind of display that brings out the best of this kind of parody. Yet license of free thought is only one aspect of what it means to be an American. On the other hand, Baker’s Second Place archival inkjet “Monster Energy, Tulsa” by Dan Farnum touches far more subtly and thoughtfully at class and economics in its artless depiction of an everyday group of archetypical American youths standing casually in front of suburban strip mall.

But so much for politics: The exhibit is also exceedingly lyrical, and my favorite work on display is Allen Park, MI Seder Burns’ magnificent archival inkjet “RV Camped for the Night on BLM Land in Colorado” color photograph that describes an “unexpected, quirky, and complex” view of what it means to be a real American.

This lone camper vehicle, taking advantage of federal regulation that allows for extended free camping (albeit in a band of states running vertically from Montana to New Mexico; horizontally west to the Pacific Ocean) is shown after dusk set against a magnificent American countryside with stars and stripes strategically draped across the front windshield.

Burns’ photograph clearly partakes of what it means to be a “real” American as there’s a free-spiritedness that’s been part of our national wanderlust reaching back for centuries from the days of Native American habitation up and down North America to varied European-based explorations through the Manifest Destiny that’s subsequently championed continental expansion. His “RV Camped for the Night” merely gives this notion a well-deserved 21st century spin.

Shawn Quinlan, Dan Farnum, and Seder Burns ultimately span the range of what Baker heartily illustrates in this exhibit. Yet there are, of course, many more views. What’s implicitly inferred in each work in this display is the belief that what it means to be a “real” American is really no more than a psychological state of mind—and everything else proceeds from there.


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


“Real American” will continue through August 13 at the Ann Arbor Art Center 117 Gallery, 117 W. Liberty St. Exhibit hours are 10 am to 7 pm, Monday-Friday; 10 am to 6 pm, Saturday; and noon to 5 pm, Sunday. For information, call (734) 994-8004.

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Ann Arbor Art Fair 2016: Photo Gallery


Ann Arbor Art Fair 2016 - Liberty Street

Ann Arbor Art Fair 2016 - Liberty Street / Photo by Tom Smith (CC-by-NC)

Battening down the hatches.

Battening down the hatches. / Photo by Tom Smith (CC-by-NC)

Roos Roast Coffee at the Ann Arbor Art Fair. Deep Local.

Roos Roast Coffee at the Ann Arbor Art Fair. Deep Local. / Photo by Tom Smith (CC-by-NC)

Violin Monster Go.

Violin Monster Go. / Photo by Tom Smith (CC-by-NC)

Ann Arbor Police at the Art Fair.

Ann Arbor Police at the Art Fair. / Photo by Tom Smith (CC-by-NC)

NOLAtron busks for energon.

NOLAtron busks for energon. / Photo by Tom Smith (CC-by-NC)













All photos by AADL Library Technician Tom Smith.

The Ann Arbor Art Fair is an annual event. The 2016 Art Fair was Thursday, July 21 through Sunday, July 24, 2016. Check their website for information and announcements for next year's festivities.

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