Fabulous Fiction Firsts #610


Fabulous Fiction Firsts #610

One of Bon Appetit's 8 New Food Novels to Read This Year - The City Baker's Guide to Country Living is a debut novel by Boston pastry chef Louise Miller.

Running away is what thirtysomething Livvy (Olivia) Rawlings does best. After her Baked Alaska sets fire to Boston's exclusive Emerson Club, she packs up and heads north to Guthrie, Vermont where her childhood (and only) friend Hannah lives. Luck would have it, the Sugar Maple Inn needs a pastry chef, a job that comes with a charming little cottage - the Sugarhouse.

Margaret Hurley, the cantankerous and demanding inn owner puts Livvy through her paces but is soon won over by Livvy's creations, along with the guests and the town-folks. Before long, Livvy finds herself immersed in small town life and intense scrutiny when she gets involved with Martin McCracken, a prodigal son who has returned to tend his ailing father.

After a Rockwell-worthy Thanksgiving, a funeral, and a surprise visitor shake things up, Livvy must decide whether to do what she does best and flee--or stay and finally discover what it means to belong.

This August Indie Next and LibraryReads pick, will appeal fo fans of Kitchens of the Great Midwest by Ryan Stradal; South of Superior by Ellen Airgood; novels by Erica Bauermesiter and the Little Beach Street Bakery series by Jenny Colgan.

Review: 10th Annual Kerrytown Nashbash Music Festival


Review: 10th Annual Kerrytown Nashbash Music Festival.

Musicians keeping it country at Nashbash.

The 10th annual Nashbash Music Festival took place in Kerrytown this past Thursday evening. Put on by the Kerrytown District Association in conjunction with the Kerrytown Concert House, the festival is a rare celebration of country music in Ann Arbor. It was a beautiful night for the event, which takes place each year in the Farmers’ Market space between Fifth and Fourth Avenues. Wolverine Brewing Company and Aut Bar slung cocktails and barbecue, and attendees could grab dinner or dessert from various food carts, including Hello Ice Cream, Petey’s Donuts and Pilar’s Tamales. Overall, the atmosphere of the festival was, as usual, relaxed and cheerful, with a wide variety of attendees. Children played and danced in the cleared parking lot, millennials busted out their cowboy boots for the occasion and sat in the sun sipping beer (this Pulp writer is upset that she forget to wear her favorite bright red cowboy boots), and older folks eagerly claimed chairs right in front of the stage to sing and clap along to the music.

Nashville singer/songwriter Sally Barris headlined this year’s festival. She’s written songs that have been recorded by a number of famous country singers including Trisha Yearwood, Keith Urban and Martina McBride, and is an extremely talented musician in her own right, currently touring with her latest album “The Road In Me.” Festival attendees were delighted with her performance last night. She played plenty of lighthearted, almost comical songs, like the one she wrote dedicated to a man who wrote his own obituary that she read about in Yahoo! News and a “Halloween love song” co-written with Don Henley. “I know what you’re thinking,” Barris joked. “Another Halloween love song?” But it wasn’t all kidding around; Barris also sang a song (later recorded by Trisha Yearwood) that she described as “deeply personal,” titled “Let the Wind Chase You. “I don’t want to work for your love/I don’t want to try to be/Something that you’re looking for/You’re never gonna find in me,” Barris sang in her clear soprano. Her set concluded with a song about a girl living in Nashville who wants to fall in love with a real cowboy, not just a guy who throws on a belt with a big buckle and some boots and believes he’s the real deal. “If I said let’s ride off into the sunset/Would you know what I mean?” Barris ended the song with a smile and a wink.

Local band Hoodang also played Nashbash. Always a delight to watch, their music is a toe-tapping blend of blues, country and rock’n’roll. Lyrics focus on, as they describe it, “people tarnished by bad blood and bad luck who still find a way to make it through to the next town, day, marriage, con or battle.” Frontman David Rossiter founded the band in 2003, and has been playing locally ever since, with various backing musicians. The current iteration has been together for several years now, though, and it seems to be working extremely well. Along with Rossiter, who plays guitar and sings, Dave Keeney plays electric guitar, Ralph McKee plays bass, John Crawford plays drums and Sophia Hanifi offers her vocal talents to round out the quintet. Hoodang isn’t particularly showy on stage, but they’re a joy to watch, simply because they seem to be having so much fun and are so comfortable together. They dedicated their song “You Don’t Tell the Truth” to presidential hopeful Donald Trump, which got laughs and cheers from the crowd. Hoodang is exactly the kind of band that one hopes to see when walking into a Nashville honky-tonk, but fortunately for Ann Arbor residents, we didn’t have to make the 9 hour drive south to see such a performance last night.

Whit Hill and the Postcards were the final performance of the evening. Hill, a longtime Ann Arborite, moved to Nashville 8 years ago and is one of the founding members of Nashbash. She scopes out acts in Nashville and selects one to bring to the festival each year. After a bit of sound trouble, Hill and the band kicked off their set with “Lotta Yer Love,” off their 2006 album Farsighted. “Don’t give me lots of money/ I don’t need your money/Just need a lotta your love,” went the rocking chorus (“She doesn’t want money, just love,” a man next to me helpfully pointed out when he saw me taking notes on the performance). The band mainly focused on songs from their 2014 album, I Dug It Up, and played a rousing version of the title track, which was a crowd favorite.

Earlier in the evening, The Bill Edwards Band, The Judy Banker Band and The Whiskey Charmers performed.

Ann Arbor is not traditionally a country music loving town, and it’s a testament to the organization of Nashbash and the talent that performs that the festival has been so successful for a decade. Even those who think they can’t bear to hear a single note of a country song would do well to check out the 11th annual Nashbash in 2017.

The 10th annual Nashbash Music Festival took place Thursday, August 18 from 5:30-9:00. The festival happens every year in mid-August and is free and open to the public.

Elizabeth Pearce is a library technician at the Ann Arbor District Library. She would also like to fall in love with a real cowboy.

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.

Preview: George Bedard & Mr. B Lead The Blues Pack Together


George Bedard brings Match Box Blues to the Ark on August 27.

George Bedard brings Match Box Blues to the Ark on August 27.

Ann Arbor is fortunate to have housed some world class blues musicians with national and international credentials, Peter “Madcat” Ruth, Steve Nardella, and recently Laith Al-Saadi among them.

Guitarist George Bedard and pianist Mark "Mr. B" Braun are at the top of this short but powerhouse list. Though they have infrequently collaborated in other bands as sidemen, they will work front and center for a show at The Ark that should be a blockbuster showcase.

Where Bedard specializes in rockabilly and Mr. B’s expertise lies in boogie woogie, they are directly an offshoot of the historic blues which leads to rock music. Bedard has been presenting a chain of American roots music presentations, of which this concert is the fourth in the annual series.

The title of this show “Match Box Blues,” after the song written by Blind Lemon Jefferson in the 1920s, speaks of the early years of country blues, and the Mississippi musicians who stayed down south or migrated to Chicago, picked up electric amplified instruments, and changed the face of music forever.

There is also the importance of New Orleans and Memphis, along with Detroit, becoming hubs for African-American musicians and giving the blues its different flavors. From the Sun Records stable and Elvis Presley in Tennessee to the urbanized style in the Windy City and combinations of rural and city street diversity in the Motor City, Bedard and Mr. B have taken into account what came before them, inspired by storied train rides to each city telling the tales in days of old.

Carrying on in the boogie woogie tradition of Albert Ammons, Pete Johnson, and Meade Lux Lewis, Mark “Mr. B” Braun came up in the ranks, moving from Flint and attending regular “Blue Monday” shows with Boogie Woogie Red in the basement of the old Blind Pig. Other figures like Little Brother Montgomery, Big Maceo, Leroy Carr, Otis Spann, and local legend Bob Seeley were also figures that loomed large in Mr. B’s development.

Mr. B stands for boogie woogie

Mr. B stands for boogie woogie.

George Bedard also convened in the basement of the Blind Pig, falling for Boogie Woogie Red’s style and substance. The guitarist enjoyed what Braun aspired to be with boogie piano, but also gravitated toward guitarists Robert Johnson, Tampa Red, Scrapper Blackwell, Robert Lockwood, Lonnie Johnson, and T-Bone Walker.

Going beyond roots, Mr. B has collaborated with jazz drummers Roy Brooks and J.C. Heard, bassist Paul Keller and his big bands, drummer Pete Siers, and singer/songwriter Dick Siegel.

Bedard also worked with Siegel, as well as gigging with bands the Vipers, the Bonnevilles, and the Silvertones in the 1970s. Later on, he teamed up with legends like harmonica players Kim Wilson and Big Walter Horton, singer Big Joe Turner, Eddie Taylor, and Bonnie Raitt, and he continues leading his popular veteran band The Kingpins going on four decades plus.

In an e-mail, Bedard spoke of his early days. “It was Steve Nardella who brought us together. I was inspired by Mark’s energy and his love of craft and we bounced off each other very well. Many of our early gigs were at the Blind Pig and it was playing there that we found out we each had spent time scoping out their featured blues artists.”

Mr. B, also via e-mail, chimed in. “Sure enough, I first met George through Steve Nardella. I was a little in awe of him at that time, as I used to hear him play with Steve in the Silvertones as often as possible. George was way ahead of me in terms of the spectrum of styles that he could play with authority. He put in a lot of time when he was young to learn a whole lotta guitar.”

Bedard says the first set will feature Braun in a display of his piano wizardry for famed guitar/piano duets, followed by drummer Rich Dishman (from The Kingpins) and jazz bassist Patrick Prouty joining them to revive tunes from their collective repertoire.

David Roof, master of the slap bass popularized by Slam Stewart, will be featured in the second set playing classic rockabilly material, including the icon Carl Perkins’ version of “Match Box.”

“Mark and I have been talking about doing a blues guitar/piano tribute for more years than we can remember,” said Bedard, “but never had the time. When we discovered we were both going to be in town in August we decided to sit down and actually work on this project.”

“Playing with him now is fun as can be,” Braun added. “We don't do it enough. If you want an opportunity to play an array of blues, jazz, swing and rockabilly material, it doesn't matter how far you go, you're not going to find a guitarist that can work it any better than George. I'm eating my Wheaties!”

"I can feel it already," Bedard concluded, with feeling. "We're going to have one hell of a fine time pulling it off”.

Michael G. Nastos is known as a veteran radio broadcaster, local music journalist, and event promoter/producer. He is a former music director and current super sub on 88.3 WCBN-FM Ann Arbor, founding member of SEMJA, the Southeastern Michigan Jazz Association, Board of Directors member of the Michigan Jazz Festival, votes in the annual Detroit Music Awards and Down Beat Magazine, NPR Music and El Intruso Critics Polls, and writes monthly for Hot House Magazine in New York City.

George Bedard & Mr. B perform at 8 pm on Saturday, August 27 at The Ark, 316 S. Main Street. Call (761) 1800 or (734) 761-1818, or visit The Ark's website for more information.

North Washington Street Porch Shows


Washington Street Porch Shows

Musicians on a Washington Street porch think and perform outside the box. Photo from YpsiReal.

In a town as rich in creative energy as Ypsilanti, musical performances can happen pretty much anywhere, and the Washington Street porch shows are proof. The spacious porch of 201 N. Washington Street in Ypsi has become the perfect DIY venue for local musical talent and casual community gatherings, put together almost entirely by Washington Street resident J.T. Garfield.

The magic of these shows comes from their completely laid-back, free-form atmosphere. Usually artists perform from the porch while the audience relaxes on folding chairs or plunks down right on the lawn. And if the musician doesn’t feel like playing up on the porch, well, he or she might just sit in the grass too and play from there. During one rainy Sunday show, Washington Street residents threw together a covering that was part zip-tie, part tarp-fort, part tent to cover the entire porch and the audience. Even the line-up is changeable, with some improvisational music acts jumping up on stage as the spirit moves them.

While the shows’ schedules are often packed with local musicians, there is always an effort to keep things interesting by including comedians, dancers, spoken word artists, and other diverse types of performance art. Past acts include Matt Jones, Misty Lyn, Fred Thomas, and J.T. himself, who belongs to the band Truman.

There’s no real schedule for these shows, but that’s no surprise when everything about this event speaks to its easygoing, yard-barbecue atmosphere. As of now, there’s only one future porch show with a date, on September 4th, so if you happen to be just cruising down Washington around 6pm and in the mood for music, it’ll be your lucky day.

For an excellent interview with J.T. Garfield on the origins and vision of the porch shows, check out this article from Ypsi Real by Michael Moriarty.

The next Washington Street porch show will be on September 4th at 6pm outside 201 N. Washington St. This free event is open to the public.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #609


Fabulous Fiction Firsts #609

“Friendship improves happiness, and abates misery, by doubling our joys, and dividing our grief.”
-Marcus Tullius Cicero

Shutting out the world beyond her Paris apartment for a whole year after the accidental deaths of her husband and young daughter, leaving management of her literary cafe Happy People Read & Drink Coffee in the hands of her well-meaning-but-not-so-capable partner Felix, Diane is finally ready to join the world of the living. Out of the blue, she announces that she will be moving to Ireland, the one place her late husband had wanted to visit.

Renting an isolated cottage in Mulranny along the wind-swept Irish coast, Diane makes tentative steps towards rebuilding her life, aided by endless cigarettes, music, copious amount of wine, friendly villagers and Postman Pat, a canine who takes an immediate liking to her. The exception being Postman Pat's owner, her neighbor - the rude and abrasive photographer, Edward, who is battling his own demons. I don't have to tell you what is likely to happen....

Agnès Martin-Lugand's debut, already an international bestseller, confronts life's most nightmarish tragedy with an unblinking examination. "For readers of women’s journeys and tales of hope, this slim volume engages thoughts and feelings without whitewashing grief." -Booklist

In development as a Weinstein Company feature film, sequel anticipated.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #609

Journalist and translator Milena Busquets's debut This Too Shall Pass* is a lively, sexy, honest, and moving novel about a woman coming to terms with grief.

Forty year-old Blanca is wrecked with grief, losing her mother - the most important person in her life. Unable to carry on in Barcelona, she returns to her mother’s former home in Cadaqués with, among others, 2 sons, 2 ex-husbands, 2 best friends, and looking forward to meeting up with her married lover.

Surrounded by those she loves most, she spends the summer in an impossibly beautiful place, finding ways to reconnect and understand what it means to truly live on her own terms, just as her mother would have wanted.

"Witty and playful in tone as well as poignant and reflective, Busquets’ novel is drawn in part from the loss of her own mother, Esther Busquets, a prominent publishing figure in Spain. The seductions of its setting add to its appeal for American readers." -Booklist

Film rights to Buenos Aires based producer Daniel Burman.

* = starred review

Preview: McKee Brothers Keyed In On Personal Brand Of Blues & Jazz


The McKee Brothers bring some friends to the Necto on August 19.

The McKee Brothers bring some friends to the Necto on August 19.

Sibling rivalries in pop music are few and far between, but in other forms they are quite frequent and stand the test of time for being viable, much more friendly, and cooperative.

The McKee Brothers -- Ralph and Denis McKee -- make time as best they can, even though Ralph lives in Ann Arbor and Denis resides in Lakewood, California. They’ve been working on a collective project for fifteen years, resulting in the newly released CD Enjoy It While You Can, a recording featuring cream-of-the-crop players from Southeastern-to-Mid Michigan, Metro Detroit, and the West Coast.

In the 1970s, the self-taught Ralph McKee started playing professionally after being inspired by his college roommate Bob Doezema, a musician who went on tour and collaborated with Blood, Sweat & Tears keyboardist and producer Al Kooper. Doezema moved on, teaching at the famed Berklee School of Music in Boston.

Primarily an electric bass guitarist, although also an adept percussionist, lap/steel guitarist, and fond of the mbira/kalimba/thumb piano, Ralph McKee studied in the early 1980s at the University of Michigan and became a prominent attorney while also pursuing his interest in tennis as a player. (He is current President of the Ann Arbor Area Community Tennis Association, administers the annual Ann Arbor City Tennis Tournament.)

Denis McKee, eleven years Ralph’s junior, took up bongo drums at the behest of one of Ralph’s collaborators, Pat “Doc” Roberts. Denis also picked up acoustic and electric guitar, eventually keyboards, and the alto saxophone in school bands.

While living in Lansing, Denis met, and performed in Jackson with, the legendary Bob Schultz -- vocalist, saxophonist, and keyboardist whose credits include Bob Seger and his own group Big Foot Bob & The Toe Tappers. Ralph also played gigs with Schultz, as well as local fusion groups All Directions, Big Fun (not the recent group featuring Mark Kirschenmann), Continuum, the reggae band The Pulsations, The Bridge Club, a reunion version of SRC with the late guitarist Gary Quackenbush, the Blue Rays, Lady Sunshine & The X Band, vocalist/guitarist Peter Holland, vocalist Marsha Gayle, and recently the R & B group The Avery Goode Band, as well as the prominent alt country band Hoodang.

Denis moved to L.A. in the 1990s, but prior to heading west was taught by and collaborated with the late guitarist Jerry Glassel and sat in occasionally with Continuum prior to leaving Michigan. In California, Denis was music director for R & B icon King Floyd, former Michigan jazz and blues singer Barbara Morrison, and famed guitarist Kirk Fletcher, who appears on the CD. As patrons, the McKee Brothers have attended the Doheny Blues Festival for several years running, providing further inspiration to record the music on Enjoy It While You Can.

In a recent interview, Ralph McKee reflected on what basically brought him and his brother together musically. “He was a kid when I started playing professionally. We never really played together professionally except for the few Continuum shows. We do listen to and like a lot of the same stuff - The Police, Santana, David Sanborn, Frank Zappa, Robin Trower.”

Fact is, their musical palates are much broader, including many forms of jazz, gospel and ethnic vocal music, African and Hawaiian vocals or rhythms, contemporary Twentieth and Twenty First Century musics, and more.

The McKee’s also produced a Latin-jazz session in 2001 with members of Los Gatos. This recording got the ball rolling on a legitimate McKee Brothers project. Some of this new music will be included during the CD release performance and may be produced into a follow-up CD titled, Enjoy It Some More.

“For this show we’ll just do everything on the album,” Ralph McKee emphasized. The show is 90 minutes and the CD is almost 80 minutes long. We might have time for extras.” He hinted about features for Schultz, or Tasha Owens, a local singer for whom he has considerable regard.

While influenced primarily by the blues, the McKee Brothers present a style of music that is reminiscent of the Memphis-flavored horn driven style of funk quite similar to that of the legendary Stax Records catalogue. The key is that it goes beyond that sweet soul sound, punctuated by the distinctive vocals of Schultz, a driving rhythm section, tinges of Philadelphia, New Orleans, the Caribbean, and of course the Motown sound they grew up with.

Michael G. Nastos is known as a veteran radio broadcaster, local music journalist, and event promoter/producer. He is a former music director and current super sub on 88.3 WCBN-FM Ann Arbor, founding member of SEMJA, the Southeastern Michigan Jazz Association, Board of Directors member of the Michigan Jazz Festival, votes in the annual Detroit Music Awards and Down Beat Magazine, NPR Music and El Intruso Critics Polls, and writes monthly for Hot House Magazine in New York City.

The McKee Brothers perform at 5:30 pm, Friday, August 19, at The Necto Nightclub, 516 E. Liberty. With Ralph and Denis Mc Kee will be keyboardist Jim Alfredson, guitarist Stan Budzynski, trumpeter Brandon Cooper, saxophonist Dave Huber, keyboardist Duncan McMillan, vocalist Tasha Owens, vocalist Bob Schultz, saxophonist Bobby Streng, drummer Skeeto Valdez and special guests to be announced. For more information, call The Necto at (734) 994-5436 or email info@necto.com.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #608


Fabulous Fiction Firsts #608

“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer. And that makes me happy.” -Albert Camus

Invincible Summer by Alice Adams is "a dazzling depiction of the highs and lows of adulthood, ... a story about finding the courage to carry on in the wake of disappointment, and a powerful testament to love and friendship as the constants in an ever-changing world." (Kirkus Reviews)

Eva, Benedict, and siblings Sylvie and Lucien were inseparable throughout college. Upon graduation Eva, hopelessly in love with playboy Lucien breaks away to scale the peak of global finance, and finds herself lonely in her London loft. Artistic Sylvie and carefree Lucien travel the world, looking for adventure and good times. Only Benedict stays behind, pursuing a PhD in Physics, and pining over Eva.

Over the course of 2 decades, these friends would meet up, determined to remain close while circumstances, geography, and life choices strain their relationships until tragedies draw them together again, but in ways they never could have imaged.

"Adams has crafted a light, charming tale of love, loss, and the lasting power of friendship... the characters are engaging and one cannot help but care about them. All in all, a perfect summer read." (Booklist) For fans of Meg Wolitzer's The Interestings and Lucky Us by Amy Bloom.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #608

Chronicle of a Last Summer: a novel of Egypt by Yasmine El Rashidi traces a young Egyptian woman's coming of age through three pivotal summers, from the oppressive Mubarak era to the turbulent Arab Spring.

Cairo, 1984. the 6 year-old unnamed narrator, observant and wildly imaginative, spends the hot summer days away from her English school listening to her mother’s phone conversations, watching the three state-sanctioned TV stations with the volume off, and wondering about her father's absence - why, or to where, no one will say.

In 1998, the narrator, now a university student and an aspiring filmmaker, yearns for change but is deeply fearful of terrorism and the repression that surrounds her. Finally, as a writer in 2104, after reunited with her father, she is acutely aware of how difficult it is to affect any real change, and wonders about the silences that have marked and shaped her generation.

Yasmine El Rashidi covers Egypt and the Middle East for the The New York Review of Books, The Guardian, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal. She splits her time between New York City and Cairo.

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



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 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 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 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.

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.