There are songs that move your soul, songs that make you want to dance, songs that fill your heart. But what about singing? Can singing—especially in a group—really make a difference in your life?
The answer to that question is a harmonious “yes!” Numerous studies indicate that singing changes our brains, both calming and energizing us. A 2013 article in Time Magazine described group singing as the “perfect tranquilizer, (one) that both soothes your nerves and elevates your spirits.”
Nowhere is this more evident than in one of the many community sings that have cropped up around our state, including one right here in Ann Arbor. Since last November, people of all different vocal abilities have been gathering at the Ann Arbor Senior Center in Burns Park on the first Sunday of the month at 7 pm to belt out tunes ranging from Woody Guthrie to Bill Withers.
As someone who was kicked out of my high school choir class, I was a bit reluctant to attend. The ad said that it welcomed anyone—whether you sang in a choir or in your shower. Since I most definitely do the latter (with a rousing selection of Barry Manilow songs), I decided to give it a try; I was put at ease almost immediately.
“How many of you were told to just mouth the words?” song leader Matt Watroba asked at the beginning of class. Since I technically was told that it was better to just mouth the words as my choir teacher was signing the slip to move me to a drama class, I raised my hand. Watroba then said the words that I didn’t know I needed to hear, “That’s nonsense. Anyone can sing.”
And Watroba knows a thing or two about singing. A singer, teacher, founding member of the National Folk Alliance, writer, former host of WDET’s Folks Like Us, frequent performer at The Ark—Watroba has contributed to the musical landscape of our country in ways that most of us can only dream of. Recently, he has focused his energies on community sings.
Inspired by the words of Pete Seeger, who said he always intended to put songs on people’s lips, Watroba set out to create and host these magical gatherings. The idea is simple—gather together, share songs, and sing. Even if you have been told you should transfer out of choir class immediately and go back to drama class. Singing is the “perfect excuse” to get offline and get back in touch with the healing brought about by being in a community.
Even after a few songs, I feel better. Research studies confirm this, finding that singing contributes to the quality of lives and lowers stress. It is considered an aerobic activity in that improves circulation by increasing oxygen in the blood. Singing also requires deep breathing, which is a key to most relaxation techniques. And honestly, it is hard to worry about your job when you are concentrating on the lyrics to some of the most beautiful songs ever written.
But why does singing, especially with others, affect us this way? Some researchers believe it may come from the endorphins and oxytocin that are released when we sing. The former hormone is related to feelings of pleasure; the latter enhances feelings of trust and bonding. Another study posited that singing is our “evolutionary reward” for working together cooperatively, rather than trying to fix something on our own.
The benefits of being in a group are also innumerable—the sense of belonging and acceptance, the absence of loneliness, the act of being welcomed. The Community Sing groups are especially welcoming, in that you don’t have to audition, and you don’t even have to be able to carry a tune.
So whether you are a trained opera singer, someone who rocks out to 80s hair bands in your car, or yes, even someone who has been asked to lip-sync in a choir, join us for our next Community Sing on August 7 at 7 pm at the Ann Arbor Senior Center. You will never be asked to just mouth the words!
Patti Smith is a special education teacher who lives in Ann Arbor with her husband and cats. She is the author of two books about Ann Arbor, the most recent is a history of the People’s Food Co-op. She wishes she had even an ounce of musical talent so that she could join the Civic Band! Visit her at www.PattiFSmith.com or @TeacherPatti on Twitter.
The Community Sing takes place Sunday, August 7 at 7 pm at the Ann Arbor Senior Center at 1320 Baldwin Ave. There is a $5 participation fee.
A best-seller in Europe, the first foreign-language romance novel to be translated and published in the U.S, All In* by Swedish author Simona Ahrnstedt is "sexy, smart, and completely unputdownable." (Tessa Dare)
David Hammer, the upstart, infamous venture capitalist and corporate raider, known for his brutal take-overs is poised to pull off the biggest deal in the history of Swedish finance, make it world-wide finance. His sight is set on Investum - one of Sweden's biggest and oldest financial institutions, owned and controlled by the De la Grip Family. After years of planning, all the players are in place; he needs just one member of the owning family on his side—Natalia De la Grip. He invites her to lunch.
(Countess) Natalia is everything David despises - upper-class, traditional, as close to royalty as you could get without actually being royal and yet he finds her brilliant, driven to succeed in a man’s world, and enchanting. Natalia is intrigued by this way-too handsome man who is rich, dangerous, and in the business circles - utterly unethical. However, the powerful chemistry between them leaves both of them exhilarated and vulnerable.
As the deal goes through, it turns out that it is not all about business. Past history, family secrets and revenge will force David and Natalia to confront their innermost fears and desires as they make deeply difficult choices.
“The author’s ability to skillfully fuse a luxurious lifestyle, a refreshingly different Swedish setting, a plot riddled with revenge and financial intrigue, and plenty of steamy romance means All In will be the must-have leisure read everywhere this summer.” (Booklist).
* = starred review
One thing you’ll inevitably think about while watching the Michigan stage premiere production of Karen Tarjan’s The Killer Angels – presented by Michigan Shakespeare Festival, and inspired by the 1975 Pulitzer Prize-winning Civil War novel of the same name by Michael Shaara – is how 19th century American warfare and military strategy look nothing like our contemporary conflicts; yet even so, brutality, death, and nightmarish confusion on the battlefield remain constants.
Focused on the three-day Battle of Gettysburg – cited by many as a key turning point for the victorious (uh, spoiler alert?) Union Army – Killer Angels introduces us to military leaders as well as infantrymen on both sides of the war.
How? By double- and triple-casting the production’s 12 actors. And while this casting instruction/suggestion is wholly practical, it nonetheless makes following the play’s already-complicated narrative that much harder. Indeed, if your knowledge of the Battle of Gettysburg is minimal - ahem - you’ll likely be struggling to keep the characters (and other details) straight.
But there’s also a larger storytelling paradox at work: a military battle must, by definition, involve lots of people; and yet, to establish an emotional connection to the story, the audience must have sustained, intimate access to a smaller group of characters. (This is how we follow Shakespeare’s history plays, which tend to focus less on a single battle and more on those vying for power.) Because so many leaders and soldiers played a key role – some for better, some for worse – in the Battle of Gettysburg, Killer Angels shifts focus often, providing only cursory glimpses of most characters.
Yes, some conversations among the men are highly personal and touching; but the moments are fleeting, making the show feel more like a well-crafted, visually sumptuous 3D history lesson – with occasional musical interludes.
Indeed, the cast’s spare, haunting, men's chorus harmonies on songs like the show’s opener, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” – marvelously led by Killer Angels’ Troubadour Ian Geers – were among my favorite moments of the show. Music director Kate Hopgood, who researched and arranged the show’s music, in addition to being the show's sound designer, affectingly gives the show some soulful scaffolding (and thus gives patrons a few goosebumps).
Jeromy Hopgood’s scenic design is simple and theatrical, so that despite the play’s many locales, the only constants are a wood platform at stage right that stands in for General Lee’s (Tobin Hissong) headquarters, and a draped sheet of white fabric for projections (designed by Christine Franzen) that hangs upstage left. To establish other settings, crates get moved and stacked, so soldiers may appear to be sitting in a tree, or taking cover behind the terrain’s natural features.
Costume designer Patty Branam expertly dresses the actors in historically accurate uniforms, using a pants-and-white-shirt base that allows for several quick costume changes; and the attention paid to details like the worn, weathered look of Lee’s hat, and the way the number of buttons on a uniform indicates one's military rank, really seals the deal. Betty Thomas designed the show’s era-appropriate props, and David Allen Stoughton’s lighting design looks gauzy and occasionally spooky under cover of fog, giving Killer Angels the feel of a lived ghost story.
David Blixt does fantastic work choreographing the show’s battles, but the most arresting moment comes at the show’s climax, when an elegant and devastating bit of stagecraft conveys how Lee’s advancing Confederate troops are gutted in the final showdown.
Scenes like this, as well as the more personal, philosophical conversations that happen between men at Gettysburg, get to the heart of The Killer Angels, and director Janice L. Blixt seizes on the show’s best moments with a sure hand. And although the ensemble was strong generally, some standouts included Geers, who guides the audience through the complex story while slipping into multiple roles; Dwight Tolar as Union Col. Chamberlain, a thoughtful, dignified former schoolteacher-turned-soldier who has to make terrifying choices on the battlefield (like charging when his men run out of ammunition); Robert McLean as frustrated Confederate Lt. General Longstreet, who carries out Lee’s orders even when he knows the mission is doomed; and Hissong, who makes Lee a well-intentioned leader who’s so set on ending the war that his judgment about how to best achieve that is compromised.
Civil War buffs will likely swoon at The Killer Angels, as will fans of Shaara’s book (or the film adaptation, Gettysburg); and MSF’s overall execution is impressive and solid. But history dilettantes looking to get lost in a gripping story may instead just feel generally lost.
Jenn McKee is a former staff arts reporter for The Ann Arbor News, where she primarily covered theater and film events, and also wrote general features and occasional articles on books and music.
The Killer Angels continues through Sunday, August 14 at The Village Theater at Cherry Hill, 50400 Cherry Hill Road, Canton, MI. For tickets, visit http://www.michiganshakespearefestival.com/.
You love the intimacy of Kerrytown Concert House as a music venue. You enjoy KCH jazz, classical, cabaret, and other concerts. But did you know that this historic Ann Arbor performance space offers live theater?
The Brass Tacks Ensemble has faithfully used the Concert House as a summer venue for their outstanding mix of classical plays and original theatre since 2004 (with their staging of Shakespeare Variations, an original production of sketches based on Shakespearian tragedies). Formed when local actor and writer James Ingagiola gathered with other theatre lovers to produce King Lear at the Performance Network in 1999, Brass Tacks has consistently offered intimate and involving theatrical experiences to the Ann Arbor community.
The simplicity of the Concert House works well for the Ensemble: a guiding Brass Tacks principle is to concentrate on a play’s core elements –plot, theme, characterization - stripping away any excess and focusing on the theatrical essentials. This simple and direct approach also frees the audience’s imagination.
The Ensemble returns to Kerrytown this week, staging one of the wittiest, funniest plays in the English language: Oscar Wilde’s classic The Importance of Being Earnest. This tale of gentleman John Worthing, his love for the lady Gwendolen Fairfax, and her steadfast determination to only marry a man named Ernest combines sparkling wit, social satire, and farcical situations in one glorious package.
Directed by Ingagiola (the Ensemble’s Artistic Director), this production features local actors Amanda Barnett, Ethan Gibney, Elizaveta McFall, Amanda Photenhauer, Jan Romans, Annaliese Romans, Elizabeth Wagner, and Catherine Zudak.
If you are wondering about this largely female cast for a show that historically features five men, Ingagiola will tell you that "The sex of the characters has not changed. A lot of talented actresses are frequently left out of productions because of a dearth of female roles. They haven't been left out now."
Enjoy an evening of delightfully intimate theatre with one of the area’s most established and innovative theatrical troupes in one of Ann Arbor’s most beloved performance venues.
Tim Grimes is manager of Community Relations & Marketing at the Ann Arbor District Library and co-founder of Redbud Productions.
The Importance of Being Earnest runs Thursday - Saturday, August 4 -6, at Kerrytown Concert House, 415 North Fourth Avenue in Ann Arbor. Shows are at 8pm with an additional 2:00 pm matinee on Saturday August 6. For reservations and ticket information, call the Kerrytown Concert House at 734-769-2999 or visit http://kerrytownconcerthouse.com.
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.
Marcia Ball, described as the “one of a kind queen of swamp blues piano,” will swing through Ann Arbor this coming Sunday, July 31 to perform what’s sure to be a rollicking show at The Ark.
Ball grew up in Louisiana in a musical family—all the women in her family including her mother and grandmother were avid piano players—and has been playing piano herself since elementary school. She played in various bands throughout the 1960s and 1970s and set out on her solo career in 1974. Heavily influenced by her Louisiana roots, Ball’s unique piano style includes elements of zydeco and boogie woogie, as well as good old southern blues.
Ball has released almost twenty records since 1972, most recently The Tattooed Lady & The Alligator Man in 2014 and has won nine Blues Music Awards. During her long career, Ball has amassed a following of devoted fans as she travels about playing venues around the country similar in size to The Ark. Ball lives in Austin, Texas now, a home she came to inadvertently in 1970. While embarking on a planned move to San Francisco, her car broke down in Austin and she enjoyed the place so much that she decided to stay.
One of the things that fans enjoy most about Ball is the vivid storytelling that punctuates her music. The song "The Tattooed Lady & The Alligator Man" is the story of finding love at a traveling carnival that’s outrageous and fun but hits home with insightful truths and witty turns of phrase. Although her shows are full of energy, Ball delivers slower, sometimes heart-wrenching tunes too, such as “Let the Tears Roll Down,” off her album Presumed Innocent which includes the lyrics “Let the tears roll down/Let my poor heart break/But you won’t hear a sound/As you walk away.” Her husky voice does particularly well expressing the pain in such songs.
Concert attendees afraid of being driven too far down a melancholy hole shouldn’t be deterred, though: she counters sorrowful ballads with songs like “Peace, Love & BBQ,” which is a song simply about hanging in the backyard grilling meat and “Let Me Play With Your Poodle,” a raunchy song with barely veiled innuendos. Fans can hope for a variety of songs this Sunday at the show; with her most recent album a few years back, Ball has been playing a mix of old and new on tour of late.
Even if your typical musical preferences don’t encompass Ball’s unusual mixture of Louisiana sound, it’s undeniable that Sunday’s show is an amazing chance to hear a truly unique brand of piano playing, performed with true Americana spirit. All hail the queen of swamp blues piano!
Elizabeth Pearce is a Library Technician at the Ann Arbor District Library. She loves blues piano, as well as hanging in the backyard grilling meat.
Marcia Ball will perform at The Ark at 7:30 pm Sunday, July 31. Tickets are $30 and doors are at 7:00pm.
The literary journal Midwestern Gothic is accepting submissions for the 2016 Lake Prize. It's an annual literary prize for fiction and poetry that best represents the Midwest. The goal of the prize is to further the Midwestern Gothic mission of showcasing Midwestern writers and their work.
Submissions will be open from July 1 to August 31, 2016. There is a $5 flat rate entry fee - one entry per person (one short story or a group of up to 3 poems.) One winner will be selected for each category, and they will receive $300 and publication in Midwestern Gothic's Winter 2017 issue. One runner-up will be selected for both categories, and they will each receive $100 as well as publication in the Winter 2017 issue. Writers and their respective submissions should demonstrate a strong connection to the Midwest.
Sara Wedell is a Production Librarian at the Ann Arbor District Library.
More details about the Lake Prize can be found at the Midwestern Gothic website.
Ever wondered what the Ann Arbor Art Fair is like from the artists' perspective? We asked Karin Wagner Coron who was set up in booth A307 on North University Ave. to give us her view – in sketches:
Karin Wagner Coron is a native of Michigan and a Great Lakes Region artist. She earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Eastern Michigan University in drawing and painting, which launched her career as an artist and arts business owner. She is a member of the WSG Gallery, and owner/operator of Format Framing and Gallery. You'll find some of Karin's works in AADL's circulating art print collection.
Have you guys ever noticed that Art Fair is HUGE? Or that it's unbearably hot (not just this year, but somehow every year)? It can make it pretty difficult to hit all of the thousands of booths that are set up to find the best of the best. This year, Pulp staffers decided to help by heading out on opening day and finding our favorites. These artists are all definitely worth checking out, whether you are looking to buy or looking to look.
Stan H. Baker
Stan H. Baker, ceramic artist from Ann Arbor, was set up on Main Street selling his map plates and wall globes. The wonderful details of the wall-mounted half moons caught my attention – each one depicts a different phase of the moon. What drew me in further was when I realized that he is masterfully using the raku firing technique for the purpose of depicting the dark portion of the moon. He is also able to get beautiful iridescent glaze effects. I’m a big fan of maps and his didn’t disappoint. -Anne
Jen Callahan, Coastal Colors
Jen Callahan is a Florida-based artist whose artwork looks like a paint-aisle explosion in the best way possible. Her artwork features beachy, seaside settings and underwater creatures, made all the more enchanting by her vibrant color palette that seems to include everything from tranquil blues and purples to luminous greens and pinks. If you've never seen a rainbow-coated jellyfish or a sea turtle painted like a stained-glass window, it's definitely time to upgrade your life. -Nicole
D & M Wooden Flowers
D & M is local, based out of Saline, and their brilliantly-colored wooden flowers are some of the most impressive wood carvings I have ever seen. Their basswood lilies, tulips, and daffodils are painted in sunny colors that render them bright, detailed, and so realistic that I almost can't remember why I bother to buy real flowers when I could be buying breathtaking wooden daises that my cats can't destroy and eat. -Nicole
ISMS - Holly Ulm
Minnesota-native Holly Ulm drew my eye through the natural colors of her incredibly delicate-looking butterfly jewelry and art prints. Her art is offbeat and whimsical, featuring things like a black and white cat with brightly-colored Monarch wings or a mermaid with a tail that changes smoothly into the wings of a moth. All of Ulm's art uses the wings of real butterflies who have completed their life cycles and died of natural causes at butterfly conservation farms. Ulm then uses what I can only imagine is a 100-bajillion-step process to preserve the wings in as close to their natural state as possible--and she does a beautiful job. Each piece of jewelry is gorgeous and every art print manages to incorporate the wings in a way that lets their natural beauty speak for itself. -Nicole
Katydids Kritters is another local artist who makes art of the 3-dimensional variety. Her adorable hand-sewn wares are not only decorative, but functional! Owl-shaped doorstops, little critter sleep masks, and hot and cold therapy plushies that can be used on sore muscles and other pains. Because how could you possible still feel bad with an adorable stuffed penguin hanging out on your sore knee? You can't, that's how. -Nicole
When looking through booths I might take a closer look at before going out (you've got to make a plan on these 95 degree days), Katie Musolff's work didn't make my list. Interesting photographs, but that's not really my thing. But this is because thumbnails don't do her work justice. Those plants and animals, all apparently photographed from above in museum cases or on kitchen tables, aren't photographs at all but exquisitely rendered gouache paintings. They are done with such skill that they appear at a distance to be the real thing, but this is not photorealism or trompe-l'oeil. Musolff has simply mastered her tools so well that her paintings communicate all the essence and form of her natural subjects. Mushrooms pop off the page and fiddlehead ferns are in their brightest April green. Musolff conveys the life of these items, freshly ripped out of the ground for their moment of immortality. As you look, you can almost smell them.
Michelina Risbeck is a University of Michigan student. She creates mixed media works using household paint and joint compound on Plexiglass that explore the interplay of texture and color. Often reminding me of landscapes or abstract renditions of microscopic biological processes--like the division of cells--or the chaos that was the beginning of the universe. One of the artists I was totally blown away by in the Street Art Fair's New Art, New Artists (NANA) booth, selected to participate in this one-on-one mentoring program and are exhibiting for the first time at the Art Fair.-Anne
Chris Rom & Geoff Buddie
Ohio husband and wife team Chris Rom and Geoff Buddie are back for their ninth Ann Arbor Art Fair. Their work is a collaborative effort; they use porcelain, wood, fiber, and mixed media to create elegant minimalistic works. Repetition of shape creates visual interest and the hint of sequence. Their work ranges from familiar objects, such as bottles made of porcelain with a clear glaze and minimal black line decoration, to larger more abstract wall installations made up of repeating geometric 3D shapes. Intricate shadows add to the overall composition, which changes with the angle of light or the viewer’s angle of perspective. There is an order to their work that evokes a sense of calm. Though neither Chris nor Geoff would admit to an overtly mathematical background, they did mention that there is at least one engineer in their family. An earlier work of theirs is on permanent display at the Downtown Library (first floor near the new books). -Anne
Christine Schub has been showing at the Street Art Fair for about 20 years now, and there's a reason why she is a staple. Her work never disappoints in its intricacy and liveliness. Strictly nonrepresentational, her paintings lead the viewer to imprint their own loves on them; I see city buses, building facades, aerial views of landscapes, and geological layers, all dancing around each other. She says that hearing what people see is one of the most enjoyable parts of being a painter and coming to the Fair. There are certainly echoes of Mondrian before he went full-on neoplasticist, but you won't find any rigidly straight lines here. These paintings almost appear ready to drip right off the canvas, and it's that life and presence that has made Schub's work worth checking out all of these years. -Andrew
I was drawn to the red phone box sitting like a Tardis at the center of Kyle Spears’ “London, England” color photograph. A string of white lights runs behind it and down the receding sidewalk, while further beyond lies the London Eye and the Houses of Parliament lit in bright blue. Other prints in Spears’s booth are similarly alive with color, light, and contrasting edges or textures, an effect enhanced through long exposure using a medium format film camera and a combination of traditional and digital printing techniques. A couple black and white photographs focus on what Spears calls “moments of beauty amid chaos”: In “Notions of Time, Paris, France,” an odd-shaped corner building and striped crosswalk precede a curved alley and a ghostly time-lapsed figure; in “Fragile, Tokyo, Japan,” a jumble of squares, rectangles, and lines define the back of a building complex while simultaneously framing a woman’s face on a billboard. Spears not only shows us the world we see, he shows us the world as we’d want to see it. -Amy
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Nha Vuu had a few different things on offer, including some beautiful, large-scale renderings of flowers and other plants that evoke traditional Chinese paintings, but the things that drew me in were the rooftops. Vuu has a number of large works that depict the roofs of crowded residential areas, just lines of ink applied with a brush that hint at actual structures, occasionally with a splash of color, all on handmade paper. These remind one a bit of those same traditional Chinese paintings, but also of Cezanne's Provencal landscapes, Russian Constructivism, and Richard Thompson's Cul de Sac. In the smaller works, the rooftops dissolve into unrecognizable abstractions, easy to take as being not at all representational, simply a pleasing arrangement of lines and shapes. Each of the works shows a mastery of composition, whitespace, and the daringness to eschew all but a very limited palette, used in a very limited way. The alleys and backstreets between these houses are ones you'll want to explore up close. -Andrew
The best art is almost never the same piece at two feet away that it was at twenty. Christopher Wheeler's mixed media pieces fit this bill very nicely, changing as you approach, inviting you to come in closer, and then requiring that you back up again to take it all in. As you pass by the booth, his large pieces seem to just be paintings: flattened, geometric representations of trees and building facades. Lovely, but sterile in a midcentury modern sort of a way. But upon closer inspection, you find that those flattened shapes are not flat at all but made up of small pieces of paper, painted and then applied to make up a color area with subtle texture. Each of the birch limbs is a Matisse-like cutout, lightly painted in a way that, as you back up, makes you marvel that four cuts with scissors and one pass with a brush can give such a perfect illusion. It all combines to create works that draw you in to inspect, then pull back out to look at the whole again, then zoom in on another aspect. If you buy one, be sure to place it where people can look at it up close and where the light can show off those beautiful textural variations.
Retired engineer Jack White’s photography is sharp and full of wonderful contrasts. Though he’s from Pinckney, MI, his Rocks and Roots series was shot in New England. Tree roots and granite form a symbiotic relationship as they become entangled over time. Jack has an eye for framing the perfect shot and capturing just the right moment when the light hits it just so. Most of his photographs are black and white, but if you look closely you’ll catch a hint of color (added by hand) in some. Another of the artists I was totally blown away by in the Street Art Fair's New Art, New Artists (NANA) booth-Anne
I'm a sucker for block printing so as I was exploring the S. University Fair I was drawn to Laura Wilder's booth immediately. The intensity of the colors, contrast, and the use of negative space are magnetic in block printing. Wilder's work pulls you in and a close inspection is required. I was drawn initially to her depictions of nature, seasons, ferns, and other flora. I particularly liked her block print entitled Hiawatha Lake because she uses the willow trees to softly frame the structure in the background. Once in her booth I was equally drawn to her whimsical and lovely serigraph, The Scottie, just one of her many dog breed pieces. Wilder's Seasons IV, a four-season woods/stream framed piece would make a dramatic and soothing addition to a room. The panoramic layout, the use of color and the intensity of the work evoke the movement and shadows in nature. My favorite pieces were traditional block prints. Wilder describes the process: usually created with wood or linoleum blocks; non-image area is cut away, leaving only the image surface raised above non-printing areas. The ink is usually applied with rollers; may be printed with a press, a baren, a rolling pin, or a wooden spoon. Wilder offered her work in lush wood frames as well as limited edition giclees, note cards, mini-prints, posters, and more. Wilder is from Rochester, NY, and some of her work is off landmarks and popular spots in that region. -Erin
Printmaker Nick Wroblewski’s woodblock prints are breathtaking. Obviously he is inspired by the Japanese woodblock tradition, but his subjects and colors are unmistakably North American. Beautiful forest scenes, wetlands, and birds are all masterfully recreated. He uses the reduction printing method where a multi-color print is created using only one block by cutting away more and more of the surface in-between each color printing. The block is ultimately destroyed as each new color is carved. He has an example of the carved blocks on display to illustrate the process. Definitely worth a look. -Anne
Pulp staffers declined to write about their real Art Fair Picks: water bottles, t-shirts, umbrellas, and shady trees.
The 2016 Ann Arbor Art Fair will continue through Sunday, July 24, 2016.