A Thread of Jewels: The 6X collective's "Mistaken for Strangers" fills the A2 Art Center's Gallery 117 with wearable art


Brooke Marks-Swanson, Yellow Furrow

Brooke Marks-Swanson, Yellow Furrow, knit leather, oxidized silver 

The contemporary jewelry-making collective 6X makes interconnected, wearable artworks. The six-member group of Midwesterners explained their approach as part of its February exhibition at the Ann Arbor Art Center: “Ties, which may not consciously be acknowledged at a simple glance, are visible upon further consideration of approaches to concept, material, and process.” Thus, the title of the A2AC exhibit, Mistaken for Strangers, in its Gallery 117 space references the connectedness of their creative processes, which may not be immediately recognized by viewers. 

A2AC moved its Gallery 117 from the second to the first floor, allowing easier access for visitors who may have not been able to use the stairs previously. 6X has created a dynamic installation that emphasizes the collective’s desire to form relationships between their varied works. The group accomplishes its goal to visually connect seemingly disparate formal approaches, with two towers of open white boxes standing in the center floor space, each box containing a piece of jewelry, and additional pieces displayed on top of the boxes. 

A quote by Nadeem Aslam prefaces the gallery wall text: “Pull a thread here and you’ll find it’s attached to the rest of the world.” The concept of the threads that connect us is enforced visually not only by exhibiting the artists’ disparate works together but also through a two-part installation of white thread. The loom-like threads are suspended between two walls in one corner of the gallery, and a two-panel installation hangs from the ceiling above a series of pedestals displaying the artworks.

Melis Agabigum, When the Wind Blows a Song of Silence

Melis Agabigum, When the Wind Blows a Song of Silence, copper, sterling silver, enamel, cotton cord, beeswax

Melis Agabigum’s works examine “loss, repetition, and the notion of burden that individuals carry from their relationships.” Agabigum, originally from Michigan, currently works in Richmond, Indiana. She is both an artist and educator. She received her MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in Intermedia: Jewelry/Metals, Installation Art, Sculpture, and Fibers, and has taught courses at universities across the country, including the University of Michigan. Agabigum works with soft sculpture in her jewelry-making, creating delicate and detailed forms from materials such as cotton, beeswax, and metals such as copper and 14K gold. Her compositions often echo forms of the human body, which serve to “explore the unseen tether of the physical and emotional weights that affect individuals in how they perceive their connection to others, their bodies, and space.”

Rachel Andrea Davis, Mourning Brooch #9

Rachel Andrea Davis, Mourning Brooch #9, found wood, eggshell, gold leaf, watercolor, nugold, steel, from the collection of Zaque Harig

Rachel Andrea Davis is an artist and educator who has a Master of Arts from Kent State University and is pursuing a Masters in Fine Arts at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. Davis creates her works from found materials such as wood, which forms the substrate for her Mourning Brooch series. Davis frequently employs materials such as freshwater pearls, gold leaf, watercolor, NuGold, steel, ebony, fibers, and hair as compositional elements that contrast visually against the natural wood.

Joshua Kosker, Cubic Tangelo Cluster

Joshua Kosker, Cubic Tangelo Cluster (pendant), 2016. Tangelo peel, plywood, sterling silver. 2.5" x 4" x 2" (30" chain)

Joshua Kosker is an artist, jeweler, and educator based in Bloomington, Indiana. Kosker’s artist statement notes his atypical approach to jewelry-making, which “fuses traditional craft practices with experimental materials and processes.” Furthermore, his practice draws “from unexpected, commonly found, and often impermanent materials,” and explores concepts of time, place, materiality, object and the body.” Kosker includes works from his Tangents series, which feature geometric forms in vibrant orange hues. These pieces are created from preserved Minneola peels, a variety of Tangelo. He “cures” the peels like animal hides, then uses them to create his designs. Though Kosker’s exploration of the Tangelo extends beyond what is shown in this exhibit, the works at the Ann Arbor Art Center represent his unique approach to object-making, which addresses themes of consumerism and preservation. Among the works shown at the gallery are square tangelo earrings, pendants, or circular tangelo earrings, some with produce stickers, others without. In one work, Kosker wraps a Tangelo-shaped metal object in PLU (produce sticker) codes, tying his series firmly to commercialized production.

Brooke Marks-Swanson is based in South Bend, Indiana, and works primarily with textiles and metals. On her website and in her artist statement, Marks-Swanson notes that she “speaks of her Midwest roots through a universal language of textile and metal wearable art.” Marks-Swanson has exhibited extensively throughout the U.S. and internationally, and has been the recipient of numerous awards and museum purchases. She creates her wearable artworks with materials such as leather, pearls, silver, gold, Japanese fibers, and copper. Her works frequently employ the circle as a formal element in her diverse creations, from earrings to collars.

Masako Onodera, Memory Vessel #1 & Memory Vessel #2

Masako Onodera, Memory Vessel #1 & Memory Vessel #2, sterling silver, silver plated platter, brass, pearls, thread, stainless steel

In her intricate artworks, Masako Onodera explores what she describes as “the body altered by the tactile and visual characteristics of the object.” Onodera is a Minneapolis-based artist who cites the importance of working with craft techniques in her exploration of fine art. Onodera contributes works from her Memory Vessel series, which explores the idea of object histories. These works are open-faced metal vessels, with delicate decorative elements such as pearls and rose quartz. On her website, Onodera explains her fascination with the object, which can “exist for decades, centuries, or even millennia.” During this time, objects change from functional or “utilitarian to symbolic, from direct use by their owners to a ritual, indirect use.” Her artworks are an investigation into this common occurrence, asking viewers to consider that these objects have and may be worn again. 

Jina Seo, Oddly Familiar 1

Jina Seo, Oddly Familiar 1, copper, leather gloves, thread, fake lashes

Jina Seo presents works from her series Oddly Familiar, which employs everyday materials to explore her common themes of “the relationships between body, clothing, sexuality, fetish, and space.” Seo teaches Metal + Jewelry at Missouri State University and has exhibited both in America and internationally. In her artist statement for the exhibit, Seo elaborates on her process behind this series: "Through deconstructing and reconstructing materials into symbolic forms, I uncover the hidden intimate and sensual power of humanity. It is a moment when ordinary objects become surreal and uncanny in order to redeem the socially constructed expectations and perceptions."

Seo uses recycled leather gloves frequently in her compositions, which create a direct connection to the human body that once wore them. Leather is also a material frequently associated with fetishism in contemporary culture. Pairing this material with her bold, surreal compositional choices, Seo is able to divert and disrupt the typical association between material, form, and functionality of an object. 

6X brings a dynamic installation of innovative works that explore issues of the body, time and spatial relations, object histories, and the layers of interconnectedness between the artists’ approaches and execution of their works. The collective features six highly skilled artists with similar conceptual goals. Though their works may seem like unrelated “strangers,” together they form a narrative of commonality, “linking each member through various degrees of separation.”

Visitors to the newly remodeled space will gain insight into the intersection between fine art, craft, and metal-smithing that each artist embraces in their own style.

Elizabeth Smith is an AADL staff member and is interested in art history and visual culture.

The 6X Collective's Mistaken for Strangers is at the Ann Arbor Art Center through February 28.

The Guild of Artists & Artisans' new Gutman Gallery opens with an exhibit filled with love (and hearts)


Ruth Crowe

Ruth Crowe, She Counted Her Regrets Two at a Time. Photo courtesy of the Guild of Artists & Artisans.

On a standardly gray February evening I made my way through the dark and cold toward Kerrytown. The block of Fourth Street between Ann and Huron is not a particularly active space after five, but tonight was different. Brightly lit, and with condensation beginning to form, glances of color slipped out the storefront windows of the newly opened Gutman Gallery

Operated by The Guild of Artists & Artisans, the Gallery is named for the Guild’s founder, Vic Gutman. A University of Michigan student in the 1970s, the campus asked Gutman to do something about the students who had started hawking their own art on the Diag parallel to the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair. His response was to create the Free Art Fair, which morphed into what is now known as the Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair, and led Gutman to found the Michigan Guild of Artists and Artisans in 1973.

Riverside Arts Center's exhibit "Embrace: The Black Experience" explores the spectrum


Azya Moore, Blue Black

Azya Moore, photo from her BLUE BLACK series.

The artists in Riverside Arts Center's Embrace: The Black Experience grapple with what that multifaceted experience means. They respond with artwork just as varied, from metalworks to photographs and digitally rendered multimedia.

Avery Williamson’s three hanging wall scrolls are abstracted line paintings that employ shades and shapes of brown as the main component of their compositions. Williamson is a multidisciplinary artist who works with weaving, photography, painting, and drawing. She describes her work as an exploration of “the narratives of black women in personal and institutional archives,” where they are “defined by names, occupations or skin color.”

U-M Gifts of Art's winter edition offers meditative, inspirational works in a variety of mediums


Allison Svoboda, Healing Power

From Allison Svoboda's Healing Power of Nature: Mixed Media.

Every new season the University of Michigan Medicine’s Gifts of Art brings patients and visitors new exhibits of inspirational, meditative, and thought-provoking works by local and regional artists. For the winter edition, the eight gallery spaces provide uplifting and diverse works, executed in a wide range of media: straight photography, digitally altered photography, oil paintings, oil and chalk pastels, designer hats, multimedia sculptures, and paper sculpture.

Unity of Purpose: "Taking a Stand" at Stamps Gallery features a range of multimedia works under a common theme of inclusivity


Elizabeth LaPensée, Bitwork Beadwork Mega Man

Elizabeth LaPensée, Bitwork Beadwork Mega Man, 2019, 20” x 16”

Stamps Gallery's Taking a Stand offers audiences a glimpse at the works of five artists who engage with themes of solidarity and comment on social and cultural issues at the forefront of contemporary dialogues. They grapple with science fiction, environmentalism, social activismand the history and continuing impact of colonialism.

Executed in a range of media, the works in the gallery offer an array of involved experience and levels of engagement. Many works employ digital media, such as in Oliver Husain’s 3D film gallery and micha cárdenas’ interactive video game, while others, such as the art by Syrus Marcus Ware, appropriate traditional materials such as clothesline and clothespins as installation materials to hang letters on paper in Activist Love Letters.

Augmented Realities: Stamps Gallery's "Taking a Stand" features multimedia, 3D, and interactive installations


Taking a Stand

micha cárdenas, Redshift Portalmetal, 2015 (installation view)

The Stamps Gallery's Taking a Stand exhibition opened on January 17 with a reception that featured a performance by Detroit artist Sacramento Knoxx along with Bianca Millar and White Feather Woman.

Photos from the reception show viewers engaging with 3D films, augmented reality, interactive drawings, and more through the works of artists micha cárdenas, Oliver Husain, Elizabeth LaPensée, Meryl McMaster, and Syrus Marcus Ware.

Taking a Stand curator Srimoyee Mitra writes:

The collectivist impulse of the projects recast the gallery as a catalyst, a site of action and possibility for urgent and meaningful dialogue on culture and politics. The immersive and interactive installations don’t just represent social concerns from our cosmopolitan present, they delve into playful and poetic exchanges with public audiences on empathy and decoloniality to imagine just and equitable futures. Drawing on the themes of science fiction, artists in the exhibition invite audiences to time travel, blurring fact with fiction, weaving fantastical narratives and desires with ancestral knowledge, collective memories, and stories from their natural and urban environments. They acknowledge the vitality of recuperating Indigenous, migrant, and LGBTQI subjectivities and practices to better understand how to heal our damaged planet.

The exhibition runs through February 29 and includes a number of related events:

See photos from the opening-night reception by Nick Beardslee:

Riverside Arts Center's "Insecurity: Not Enough Again" exhibit explores personal and social uncertainties


Detail from RckBny's collage at Riverside Art Center

Detail from RckBny's collage at Riverside Art Center's Insecurity: Not Enough, Again. Image courtesy of the gallery.

Insecurity takes many forms and shapes: visually, culturally, personally, and within communities. But what is insecurity and how can it be cultivated to produce change?

Riverside Arts Center’s Insecurity: Not Enough Again suggests it is often “a gnawing at the pit of the stomach,” a series of nagging, persistent questions: “Am I enough?” Or, “Will there be enough?”

The Ypsilanti gallery asked artists to consider what insecurity means to them while also partnering with local nonprofits and organizations to address food and housing insecurities in the Washtenaw area.

Riverside’s exhibits frequently pair with broader community organizations, and the Washtenaw County Community and Agency Fair will take place on January 25 from 12-4 pm at the Arts Center and is free to the public. Additionally, on Friday, January 18, Keena Winterzwill will appear at the galleries for a book release and signing, with performances by Jameelski of Breathe Easy Music Group, BMC, Dope Ther@py The Poet, and Joey Crues.


2019 Staff Picks


Below you will see that 41 Ann Arbor District Library employees composed 18,000 words listing arts and culture that made an impact on their lives in this calendar year. While movies, books, and music released in 2019 figured prominently among our picks, we never limit our selections to material from the past year. Not all timeless art can be discovered and absorbed in a mere 365 days, so we're like Master P: no limits.

Melting Into Darkness: "A World Without Ice" at Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum


A World Without Ice

All A World Without Ice photos by Christopher Porter.

"It's making me uncomfortable but it's relaxing, too."

My kid's succinct review of A World Without Ice at Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum likely captures the sensation U-M music professors Michael Gould and Stephen Rush, along with Dutch electronic-media artist Marion Tränkle, had in mind when they created their multimedia installation with climate scientist and U-M professor emeritus Henry Pollack (co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore). 

Pollack's book A World Without Ice inspired the exhibit, which artfully illustrates through sound, music, and visuals the glaciers melting and asks us to consider our role in their disappearance.

Rush created a dark, ambient composition that drones discretely in the background as Tränkle's film -- featuring Pollack and associate's gorgeous images of the Arctic and Antarctic -- plays on a curved screen. But as you sit in the blackened room and your ears tune-in to Rush's music, the soothing and menacing tones are punctuated by the seven floor-tom drums arced around the front of the exhibit. (Presumably, seven toms for the seven continents, all of which will be affected by climate change.)

UMMA's "Reflections: An Ordinary Day" explores quotidian moments in Inuit life


Pauojoungie Saggiak, Spirit in the Limelight, 2016

Pauojoungie Saggiak, Spirit in the Limelight, 2016

What one person might consider an ordinary, everyday scene, another might see as unusual and unique. It all depends on where you live, since cultures evolve in different ways that fit their environments. So, a person from the Caribbean might not recognize something from the Arctic as commonplace and vice versa. 

Reflections: An Ordinary Day, an exhibit University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA) that features Inuit art, is filled with imagery of everyday tasks and mythologies of people who live in the Far North. But for people who live in the Midwest, these representations are anything but banal or commonplace.

This is the UMMA’s second exhibit of Inuit art and it gives viewers a chance to see even more works gifted by the Power family to the museum. In the newly named Eleanor Noyes Crumpacker Gallery, prints, drawings, and sculptures spanning from the mid-1950s to the 2010s are now on view through May 10, 2020.

The first exhibit, The Power Family Program for Inuit Art: Tillirnanngittuqfocused on the history of the Power family’s collecting and promoting art in the Cape Dorset area. While many of the pieces on display in Reflections: An Ordinary Day are direct promised gifts from the Power Family, others are purchases made possible by the Power Family Program, or gifts by donors such as Katherine Kurtz and Raburn Howland.

Works in the gallery span from the mid-20th century to the early 21st-century and feature Inuit artistic methods of inscription, printmaking, carving, and drawing. UMMA curator Vera Grant notes that the images selected for the exhibition are united in their depictions of “seemingly ordinary” everyday imagery.