"Conversations on Mortality" at 22 North looks to transcend the silence about the dying side of living
Conversations on mortality are difficult, often avoided, and in America, they are traditionally taboo. The 22 North gallery in Ypsilanti welcomes the thought-provoking exhibit Conversations on Mortality, which confronts our impermanence, the inevitability of death.
The exhibition's multimedia works engage with loss, mourning, and what is left behind once someone is gone. Described by the curators as “a chance to transcend the silence,” Conversations on Mortality offers works driven by the lives of the artists. Not only do they address the complexity of their mortality and loss of loved ones, but also their experiences of living with disability, illness, and the impact of COVID-19.
Entering the space, hanging lanterns in an autumnal palette cheerily frame serendipitously matching works by curators Sharlene Welton and Tim Tonachella. I had a chance to speak with Welton who is both the show’s curator and an artist when I visited 22 North. Welton said she created the lanterns as part of an interactive element to the opening night, where visitors were able to decorate and write their names on the lanterns before hanging them. The pieces by Welton (a large painting) and Tonachella (two photographs of cemetery views) were brought in last minute when an artist was unable to make the show, but adding the works ended up being a great aesthetic success.
Welton and Tonachella’s gallery statement notes the overlapping threads among the works, as artists grapple with the questions, “How do we embrace the changes that come from death and dying, and more importantly, how we assimilate the loss into our daily living?” Though these may, ultimately, be unanswerable questions, they are worth asking—especially when operating within a mainstream American culture that predominantly ignores them.
Things to Do: Pulp Event Roundup for November
To fill up your November calendar, we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of arts-related events, exhibits, and more throughout Washtenaw County. Check out some local cool happenings in music, visual art, theater and dance, and written word and film.
Canterbury House, Ann Arbor
Ann Arbor singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Bill Edwards performs tracks from his new Americana album, Thirteen Stories. Throughout his latest release, Edwards pens sentimental stories from different perspectives, including a hall-of-fame baseball player, a seasoned songwriter, and a nostalgic boater. Read our preview and interview here.
Nervous But Excited
The Ark, Ann Arbor
Ten years after their sold-out finale at The Ark, the local folk duo of Kate Peterson and Sarah Cleaver reunite for one of their final Nervous But Excited performances. Their repertoire ranges from smart, introspective narratives to the tactfully political while interspersing songs of love and loss.
Olivia Van Goor
Blue Llama Jazz Club, Ann Arbor
The Milford jazz vocalist is influenced by swing and bebop jazz from the mid-20th century. Van Goor unearths and reshapes gems from the Great American Songbook and other jazz standards in a way that’s beyond replicating what has already been done before. Read our past interview with Van Goor here.
John Gutoskey’s vibrant “Cake & Flowers for My People” exhibit preserves ephemeral arrangements denied to LGBTQ+ marriages and events
John Gutoskey’s vibrant, kaleidoscopic Cake & Flowers for My People exhibit honors LGBTQ+ community members who have been denied these celebratory arrangements due to bakers and florists citing religious objections to same-sex marriages and queer events.
“I make a lot of work about queerness because a lot of stuff is happening around it in our country. You see the whole pushback now,” said the Ann Arbor artist-designer-printmaker, whose exhibit runs through October 30 at Ypsilanti’s 22 North gallery. “I just hope anybody who sees it … feels seen and knows they’re not alone.”
The welcoming aesthetics of Gutoskey’s exhibit run throughout the eight mixed-media cake sculptures and 39 floral bouquet monoprints. An electrifying spectrum of color elicits feelings of empowerment, unity, and hope for all who experience Cake & Flowers for My People.
“People are kind of overwhelmed with how hard the world has become, so I just wanted to do something that was fun,” he said. “There’s enough stuff to be down about. Let’s celebrate it, honestly, while it’s still legal for [us] to do so.”
Myths and Legends: Guild Showcases Local Artists Through Folklore Exhibit at Ann Arbor’s Gutman Gallery
Ann Arbor artist-photographer Marilynn Thomas interprets a migratory Baltimore oriole's transitory world in her layered watercolor painting called Oriole Unraveling the Universe.
She places the juvenile bird at the center of a tree while vivid red-orange hues and muted pastels color his mystical surroundings. Stenciled ferns and dragonflies provide momentary companionship as the oriole decides whether to stay or go.
Within his beak lies the familiar outline of the golden mean, which represents a magical portal that allows him to travel from one universe to the next.
“That’s his universe; that all belongs to him,” Thomas said. “I’ve done a lot of orioles simply because they only come through in spring and fall, and they’re kind of exciting. I like the migrant birds, and I’ve been painting birds for 20 years.”
University of Michigan Museum of Art’s expansive "Watershed" exhibit flows through the political and social history of the Great Lakes region
University of Michigan Museum of Art’s (UMMA) Watershed exhibition comments on the complicated relationship the Great Lakes region has with water. Despite the area's broad access to fresh water, cities like Flint have endured ongoing water crises, rivers like the Huron are impacted by contaminating spills, and the Great Lakes watersheds continue to degrade.
The exhibit brings together a diverse group of 15 contemporary artists whose works focus broadly on the Great Lakes area. Watershed offers wall text in both English and Anishinaabemowin (translated by Margaret Noodin and Michael Zimmerman, Jr.) in recognition of the Anishinaabeg (commonly referred to as Ojibwe) being indigenous to the Great Lakes region.
Watershed is complex and expansive. As curator Jennifer Friess states, it “immerses visitors in the interconnected histories, present lives, and imagined futures of the Great Lakes region.” The exhibition title refers to “the geographical network of the Great Lakes basin—the five lakes (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior) and rivers, streams, and reservoirs that feed into them.”
The artists’ engagement with the concept of the Great Lakes regions’ rich and often exploited resources vary in scope and content, offering a wide array of responses to past, present, and future iterations of activism and justice related to these waterways. Friess notes, “Many sound an alarm about the pervasive and lasting effects of corporate self-interest and extractive pollution. … All demonstrate how art can contribute to and shape current dialogues on the critical problems confronting our region.”
As noted, this exhibition features six new commissions from artists selected by the museum:
Artistic Ecosystem: Hava Gurevich exhibits 20 years of nature-inspired art at Matthaei Botanical Gardens
Hava Gurevich beautifully imagines and creates her own artistic ecosystem.
The Ann Arbor artist blends nature’s vibrant colors with unique lifeforms and hypnotic botanical, aquatic, and microscopic motifs to capture a universal interconnectedness.
Those stunning linkages thrive and evolve across Gurevich’s latest acrylic art exhibit, Inspired by Nature: 20 Years of Art by Hava Gurevich, at the University of Michigan’s Matthaei Botanical Gardens in Ann Arbor.
“My work is very aquatic and botanical, but it’s been more botanical in the last few years because I’m not close to any body of water that has life in it,” said Gurevich, whose exhibit runs through Sept. 11 and includes artwork created from 2002 to 2022.
“There’s an intentional connection to nature and an intentional connection to plants and native plants, like prairies and wildflowers, and it’s all of those concepts that are in my work. They’re all here … and the themes all kind of fit.”
The Guild of Artists & Artisans with Gutman Gallery showcase up-and-coming artists in their annual "Emerge" exhibition
An exhibition featuring newer or less-established artists might conjure up thoughts of an elementary school art fair.
But one peek at the new Emerge exhibit at Ann Arbor's Gutman Gallery will banish those incorrect thoughts right back into that giant box of unexamined fingerpaintings your kid did as a tot.
Like last year's inaugural edition, the Gutman Gallery and The Guild of Artists & Artisans have created another show worthy of excitement and praise for all the fresh talent highlighted in Emerge.
Check out the press release below and see some samples of the work featured in the exhibition.
Portraits in Motion: Joel Swanson's "People and Other Living Things" at 22 North Gallery
In his first solo gallery show, People and Other Living Things, Joel Swanson brings his considerable powers of observation—honed by years as a research microbiologist—to the examination of his fellow human beings.
On view weekends throughout the month of July 2022 at 22 North Gallery in Ypsilanti, the exhibit is a mix of several bodies of his work that may, on the surface, seem unrelated yet reflect different aspects of Swanson’s interest both in what can be seen by the naked eye and in what lies beneath the reach of our physical perceptions.
Swanson says in his artist’s statement:
Bits & Pieces: "The Small Details: Amy Sacksteder and Brenda Singletary" conjure meaning through assemblages at U-M's Institute for the Humanities Gallery
It all adds up in The Small Details, a two-person exhibition on view now through July 29 at the Institute for the Humanities Gallery in Ann Arbor.
Through accretion, addition, and accumulation Amy Sacksteder and Brenda Singletary conjure meaning from bits and pieces—ceramic and glass shards, wire, photos—assembling personal narratives that are highly specific in their material, but universal in their intent.
Systems & Shtetls: Mother Cyborg's "Crafting Our Digital Legacy" & Ruth Weisberg's "Of Memory, Time & Place" at Stamps Gallery
Stamps Gallery’s two simultaneous exhibitions have little in common visually, but they do share some overarching themes.
Mother Cyborg's Crafting Our Digital Legacy exhibit offers bright and captivating quilts that focus “upon our collective relationship with internet technologies, identity, legacy, and the future,” according to the text placed in the front of the gallery.
Ruth Weisberg's Of Memory, Time & Place showcases her ethereal designs and controlled color palettes in her mixed-media works.
While Weisberg’s often-muted tones and figural works contrast visually with Mother Cyborg’s dynamic abstract textiles, both artists ask us to consider where we came from and where we might be going.