Carving Out a Niche: Marian Short's "Cakeasaurus: Scenes From a Picture Book"



Quimby Law Awake is now a part of the Ann Arbor District Library's borrowable prints collection.

Cakeasaurus, the gleefully cake-thieving, sweet-sneaking monster brainchild of Ann Arbor printmaker/storyteller Marian Short, will be lurking on the walls and in the halls of the Taubman Health Center's North Lobby from now until June 11, 2017. Cakeasaurus: Scenes From a Picture Book is curated by Gifts of Art, a program designed to bring art and music to patients, visitors and staff in the University of Michigan Health System.

Amusingly paired with this series of Cakeasaurus prints are the sweet yet dangerous-looking glass confections of Janet Kelman. A combination of pate de verre, slumped and sheet glass, the sugary looking cupcakes and gateaux look delicious, but engender feelings of both attraction and dismay at the thought of biting into one of these glossy but inedible desserts. Cakeasaurus beware!

The (mostly) wood block prints in Cakeasaurus: Scenes From a Picture Book describe the exploits of the cake-stealing monster through its 8-year development from inception into what Short hopes will soon become a children’s book. They track the artist’s process as she refines, rethinks, and develops the story visually and narratively. Short is generous and humorous in her explanations of her creative process and thoughtfully provides several large explanatory prints, visually satisfying in their own right, to accompany the smaller artworks.

Stimulation and Possibility: Dick Siegel's "Digital Manipulations" at Kerrytown Concert House



The singularity is near: We digitally combined Dick Siegel and his digital artwork Further.

Local award-winning singer-songwriter Dick Siegel’s return to the visual arts has been a long time in coming. But having found his chosen medium, his return is both assured and insightful.

In a recent interview at the Kerrytown Concert House, Siegel said both the visual arts and music were passions that run through his family experience. But as his personal interest was in music -- and a reasonable one at that considering his award as Best New Folk Artist at the 1991 Kerrville Folk Festival and multiple Detroit Art Awards -- it was only until the turn of the millennium when working with a computer and scanner that his visual arts creativity began to take hold.

As Siegel says in his artist statement for this exhibit, “Through digital manipulation of color, shape, and image I enter a world of enormous visual stimulation and possibility. In this realm I discover things to construct that move me, amuse me, and amaze me. I then work to bring them into physical reality with their vividness and vitality intact."

"Here and There": The voyeuristic art of Tracey Snelling



Tracey Snelling's art forces us to peak into worlds that might make us uncomfortable.

Upon entering the U-M Institute for the Humanities' gallery room that houses artist Tracey Snelling’s latest exhibition,">Here and There, one is immersed in a life unfamiliar to some and unimaginable for others. Neon signs flash “drift” and “Lost City” to light up the darkened room while several tiny, connected rooms hang from one wall all bustling with sights and sounds to tempt the viewer to look closer and give in to their voyeuristic desires.

The rooms, each about the size of a shoe box, were completed during the Berlin, Germany- and Oakland, California-based Snelling’s recent residency at the University of Michigan’s Institute for the Humanities. While viewing the rooms from afar gives you an idea of how the entire piece moves as a whole, Snelling wants to get up close and explore the rooms. Upon closer inspection with the Bee Gee’s “Night Fever” as your soundtrack one begins to notice the details placed in each room to give them character; a shotgun leaning on a recliner, the Jack Daniels poster on a wall, High Fidelity playing on a screen in the record shop, or a pool cue leaning on a pool table in a bar.

The expanding light of British artist and Alternative Miss World founder Andrew Logan



The British artist, scene-maker, and Alternative Miss World founder Andrew Logan speaks March 9 at the Michigan Theater.

Artist Andrew Logan is probably best known as the founder, organizer, host, and hostess (he wears a costume split down the middle) of the Alternative Miss World, a "surreal art event for all-round family entertainment" he started 45 years ago in London.

Since then, he and a team of volunteers, including longtime partner Michael Davis, have staged a dozen more events for contestants of "any species, any size" competing in a dog-show-and-TV-beauty-pageant inspired dress-up party of daywear, swimwear, and eveningwear judged on "poise, personality, and originality." This longstanding celebration of transformation, imagination, and adult silliness is well-documented in the highly entertaining 2011 film The British Guide to Showing Off.

Some contestants -- many of whom are Logan's friends and family -- return year after year. Better known participants, serving as contestants or judges, have included film director Derek Jarman, artist Grayson Perry, and musician Brian Eno.

Logan is also a prolific visual artist who transforms metals, plaster, glass, and thrift-store finds into objects of "happiness and joy" in his U.K. studio with blue-collar dedication and eccentric flair. His works include large commissioned monuments, portraits of close friends, and wearable sculptures we might call jewelry. In the 1990s, he set up a small permanent display of his work in a remote part of Wales.

On Thursday, March 9, Logan will speak on his artistic adventure, the Alternative Miss World, and his "little museum" at the Michigan Theater as part of the Penny Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series.

“The Aesthetic Movement in America: Artists of the Photo-Secession” at UMMA



The Steerage by Alfred Stieglitz, 1907, photogravure.

The Photo-Secession movement is one of those rare historic instances where radicalism won -- and still wins today.

As seen in “The Aesthetic Movement in America: Artists of the Photo-Secession” at the University of Michigan Museum of Art, this turn-of-the-20th-century American creation became “the first truly international photography movement,” as noted in the gallery statement by UMMA Curator Emerita Carole McNamara. She also wrote that the movement's practitioners -- among them ringleader Alfred Stieglitz as well as Alvin Langdon Coburn, Gertrude Käsebier, Edward Steichen, Paul Strand, and Clarence White -- “sought to position photography as a legitimate aesthetic artform.”

Subtle Switches: "Nancy Feldkamp, Watercolors” at Kerrytown Concert House



Nancy Feldkamp's Simplicity House, mixed media. Photo by Patrick Young.

Sometimes what you see in an artist's work isn’t nearly as important as what you don’t see. Nancy Feldkamp’s Watercolors at the Kerrytown Concert House shows the Chelsea resident's transformation from a geometrically focused painter to one who uses subtle inferences to give shape to her renderings.

As ever, her pastoral themes remain, as Feldkamp modestly says in her KCH gallery statement: “My work honors the beauty of farm life and its interaction with nature in intuitive ways. The shapes and lines suggest distant farmsteads as they nestle together in their actual settings and this stirs my responses.”

Quite right, yet looking at Feldkamp’s work in this light only tells half the story in this show. While nature and rural settings still play a significant role in her paintings, how she depicts those scenes has changed considerably during the two decades I've observed her output. Back in the 1990s, Feldkamp’s art was rigorously geometrically driven. Her countryside settings were activated by a compositional style whose expression was subordinated to her rectilinear line.

Niceland and Forest Art House Are Using the Old Tiny Buddha Space for Pop-Up Art Events



Niceland popped-up a weekend of art, including this forest faun mask by Lavinia Hanachiuc. Photo by Patti Smith.

Art is everywhere in this town; you just need to know where to look. The Niceland art show, a pop-up exhibit that took place last weekend, is a perfect example of how tucked away spaces can be transformed into showrooms for painters and sculptors.

The Tiny Buddha Boutique was previously above Totoro at 213 S. State Street. But the shop, which specializes in yoga wear, recently moved to a new location inside Babo in the Nichols Arcade, though Tiny Buddha still has rights at the moment to use the old space.

"We wanted to take advantage of the space while it is available," said artist Helen Gotlib (sister of Tiny Buddha Boutique owner Risa Gotlib) to display works by local artists.

That led to the Niceland art show, which ran February 10-13. The show featured work from local artists Dylan Strzynski, Lavinia Hanachiuc, and Gotlib.

Behind the Black Star: Jonathan Barnbrook's Stamps talk at the Michigan Theater


Jonathan Barnbrook

Despite its simple presentation, Jonathan Barnbrook's cover for David Bowie's final album, Blackstar, is full of hidden surprises.

Designing album covers for a legendary musician has its perils and its perks. According to Jonathan Barnbrook, they're sometimes one in the same.

"Can you imagine how scary it is to have David Bowie sitting next to you when you're listening to his album?" the British graphic designer asked the audience at Ann Arbor's Michigan Theater on Thursday, February 9. "He's going, 'What do you think?'"

As the crowd laughed, Barnbrook's tone shifted from comedic to grateful: "It's actually fantastic."

The self-described "non-designer" was in Ann Arbor as part of the Penny Stamps Distinguished Speaker series. In addition to his collaborations with Bowie, Barnbrook's often-humorous talk covered highlights from his career, including his anti-corporate work with Adbusters magazine in the early '00s, the creation of several well-known fonts, and political and socially minded exhibits and campaigns, including his logo for the Occupy London movement.

Outer Devotion: “Protecting Wisdom: Tibetan Book Covers” at UMMA



Prajnaparamita and Deities, outer face, upper cover for a Prajnaparamita Sutra, vol. 25, Tibet, 15th century, wood with paint and gilding. MacLean Collection.

First times are always special. But a first-ever of something is especially special. Such is the case with the University of Michigan Museum of Art’s exhibit Protecting Wisdom: Tibetan Book Covers From the Maclean Collection.

Mounted in the UMMA’s Irving Stenn Jr. Family Gallery, this display not only presents us with an incomparable iconographic delight, it’s also the first time this art form's been exhibited in the United States -- and one of the first times these artworks have been seen by the public. So, yes, Protecting Wisdom really is special.

As the guest curator, Dr. Kathryn Selig Brown (U-M Ph.D. in Tibetan History of Art), tells us in her introduction:

From the "Neighborhood": A2 Native Ben Cowan's Art Installed at Westgate


The Ann Arbor District Library's Westgate branch is filled with new things. After all, it just reopened in September 2016 after a massive expansion and remodel.

But even newer than the computers, coffee shop, and shiny shiny bathrooms are three large paintings by Ann Arbor native Ben Cowan. The video above gives you a guided tour of Cowan's paintings. We also interviewed the artist about growing up in Ann Arbor, his influences, and how he came to create the works from his Neighborhood Views series, which have ended up finding permanent homes in the library.