trustArt Gallery's "Studio Works" exhibit encourages community engagement


Studio Works at trustArt Gallery

Pyramid power: Eight artists are combining their talents for the Studio Works exhibition at trustArt Gallery in Ann Arbor.

The trustArt Gallery's Studio Works exhibition (Nov. 11-19) will display multi-media works by artists and designers who work in rented studios at the venue. The exhibit features works by Larry Cressman, Liz Davis, Elizabeth Barick Fall, Rose E. Gomez, Barbara Hohmann, Allen Samuels, Laura Shope, and Lissie Williams, and it also offers an intimate look into the studio space and how it relates to the artists’ practices and everyday environments.

In addition to the more common gallery exhibition, the added opportunity to see the artists’ studios and working spaces aims to create community engagement with the arts, according to trustArt Gallery's statement: “We are connected through our location and environment as we pass through the shared open space of our gallery: it provides an opportunity to intersect; to cross paths; a place for our studio works to be shared and reflected upon; a chance to interact with each other and the community.”

The opening-up of studios to the community will allow for many people to interact with art and art making in an expanded capacity. It allows unique insight into aspects of the creative process and creates a chance for discussion and dialogue between the artist and the community.

Featured artists/designers:

Larry Cressman

Larry Cressman: left, a gallery view of a work from a Ross Art Museum exhibition, Ohio Wesleyan University, 2015; right, Drawing From Nature, (close-up: installation view), installation drawing; thorns, twigs, wire, graphite; 60"x9"x16"; Detroit Artists Market, Detroit, Michigan, 1982.

Larry Cressman
Artist and University of Michigan professor at the School of Art & Design, Cressman’s work has been featured in previous exhibitions in museums such as Ross Museum of Art, Detroit Institute of Arts, Carnegie Mellon University, and the University of Michigan Museum of Art, to name a few. According to his profile on the STAMPS website, Cressman’s work has changed in the past 25 years, in which he has explored “drawing as a three-dimensional form of expression.” Cressman’s “drawings,” which resemble sculptures in some sense, are generally made from twigs and other natural materials, which evolved from themes in his earlier works. His drawings are generally created from three-dimensional materials and installed on the gallery wall, bringing the process of “drawing” and what can be considered drawing into question. (Related: John Carlos Cantú reviewed his 2016 Land Lines exhibit at U-M's Rotunda Gallery for Pulp.)

Liz Davis

Liz Davis: left, Meditating Amidst Multiple Sunrises and, right, an untitled work.

Liz Davis
Davis, a local artist, works with oil paints on canvas. She has a BFA from the University of Michigan and has studied at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Davis is also the past recipient of the grand prize at the Michigan Fine Arts Competition. Her work employs gestural lines, shapes, and ranges of muted and bold colors in her abstract compositions. (Related: Check out this Ann Arbor Observer 2013 article for more information.)

Elizabeth Barick Fall

Elizabeth Barick Fall's mixed media works combine the juxtaposition of everyday objects that might not normally exist in the same space.

Elizabeth Barick Fall
Fall is the founder and director of trustArt Studios. In a statement from the gallery, Fall’s work is described as the result of the artist’s exploration of mixed media. She is particularly interested in juxtaposing photographs of everyday places and things, many of which are materials that she “compulsively collects.” One of her works, shown above, includes an object placed on a bed of pine needles. The object resembles a flat shovel, spatula, and is clearly a tool of some kind, but it has a print on the surface that resembles a forest floor in a deciduous area. This spatula-like object, juxtaposed with the pine needles, draws attention to the natural versus the manufactured, though this object appears old enough to have escaped cultural memory as an item of functionality.

Rose E. Gomez
Gomez is a ceramic artist and also shares a company, RnR Ceramics, which promotes ceramic arts by bringing in visiting artists for lectures and workshops.

Barbara Hohmann
Hohmann is an artist and art teacher and has been curating shows and performance art at trustArt Gallery. She will have mixed media work in the show.

Allen Samuels

Allen Samuels: left, 3D Television and, right, Medium Player.

Allen Samuels
Samuels is a professor emeritus at the University of Michigan where he taught art and design until 2008. In his artist statement, Samuels asserts:

I have designed products for 50 years. Currently, I design products for those who are often underserved: the elderly, the poor, the differently abled and for disaster relief. My work is aimed at providing simple, low cost, easily manufactured and understandable products. They deal with mobility, personal safety, personal hygiene, infant care, specific diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, etc. I find this work to be challenging, interesting and one hopes of some use to real people.

Samuels' work thus seeks to improve the lives of the community and does not reside within the typical realm of “fine art.” He has designed products for 29 corporations, including “glassware, dinnerware, microscopes, ophthalmic instruments, other scientific instruments, public transportation, heavy industrial equipment, furniture and more.” Like many of the other artists working in these studio spaces, he has received numerous awards, including a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and another from the National Science Foundation.

Laura Shope, Pod II

Laura Shope: Pod II, 2017, plaster, latex, sea grass, jute. 19"x12"x12".

Laura Shope
Shope is an artist returning from a 13-year hiatus, in which she raised two sons and devoted her time to managing family-run businesses. In her artist statement, she describes her work as “an exploration of the creation of things ... the push and pull, opposing tensions, soft and hard, liquid and solid.” She elaborates, stating that she starts with an idea, which she calls the initial “pull” from the raw materials she works with. She asks, “How hard can I squeeze before it breaks? How far can I move the stone to become something else?” Shope is concerned with the intersections of the play of the artist, material, and “something greater,” which she calls the “sense of ‘spirit’ or aliveness that is present in all things.” She mentions three materials that she enjoys working with, each for a different reason. First, stone is one of her favorite mediums, particularly because it feels more “alive” than other materials, and it involves a slower process that requires both “force and gentleness.” Second, Shope enjoys working with weaving, particularly for its historical connection to craft, traditionally practiced by women. Finally, she enjoys working with plaster, as it is more “immediate,” allowing only a short time to work before it hardens. She enjoys the mystery and the sense of tension from uncertainty about the finished product. For example, she points out that the latex forms she uses could break from too much pressure, or, for no apparent reason. Process, therefore, is a foremost concern for Shope in her work.

Lisse Williams, Fall Thinking Vessel series

Lisse Williams: paintings from her Fall Thinking Vessel series.

Lisse Williams
Williams creates watercolor paintings, representing stylized figurative works with a very distinct hand. The artist has many small series available to browse on her website. One of her most recent series, Fall Thinking Vessel, will be shown in Studio Works. On her website, Williams describes the series: “The last four images for this series are finished. I realized at my last show, that I have been working with this idea/figurine for a while. I believe the last group encompasses the feeling I wanted to portray the best. Warm, like a small fire, something to hold in your hand, and close.”

The figurines in Fall Thinking Vessel are painted in earth tones, and warm palettes, but they also recall Buddhist sculptures, the flatness of art nouveau, and employ symmetry in their execution. Williams’ style is recognizable and unique. She describes this series, focusing on the intent behind the work, stating: “the pieces that I have created recently are focused on figures, dreamers, and spirits. When I step into the woods or into a patch of sunlight I have never felt alone, rather full and at home in a way that can't be felt with others. In each piece I want the viewer to create their own story, a personal mythology, that deepens their connection to the natural world.” Furthermore, Williams describes these bodies as being “buoyed up by a vessel, holding their simplified structures, hands to hold and create life, and our mind to see and understand, to think of the world outside of how and what we assume it is.” The symmetrical qualities, combined with the serene, but the bold color palettes and small scale create a meditative simplicity that is recognizable and consistent throughout her work.

The process, function, and media differ vastly among the featured artists in Studio Works. Some artists featured do not have an online presence, making the gallery space and the open-studio an important opportunity for them to share their work with the community.

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

Opening reception is Saturday, Nov. 11, 6-9 pm. Gallery hours are Nov. 12, 18 & 19 from 1-4 pm and Nov. 13-17 by appointment. Artists’ open studios will be Sunday, Nov. 19, 1-4 pm at trustArt Gallery, 7885 Jackson Rd., Suite 1, Ann Arbor. Visit the gallery website at