U-M Gifts of Art spring exhibitions aim to revitalize and renew


John Dempsey's acrylic painting at U-M's Gifts of Art spring exhibition

John Dempsey's paintings at Gifts of Art display surreal amalgams of environments.

Michigan Medicine’s Gifts of Art program regularly supports artists while working to “revitalize and enrich lives” of patients and visitors. The latest Gifts of Art series on display in various parts of University Hospital is available to view through June 10. The eight small exhibits in Gifts of Art's nine galleries feature the works of artists Tina West, Richard Light, John Dempsey, Mary Brodbeck, Aimee Lee, Re Kielar, f8collective, and WCC faculty, staff, and students.

John Dempsey, an artist and instructor at College for Creative Studies from Flint, works with large-scale canvases for his surrealist paintings. In the image above, an acrylic work, the artist plays with the landscape. This disjointed forest scene is interrupted by ornate architecture, and a painted ceiling of a cloudy evening sky overlaid where the sky would show through the tree-tops. Dempsey’s amalgam of environments are “factories, religious spaces, government facilities, public areas and landscapes,” combined in a blend of photo-realism, altered perspectives, and shifting planes. Dempsey’s work, according to Gifts of Art, “visually chronicles and explores the complex combinations of environments that we collage together from memory.”

Art by Re Kielars and Tina West

Left: Re Kielars' Beauty Meets My Mess, mixed media collage. Right: Tina West, Follow the Bouncing Ball, archival pigment print scanned from a Polaroid Type 59, originally photographed in 2001.

Re Kielar’s Beauty Meets My Mess mixed media collage reflects on the tactile by combining ephemera: a postcard with scrawling script (the artists’ poetry), a scrap apparently discarded but potentially laden with meaning, various pieces of cardboard, manila, and paper are placed together, on top of which sit three vintage advertisements providing visual interest while simultaneously reference a time past. Kielar is from Chicago’s Little Italy neighborhood, in which she lived in close proximity to her grandparents and aunt and uncle. In her artist profile, this is cited as an important part of her development as an artist, her childhood love of “paint and texture,” an inspiration for her expression “through drawing in ink with rough papers, old book pages, metal embellishments and natural objects.” 

Photo from the f8collective's On Blue series

A photograph from the f8collective's On Blue exhibition at Gifts of Art.

f8collective, a name-play on the 20th-century group named f/64, is a photography collective comprised of contemporary, female photographers in Chicago. The group also has “strong family ties to Michigan.” The works on display at the University of Michigan Taubman Health Center South Lobby, Floor 1, are part of a project titled On Blue: A Meditation. As the title suggests, images in this series feature the color blue, a “rare color in nature, yet found in the largest things such as sea, lake and sky, as well as some of the smallest: sapphires, forget-me-nots and delicate tropical butterflies.” 

Tina West is a photographer working in the Kansas City, Missouri, area. West has worked with a variety of historical photographic processes. Gifts of Arts’ Timeless Instants: Still Life Photographs shows one of West’s self-described “unique treasures,” speaking to “their unreserved timelessness.” The exhibit specifically features works created using a 4x5 camera with instant film. The image above, Follow the Bouncing Ball, is an archival pigment print scanned from a Polaroid Type 59, originally photographed in 2001. Without titles, the images become more ambiguous. The above representation of a case of rubber balls, for example, could be misread as a basket of peaches to an untrained viewer. 

Richard Light’s Figures in Bronze, on display in the Taubman Health Center North Lobby, Floor 1, “showcases 30 years,” of Light’s sculptures, beginning with his 1987 work. Light is an accomplished sculptor, whose design work can be seen in public spaces from Kalamazoo, Michigan to Paris, France. 

Two paintings by Mary Brodbeck

Mary Brodbeck creates woodblock prints inspired by Japanese techniques and pure Michigan landscapes.

Mary Brodbeck’s woodblock prints are critically acclaimed both in the U.S. and Japan. Brodbeck’s Autumn, Sleeping Bear Dunes resides in the Detroit Institute of Arts’ permanent collection. Brodbeck’s aesthetic combines her training in Japanese woodblock printing (mokuhanga) under Yoshisuke Funasaka in Tokyo with the landscapes of Michigan, particularly the unique scenery of Michigan’s coastal towns and the Sleeping Bear Dunes. 

Aimee Lee’s Ducks to Dresses: Paper Possibilities explores hanji (Korean paper), for which she is the leading researcher and practitioner in the U.S. Aimee Lee is an artist, papermaker, and Fulbright Scholar currently working in Cleveland. Lee’s work “fuses contemporary fashion ideas with traditional clothing.” Lee creates her own paper from “abundant native and invasive species, which involved harvesting plans, stripping and cooking, processing into pulp, forming sheets, and drying.” Lee uses this paper in every part of her creative process, creating her own thread, books, drawings, installations, and clothing; she also uses her own dyes. 

Group Ceramics Show, featuring WCC Faculty, Staff, and Students will feature the works of artists affiliated with Washtenaw Community College. The artists range from ages 17-87, representing a diverse population and a variety of approaches. See a mixture of fine art sculpture, and functional ceramics curated by I.B. Remsen, a WCC instructor and potter.

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

Gifts of Art's spring exhibitions are open through June 10 in various lobbies, corridors, and alcoves of the Taubman Health Center, University Hospital, and Rogel Cancer Center, all at 1500 E. Medical Center Dr., Ann Arbor. The exhibitions are free and open to the public. Visit med.umich.edu/goa for more information.