Gifts of Art's summer exhibitions keep on giving


Patty Carroll's Parrots Fancy

Patty Carroll's Fancy Parrots, photograph

With eight different exhibits in its summer presentation, Gifts of Art continues to be an important part of the University of Michigan's creative ecosystem. The exhibitions, which run through September 9, serve as an important facet of the hospital, bringing the gallery experience to patients, staff, and visitors. 

Patty Carroll is featured on the second floor of the University Hospital Main Corridor, with a large collection of her photographic prints on display. Carroll creates “highly intense, saturated photographs,” which she has worked with since the 1970s. She works with a variety of themes, though her series Flora & Fauxna focuses on plastic, decorative birds arranged in complex still lifes. Carroll is recognized as one of Photolucida’s Top 50 Photographers in 2014 and 2017. Like much of her other work, Flora & Fauxna focuses on the lives of women through the use of still life.

In Carroll's exhibition statement, she discusses the inspiration for the series, the idea of "home" across cultures, and the uniting qualities being that it is an environment that is safe, warm, comfortable, private.  Carroll says, “[T]he world of my camouflaged, decorative bird still-lifes symbolize the nesting instincts of women whose homes are a sanctuary of pride and obsession.”

In her busy, vibrant, and visually complex still lifes, Carroll employs objects such as decorative fabrics, artificial flowers, and ceramic or plastic birds, and each photograph has a controlled palette and no horizon line. The objects in her photographs are kitschy and commonly associated with women and domesticity, though the still-life tradition is disrupted in Carroll’s work, as she comments on a pictorial tradition by changing visual rules associated with it.

Also displayed in the University Hospital Main Corridor across from Carroll’s photographs is the work of Marsha Chamberlin, former president and CEO of the Ann Arbor Art Center.  Her jewelry, described as “semi-industrial,” is displayed under the title Flexx. Chamberlin first uses screen spline, combining it with a range of household-industrial objects such as grommets, bungee cords, washers and nuts, floor matting, and “an array of beads.” In her statement, Chamberlin describes her process:

I like to create using textures and patterns and unexpected combinations. I work primarily with materials straight out of the hardware store, and I add beads that I get from all over the world … I like juxtaposing the informality of screen spline or bungee cord with Murano glass or sparkly beads. Look closely, and you will see sink washers, grommets and mental washers throughout this show of work.

Her jewelry is beautifully displayed in glass cases. In some instances, the juxtaposition of beads, bungee cords, and asymmetrical loops are surprising, while in other pieces it is difficult to spot the nod to the semi-industrial aesthetic. Though, as Chamberlin says in her statement, look closely, and the unique materials will become apparent. 

John Megahan's Ambush

John Megahan's Ambush, painting

John Megahan's acrylic and oil paintings on display in the Taubman Health Center’s North Lobby, feature wildlife and landscapes rendered with extreme detail and accuracy. He cites his inspiration as having come from growing up in Idaho and the Pacific Northwest, particularly the mountainous regions of Idaho, Oregon, and Washington.

Megahan, in his statement, says that as a child he recorded his surroundings with a pencil and paintbrush, instead of a camera. Focusing on both art and biology in college, Megahan graduated and continues to work as a scientific illustrator, both commercial and educational. After working as a freelance illustrator for several years, Megahan applied for a position as a scientific illustrator at University of Michigan’s Museum of Zoology. Since then, Megahan sometimes teaches at both U-M Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design and the University of Oregon.

Charlie Patricolo is an established dollmaker, having been “creating, engineering, and executing dolls for 25 years, and teaching doll making for 20.” Patricolo creates dolls in a unique style: some are depicted as mermaids, children, adults, and animals. She cites her sources of inspiration as lines from songs, pieces of fabrics, stages of life, and people around her. Patricolo’s dolls are located both in the Taubman Health Center’s North Lobby, displayed in glass cases in the center of the lobby. Some of her work can also be spotted near the work of Adnan Charara in the University Hospital Main Lobby. 

Adnan Charara creates assemblages of “characters,” creating acrylic paintings that represent figures, sometimes resembling toys created from seemingly random elements. U-M states that these “represent history, identity, and the struggle for a sense of belonging. They are blueprints for being human: imperfect, unique, and multi-faceted.”

The blueprints are filled with references and ambiguity, lending well to open interpretation. The artist, in his statement, suggests that the use of humor, cartoon-like aesthetic, and simplified form makes his works more relatable to a broad audience, particularly children. His works are based on his life circumstances, which have led him to engage with themes of “ethnicity, identity, diversity, anxiety, fear, love, and acceptance.”

Charara uses humor: comical, and cartoon-like subject matter (and aesthetics) to address the complexities of human existence. He says, “[T]hey are blueprints for being human: imperfect, unique, multifaceted.” The paintings on display at the university hospital are large-scale, impressive paintings. One work, After Munch VI, uses the imagery of the well-known Scream by Edvard Munch. Charara mentions this work in his statement, explaining that it is part of a series called Historia, in which historical anxieties are contrasted with “21st-century absurdity.” 

Larry Hauptman, Fortune Teller - Havana, Cuba

Larry Hauptman, Fortune Teller - Havana, Cuba, photograph

In the South Lobby of the Taubman Health Center, the works of Larry Hauptman and the Huron Valley Ceramics Collective (Isabella Comai, Dennison Dorsey, Sasha Guo, and Margaret A. Miller) are available for viewing. Hauptman is a photographer who focuses on documenting the lives and cultures of people around the world. His work in this exhibit features images of the people living in Cuba today, as well as their surroundings. His photographs are colorful and vibrant, but seriously examine the day-to-day lives of his subjects. 

Huron Valley Ceramics Collective is a collective of emerging artists working out of the Clay Work Studio in Ann Arbor. Gifts of Art states that the works on display are an “expression of how ceramics mediate our daily life through use. The artists explore life and reflection through surface and narrative elements by using a combination of wheel thrown and hand built terracotta, stoneware, and porcelain.” The ceramics pieces are displayed in glass cases both in the South Lobby near the Hauptman’s photographs and again near the Charara exhibit in the University Hospital Main Lobby.

The final artist represented in the current rotation of Gifts of Art is Cathy VanVoorhis. VanVoorhis creates oil landscape paintings that “represent her experience of the healing power of nature.” VanVoorhis travels to various locations in Michigan and Canada and uses them as sources for her paintings. She finds inspiration both in nature and “in the writings of naturalists such as Rachel Carson.” VanVoorhis also lectures at the U-M Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design. Her work is on display on the first floor, in the University Hospital Main Corridor.

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

Gifts of Art summer exhibitions continue through September 9 at University Hospital, Taubman Health Center and Comprehensive Cancer Center, 1500 E. Medical Center Drive, Ann Arbor. Free. Open daily from 8 am-8 pm. Here's a sneak peek at Gifts of Art's fall exhibitions and musical performances.