Myths and Legends: Guild Showcases Local Artists Through Folklore Exhibit at Ann Arbor’s Gutman Gallery


Marilynn Thomas shows her artwork during a Folklore exhibit pop-up session at Gutman Gallery.

Marilynn Thomas shows her artwork during a Folklore exhibit pop-up session at Gutman Gallery. Photo courtesy of 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.”

Marilynn Thomas' Oriole Unraveling the Universe watercolor painting

Marilynn Thomas’ Oriole Unraveling the Universe watercolor painting features stenciling and masking techniques. Photo courtesy of Gutman Gallery.

Her striking painting is one of 30 all-media pieces from 26 local artists featured in The Guild of Artists & Artisans’ latest exhibit, Folklore, at Gutman Gallery.

“I love birding, and I love painting birds,” said Thomas during the exhibit’s September 23 opening reception, which also featured music by Golden Feelings and refreshments by TeaHaus. “He was young, and I wanted to show him doing something. I wanted to use a lot of watercolor techniques like masking and stencils.”

On display through October 29, Folklore celebrates storytelling, superstitions, and old wives’ tales across different experiences, cultures, and ages. The gallery is also hosting pop-up sessions with featured artists from the exhibit on intermittent Saturdays during the exhibit’s run.

Her piece was selected alongside other artists’ drawings, photographs, sculptures, paintings, and digital artwork by guest juror Jeff Cancelosi, a Detroit-based artist, curator, and photographer.

“When I was jurying this show, I was trying to find artists who have different ways of visually representing folklore,” he said. “I’m honored to bring my perspective because if there were another juror, then [they] would bring their perspective. Ultimately, this is about [the artists], and I hope being on these walls will help [them] in [their] artistic journey.”

Madelyn Taylor's Lady of the Lake acrylic painting

Madelyn Taylor’s Lady of the Lake acrylic painting celebrates female characters in Arthurian mythology. Photo courtesy of Gutman Gallery.

The Folklore artistic journey also includes the Arthurian legend of Vivienne, or the Lady of the Lake, who presents the sword Excalibur to a young King Arthur. Detroit artist Madelyn Taylor created the 40-inch-by-60-inch acrylic painting Lady of the Lake for her junior-year project at the College for Creative Studies.

In Taylor’s painting, an enchanting Vivienne emerges from emerald waters to loan the mighty Excalibur to King Arthur, who’s expected to return the sword to her one day.

“I really enjoy history, and part of history is the mythology that goes along with the culture. The King Arthur stories have always been really important to me throughout my life,” said Taylor, who’s studying illustration and art history.

“I’ve always loved mythology, so I wanted to create the piece, Lady of the Lake, because not a lot of pieces focus on female characters in those old stories. I wanted to bring those female characters to light.”

Reggie Singleton's The Curse of Bobby Layne ink drawing

Reggie Singleton's The Curse of Bobby Layne ink drawing highlights a despondent Detroit Lions fan. Photo courtesy of Gutman Gallery.

Folklore also explores The Curse of Bobby Layne, a 20-inch-by-28-inch ink drawing developed by Detroit artist Reggie Singleton. The piece spotlights the Detroit Lions “cursed” losing streak, which allegedly stems from the controversial 1958 trade of quarterback Bobby Layne to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

When he was traded, Layne claimed the Detroit Lions would lose for 50 years. Many football fans still believe that “curse” holds true today, citing the Detroit Lions’ ongoing record losses.

In his piece, Singleton thoughtfully characterizes the six-decade impact of the Detroit Lions “curse” on a despondent fan attending a losing game in 2009. The Curse of Bobby Layne provides a compelling close-up of her disappointment highlighted in eye-catching yellow and green shades.

“When I do my ink drawings, I usually take photos of crowds. I pick out the face that moves me the most,” said Singleton, who started drawing at a young age. “For this one, I was at a Detroit Lions game, and I saw that girl sitting there, so I decided to draw her. She just had a sad look, so I designed the paper to have a shifting mood.”

Branislava Dragovic's Mother Earth organ wool sculpture

Branislava Dragovic’s Mother Earth organic wool sculpture spotlights folktales from her childhood in Belgrade, Serbia. Photo courtesy of Gutman Gallery.

In contrast, Ann Arbor’s Branislava Dragovic shares an uplifting mood with her organic wool sculpture, Majka Priroda: Zemlja i Svemir (Mother Nature: Earth and Universe) for Folklore. The Serbian native’s needle felt and wet felt piece personifies the planet’s ecosystem and celebrates the beauty of life.

“I loved the stories that I heard when I was a child. I grew up and was raised in Belgrade, Serbia. I combined all those stories into one sculpture, Mother Earth, and she’s an inspiring goddess,” said Dragovic, who’s lived in Ann Arbor since 2010.

“The technique that I [used] is wet felting and needle felting together. The small, delicate pieces I do with a needle, and the bigger pieces I do with wet felting. I hope people see it as it is and use their imagination.”

Those are just a few examples of Folklore’s diverse artists and pieces. Other captivating works highlight the story of Krampus, Odin’s ravens, Koi fish, carnivorous plants, and more.

“I just love looking at art … and I’m addicted to art and music,” Cancelosi said. “It’s like a hearing song that moves you, and I’m always searching for a song and/or a work of art that moves me.”

Lori Stratton is a library technician, writer for Pulp, and writer and editor of

Folklore runs through October 29 at Gutman Gallery. Located at 118 N. Fourth Ave., the gallery is open Wednesday through Saturday from 11 am to 5 pm.