The Photography of Art: Donita Simpson’s "Context Is Everything" documents Detroit artists

VISUAL ART REVIEW INTERVIEW

Nancy Mitchnick by Donita Simpson

Picturing Art: Detroit painter Nancy Mitchnick, shown here next to her work in progress. Photo by Donita Simpson.

Donita Simpson is racing to record and archive images of the Detroit art scene’s most important and enduring artists as she writes the first draft of the city’s contemporary art history. A generous selection from the award-winning portrait photographer’s years-long project is on view in Context Is Everything at Connections gallery in the University of Michigan's North Campus Research Complex.

A Heavenly Gaze: Allie McGhee's "Cosmic Images 2000" at Rotunda Gallery

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Allie McGhee's Cloud Nine

Cloud Nine, 2009.

Paintings and public sculptures by prominent contemporary artist Allie McGhee abound throughout Detroit. His elegantly gestural Night Rhythms (1991) can be seen at the Detroit Institute of Art. The Michigan-Cass Avenue stop on the People Mover features his work, and right now, a small but exquisite sliver of his decades-long body of work, Cosmic Images 2000, is on view at the Rotunda Gallery in Building 18 of University of Michigan's North Campus Research Center in Ann Arbor through August 31.

McGhee was born in Charleston, W.V., but soon moved to Detroit, where he attended Cass Technical High school. He completed his undergraduate work at Eastern Michigan University in 1965. His early paintings and sculptures were figurative and even as he has moved toward abstraction, his work has retained the gestural sweep of his unseen arm.

Colorful & Comical: Adnan Charara's "Constructs (Noun)" exhibition

REVIEW VISUAL ART

Adnan Charara's Constructs (Noun)

Adnan Charara's Constructs (Noun) exhibit includes these Munch-inspired canvases.

“Human identity is built upon strong currents that are constantly changing, [over] ... a well-traveled riverbed of history.”

Detroit artist, gallerist, and thinker Adnan Charara knows a thing or two about art and about history, and in Constructs (Noun), a colorful and comical exhibit of his recent paintings, he shows himself an able architect of identity, using bits and pieces of art history to create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Twelve large acrylic paintings from two different, but related, bodies of work form the substance of this beautifully installed exhibit, on view at the Rotunda Gallery in Building 18 of the University of Michigan’s North Campus Research Center until December 18.

The photography exhibit "In Transit" travels all around Ann Arbor

REVIEW VISUAL ART

In Transit at Ann Arbor Art Center

In Transit winners, clockwise from left: Jeannette Woltmann, Advice; Robert Conradi, WCC Metal Fabrication Department; Misty Lyn Bergeron, Flower of Life.

With over 70 photographs on view in locations throughout Ann Arbor, In Transit is a lively, four-headed monster of an exhibition. From the back hall of the City Council Chambers to The Session Room on Jackson Avenue, to the buses (inside and outside) of TheRide, this collection of photos by current and former photography students at Washtenaw County Community College will be all over town for the next three months.

But the best place to see all these photographs celebrating the local places and people of southeastern Michigan is right now through September 30 in Gallery 117 of the Ann Arbor Art Center.

Past Imperfect: Parisa Ghaderi & Ebrahim Soltani at YES!

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Underdog

The manipulated photographs of Ebrahim Soltani (left) and Parisa Ghaderi help explore the messiness of memory.

Photographs are haunting; they are aching evidences of our relations with those who are gone. However, through photographs, we do not remember the past: we invent the past.” --Parisa Ghaderi & Ebrahim Soltani

For the month of June, YES!, an experimental gallery located at 8 North Washington St. in Ypsilanti, will host Waiting for the Past, an installation of videos and photographs created by visual artist Parisa Ghaderi in collaboration with social scientist, writer, and photographer Ebrahim Soltani. The exhibition is sponsored by the Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation and will provide the space with permanent sound and lighting equipment to support future public art projects at the gallery.

Waiting for the Past is the first collaboration of this creative team. Asked if they plan to work together in the future, Soltani replies with an enthusiastic “Absolutely!” They say they particularly enjoyed writing the poetry that dots the wall of the gallery and they hope to continue to create work for a publication.

Everyday Objects: "Text/Image" at Ann Arbor Art Center

REVIEW VISUAL ART

Underdog

Underdog by Christopher Schneider

We live in a hyper-literate age of endless imagery and short attention spans.

We seldom pause -- and really, when do we have time? -- to consider the process by which we create meaning for ourselves from the constant interaction of words and pictures in books, magazines, on television and the web, on our phones.

In Text/Image now on view until June 3 in Ann Arbor Art Center’s Gallery 117, Detroit-based artist/curator Jack O. Summers has thoughtfully collected for our consideration some artworks that refer to everyday objects whose meanings “are enhanced or subverted by the multi-dimensional interplay of text and images.” The exhibit concentrates on still imagery, leaving aside the more kinetic treatments of text and image interaction such as video and animation.

Rooted in the Community: Westside Art Hop

REVIEW VISUAL ART

Westside

Some Art Hop highlights, from the top left: handwoven art by Carol Furtado, Lisa L's Grixdolls, paintings by Sophie Grillet, glass work by Larry Nisson, and paintings by Barb Anderson.

What is the Westside Art Hop? Is it an art fair? A historic home tour? A block party?

Well, it’s all of those things plus a nice stroll, and it’s scheduled for Saturday, May 13, from 10 am to 5 pm on the streets and in the homes, garages, porches, and artists’ studios of Ann Arbor’s historic Old West Side.

The district’s resident artists, friends, and neighbors will be showing off -- and offering for sale -- a broad array of paintings, ceramics, blown glass, photography, and assorted fine crafts. On hand to greet visitors and converse will be the artists themselves. Organizers of the free event describe Art Hop as “artists supporting artists … rooted in the local community. We present high-quality art and hand-made crafts for sale to the public in a festive atmosphere.”

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

REVIEW VISUAL ART

Marian

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.

PowerArt! Profile: David Zinn

PROFILE VISUAL ART

David Zinn at Pop-X.

David Zinn at Pop-X.

David Zinn's art is all over Ann Arbor, but you may not know it.

In addition to two PowerArt boxes recently installed at Main and William (PenPals) and at Liberty and First Ave (Selfie Monster) as part of the PowerArt Project, the Ann Arbor native is also responsible for the witty trompe l'oeil rendition of Singin' in the Rain which can be found on Fifth Avenue across from the Ann Arbor Public Library's downtown branch. And recently he was one of the artists represented at Ann Arbor Art Center's Pop-X Festival.

Two PowerArt boxes by David Zinn.

PowerArt! by David Zinn. PenPals at William and Main St. (left), Selfie Monster at Liberty and First, Ann Arbor.

David Zinn is best known, though, as a master of comic ephemerality. He creates improvised temporary street art entirely from chalk, charcoal and found objects. His works feature fanciful creatures that pop into and out of our dimension, visitors from his wild imagination. He likes "walking around seeing places where art wants to be and putting it there."

Zinn's improbable career as a street artist began about 14 years ago as an escape from the tedium of his job as a graphic designer:

"The first day I did this, I had a really important job that I had to finish in two days, and I should have been sitting in front of my computer doing this very important job and doing all the very important things I was supposed to do. It was completely childish and irresponsible to go outside, but it was a beautiful day. The sun was out, it was 76 degrees and that does not happen here every day. And it made sitting in front of a computer seem kind of irrational."

Zinn's temporary artworks are relentlessly cheerful and entertaining. Sluggo, an amorphous blob with eyes on stalks and Philomena, a pig with wings, make frequent appearances in his temporary artworks along with a wide array of tiny monsters, valiant mice, elves and some creatures that are frankly, impossible to categorize. They bubble up out of his subconscious and dissipate just as quickly.

Zinn spends quite a bit of creative energy in subverting the status of his works as permanent art objects. He is not interested in showing his work in galleries, or in treating them as objects to venerate as high art. He values spontaneity and surprise above all.

"If it isn't going to be destroyed there's a lot I should be worrying about right now-- whether it’s good enough, whether it's serious enough. II feel bad for painters who paint conventionally on canvas, because when you finish a canvas, no matter whether you sell it, give it away or keep it in your attic, these are all things that you now have to do...but if you can't take it home, or somebody's going to eat it, or it's going to get rained on anyway, then you're free to just do what's going to make you happy now. And if you like it you can take a picture."

Lazy Leaf Raker (Sluggo) (left), Singing in the Rain at Fifth Avenue, Downtown Ann Arbor (right).

Lazy Leaf Raker (Sluggo) (left), Singing in the Rain at Fifth Avenue, Downtown Ann Arbor (right).

And that's exactly what David Zinn has done. He recently published a thoroughly entertaining book of his favorite temporary chalk artworks entitled Temporary Preserves. It includes not only pictures of his outdoor creations, but also photos of many of his smaller efforts made on the tables of restaurants in Ann Arbor during Michigan's cold winter months.

"The rationale for the book is that I went out on the sidewalk to get away from the computer and it was an increasingly sad irony to observe that now what I did to get away from the computer, people are sitting at the computer to look at."


K.A. Letts is an artist and art blogger. She has shown her work regionally and nationally and in 2015 won the Toledo Federation of Art Societies Purchase Award while participating in the TAAE95 Exhibit at the Toledo Museum of Art. You can find more of her work at RustbeltArts.com.


Take a walk and see the PowerArt! boxes up close and personal; a map of PowerArt! box locations is available to download. PowerArt is a partnership between the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority (AADDA) and the Ann Arbor Public Art Commission (AAPAC), The Arts Alliance is managing the selection and installation of artwork by local artists on power boxes throughout downtown Ann Arbor. You'll find more info about the project at the Arts Alliance website.

Preview: ypsiGLOW

PREVIEW VISUAL ART MUSIC

The Wonderfools team sports GLOWing headgear  in front of ypsiGLOW partner Riverside Arts Center.

The Wonderfools team sports GLOWing headgear in front of ypsiGLOW partner Riverside Arts Center.

YpsiGLOW--the first annual family-friendly, multi-sensory light, art, and music celebration of fall--will be held in downtown Ypsilanti this Thursday, October 27. Festivities commence at 5 pm at the Main Branch of the Ypsilanti Public Library at 229 W. Michigan Avenue with a preGLOW kid's costume party. Treats, activities, games, and a costume contest will be followed at 6:30 pm by a walking costume and luminary parade from the library to the nearby ypsiGLOW block party on Washington between Pearl and Michigan Avenue.

As a DJ spins tracks from his scissor-lift perch, a UV light-activated dance floor and blacklight animated alleys provide space for costumed adults and kids to move with the music. YpsiGLOW artists will perform on the street and in shop windows. Blacklight body artists will be on hand to paint faces and make hair glow in the dark. Also featured will be a blacklight reactive superhero mural, a giant luminary skull, a six-foot-tall grizzly, jack-o-lanterns, shadow puppets, and much more. Dancers from the WCC Performing Arts Department and the EMU Dance crew will perform, and films and projections will light up the night. Costumes are encouraged, trick-or-treaters are welcome and stores will be open until 9:30 pm. There is ample free parking on streets and in city lots for the event.

And for adult GLOWers who want to continue the party, there is an afterGLOW in the spooky black cellars of Bona Sera with DJ Ryan Gerald until midnight.

It took a village to get this event going. It began two years ago when members of the Washtenaw Convention and Visitors Bureau, The Downtown Association of Ypsilanti and Wonderfools Productions (of Ann Arbor Festifools fame) decided a Halloween-season festival would be a great addition to Ypsilanti's already very successful First Fridays. Wonderfool organizers Shary Brown, Mark Tucker, Jeri Rosenberg, and Adriana Zardus began meeting with creative members of the Ypsilanti community, the Ypsilanti Public Library staff, and local educational institutions as well as with civic leaders. Together, they developed a plan to leverage the outsize creative capital of Ypsilanti, the under-utilized downtown real estate, and a little seed money to create the one-night annual cultural festival that is ypsiGLOW.

Just a few of the artists who will be participating in ypsiGLOW:  (clockwise from top left) Angel Vanas, Jermaine Dickerson, Oona Goodman, Cre Fuller.

Just a few of the artists who will be participating in ypsiGLOW: (clockwise from top left) Angel Vanas, Jermaine Dickerson, Oona Goodman, Cre Fuller.

I asked some members of the Wonderfool production team about their process:

"Two of our first partners were Barry LaRue and Will Hathaway of Riverside Arts Center. They, in the space of less than a week, had sent out email introductions. So we spent two and a half to three months just meeting people," says Shary Brown.

Adriana Zardus adds, "Those three months were really important--we called it our discovery phase. We weren't prescribing any ideas. We were just saying that this is what our organization does: we connect different businesses, artists, and community organizations together to make their own creative vision... There's such a wealth of artists and creatives and community leaders that it was the easiest thing in the world to let go of the creative reins and hand it over.”

One thing that was very clear to the team from the start though, was that the event had to have its own unique Ypsi character that to showcase the strengths of this diverse artist, musicians, and creatives-rich community, starting with the choice of a name. They came up with ypsiGLOW in consultation with community members. It was an instant hit.

"GLOWing is positive, it's artistically descriptive and appropriate for the season,” says Shary Brown.

To prepare for the big night, 23 ypsiGLOW workshops have been held by community and arts organizations like Ozone House, Project 23, FLY Children’s ArtCenter, and many others. Masks, jack-lanterns, luminaries, and giant light creatures are now ready to make the night GLOW.

YpsiGLOW will get its first airing this Thursday but certainly not its last. The Wonderfool production team and Ypsi’s artists, educators, businesses, and community leaders are hoping to start an annual tradition that will bring everyone in the Ann Arbor/Ypsi area together for a satisfying shared community art experience for all ages.


K.A. Letts is an artist and art blogger. She has shown her work regionally and nationally and in 2015 won the Toledo Federation of Art Societies Purchase Award while participating in the TAAE95 Exhibit at the Toledo Museum of Art. You can find more of her work at RustbeltArts.com.


The first ypsiGLOW is Thursday, October 27, 2016, from 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm at Washington Street (between Pearl St. and Michigan Ave.) in Ypsilanti. Glow-gear and costumes are strongly encouraged.