Stamps Gallery launches its second annual "Envision" exhibition, which highlights Michigan-based contemporary artists
The University of Michigan's Stamps Gallery recently opened its second annual exhibit Envision: The Michigan Artist Initiative 2023, featuring works by contemporary artists living and working in the state.
But the finalist for the $5,000 grand prize won't be announced until June 29 at an awards ceremony.
Parisa Ghaderi, Levon Kafafian, and Bakpak Durden are the 2023 Envision finalists and you can see their multimedia pieces on display through July 29. All three artists will make individual appearances at Stamps in July to discuss their work.
You can learn more about the artists and watch four short videos documenting the Envision: The Michigan Artist Initiative 2023 below:
The University of Michigan's North Campus Research Complex (NCRC) is a place for scientists and businesses to develop ideas and projects that can affect real-world change.
The NCRC is also the home of two low-key galleries that run regular exhibitions featuring artists with connections to Michigan (the state and/or the university).
On June 15, 4-7 pm, the NCRC will host a reception for three new exhibits running in the Rotunda and Connection galleries through August 11:
Read more about the artists and their works below:
Watch Frederick Ebenezer Okai’s massive sculpture "When the Gods Speak, Heaven Listens" journey from Ghana to Ann Arbor
The We Write To You About Africa exhibition at the University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA) isn't really an exhibition in the traditional sense.
It launched in 2021, both online and in person, and is scheduled to run indefinitely because rather than being a limited-time display of UMMA's art plus borrowed pieces, it's actually a reinstallation of the Robert and Lillian Montalto Bohlen Gallery of African art with the connected A. Alfred Taubman Gallery II space. The combined rooms double the amount of space the museum can use to highlight art drawn from collections across the U-M campus as well as new additions to UMMA.
The latest work to join We Write To You About Africa is Frederick Ebenezer Okai’s When the Gods Speak, Heaven Listens, a nearly 15-foot-tall sculpture by the Ghanian artist that comes in three parts: a vaselike clay body decorated with various patterns, topped by a ceramic depiction of two humans, with clouds hovering over the other sections.
UMMA released a video that follows the journey of When the Gods Speak, Heaven Listens from Accra, Ghana to Ann Arbor and its installation at the museum. Check it out below:
A Field Guild to Hannah Burr: The Ann Arbor artist creates abstract works that conjure contemplation
Hannah Burr's art seeks to foster connections, not only between the viewer and the work but also between the viewer and the universe. The Ann Arbor artist works in everything from painting and drawing to sculpture and books, but no matter the medium, Burr's art acts as a prompt for observers to consider how they relate to the world around them and beyond.
Burr's dedication to contemplative matters is perhaps best shown in her series of books, such as Contemporary Prayers to * [whatever works] and Elements: a love letter to all things everywhere, which marry aphorisms or scientific facts with abstract paintings and ask readers to observer how they feel when taking in the words, colors, and shapes on the page. Her forthcoming book, Field Guide to Ambiguity, is currently in its Kickstarter phase, and like Elements, is coming out via Fifth Avenue Press, the Ann Arbor District Library's publishing imprint. This follows a 2021 expanded and completely reworked version of Contemporary Prayers, which was published by Simon & Schuster.
Burr is one of more than 80 artists who will display her works at the West Side Art Hop, held annually in Ann Arbor's historic Old West Side. This year's Art Hop runs June 10 and 11; a map of the home/garage/yard venues can be found here, but Burr will be at 701 5th Street.
I caught up with Burr ahead of the West Side Art Hop as she preps Field Guide to Ambiguity and other projects, many of which she documents in her well-maintained blog, Good Bonfire.
A Florida vacation gave Nancy Margolis a "fabulous" idea.
“A couple years ago I saw this exhibit in Sarasota in one of their parks, and it was so fabulous that I talked to their executive director about bringing it here to Washtenaw County," Margolis says.
The public art exhibit featured enormous vinyl banners with images celebrating diversity and inclusion. It was organized by Embracing Our Differences, an organization Sarasota has supported for 20 years. It spotlights pieces created by students from local schools alongside works by artists from around the world to celebrate diverse identities and inclusion.
In the spring of 2021, Margolis began planning the first Embracing Our Differences Michigan banner installations, calling on her professional experience and passion for amplifying diverse voices to build a coalition that would ultimately bring the endeavor to fruition.
“My background is in anti-poverty programs and community organization,” Margolis says. “I brought myself into this project because I was so thrilled with the idea of a good medium for working on diversity and inclusion.”
By the time Embracing Our Differences’ first exhibit was installed at parks in Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor in May 2022, Margolis and her initial support team had recruited the support of 100 local organizations. The inaugural Michigan exhibition featured 59 images created by students, adult community members, and professionals.
Nature's Way: Cathy Barry's "Connatural" paintings at Matthaei Botanical Gardens explore biological patterns
“Nature is the big umbrella of what inspires and has always informed my work,” the Ann Arbor painter writes in her artist’s statement. “My most recent work focuses on collecting and referencing biological sources and patterns found in nature.”
Some of those biological sources even provide colors for Barry's paintings as well as textures embedded into the works.
"I am extracting colors from local sources—in the backyard or the grocery store—including buckthorn, cattail, turmeric root, forsythia, beets, mulberry, yellow and purple onion skins," the Stamps lecturer writes in her artist's statement. "I then reference older practices by experimenting with inlay work of painted paper, traditionally used to create jewelry, furniture, mosaics and textiles. I am creating motifs and abstract compositions by cutting shapes from my plant-based paintings, fitting them together and assembling them. I am integrating materials with form and subject in my painting to evoke a peaceful wholeness that references the innate wisdom of nature."
Nature isn't the only thing referenced in Connatural, though only fans of one of the world's biggest pop stars might notice.
"For any Swifties out there, take a closer look at some of the titles in the exhibition," she said with a smile.
Barry answered a few questions about the exhibit, which runs through April 30.
Eyes on Watercolor: Jeremy Wheeler takes the bold step to get soft in his new collection of paintings at Ann Arbor Art Center
One piece in particular I remember was of Naru, the protagonist warrior in the Predator series prequel Prey. While Wheeler is known for paintings inspired by science fiction and horror films, his use of watercolors for Naru captured the ghostly mystery of her character, not just her strength.
It's absolutely gorgeous.
The cozy, creamy vibe of watercolors such as this is the polar opposite of the bold pop art that brought Wheeler acclaim.
The long-time Ann Arbor creative is best known for his loud, psychedelic concert-poster work and stark, powerful interpretations of movie scenes. Bold lines, hard edges, and kinetic energy were intrinsic to his style.
But Wheeler's move toward the (literally) more fluid and flowing medium of watercolors happened at a time when the whole world slowed down due to Covid-19. Calling his exploration of watercolors a "respite" during the pandemic, there's a quiet, meditative quality to his works in the medium. While Wheeler used the watercolors to continue exploring portraits and figures of film, music, and TV actors, actresses, and characters who inspire him—he was a critic for AllMovie for 12 years—the results were warmer, lighter, and more delicate than his previous work in other mediums.
Fittingly, the title of his first watercolors exhibit matches the sensibilities exuded in the paintings: Soft Collections runs at the Ann Arbor Art Center (A2AC) through March 28, and many works are still available for purchase. While Wheeler is a highly trained fine artist, he used the Art Resources videos made by A2AC, where he serves as the marketing manager, to help guide him in a medium that he hadn't previously worked in very much.
He was attracted by the speed of watercolors compared to the more laborious process of his more standard style, but Wheeler also loved the way he could keep re-wetting the paints until he could find the right balance. That process of trial and error is not afforded in ink washes, which can provide a similar look to watercolors but is more permanent and inflexible in comparison.
I spoke to Wheeler about watercolors and more, and you can see two recent videos he made discussing his work: one with the Detroit Institute of Arts and the other a live painting session he made for A2AC in conjunction with Soft Collections.
"'I have a crisis for you': Women Artists of Ukraine Respond to War" acts as an archive of witness and response
"I have a crisis for you": Women Artists of Ukraine Respond to War was first shown at the University of Michigan's Lane Hall Exhibit Space last August 25 through December 16, and it was brought to U-M's Weiser Hall from January 3 through February 23.
And the curators don't think the exhibition is complete.
“I can’t say it's a finished project, because it will have afterlives,” said co-curator Jessica Zychowicz, director of the U.S. Fulbright Program in Ukraine, who also earned her Ph.D. from U-M.
She and co-curator Grace Mahoney—a Ph.D. candidate in Slavic languages and literatures, and a graduate fellow for exhibits at the Institute for Research on Women and Gender at U-M—hope the multimedia exhibit keeps finding new venues beyond Ann Arbor and can serve as an educational tool, or at least serve as an archive of work in which women describe and respond to their own particular experiences of war.
"I have a crisis for you" features paintings, writing, photos, and more by:
- visual artist and sculptor Kinder Album
- photographer J.T. Blatty
- visual artist and U-M grad student Oksana Briukhovetska
- visual artist and designer Sonya Hukaylo
- filmmaker, artist, and performer Oksana Kazmina
- visual artist Lesia Kulchynska
- poet and translator Svetlana Lavochkina
- visual artist Kateryna Lisovenko
- poet and screenwriter Lyuba Yakimchuk
Zychowicz and Mahoney did their curation remotely: Mahoney from Ann Arbor; Zychowicz from Warsaw, Poland, where she moved from Kyiv when the invasion began. To inform the project, the curators drew on previous relationships they had with the artists and writers as well as their own scholarship: Zychowicz is the author of Superfluous Women: Art, Feminism, and Revolution in Twenty-First Century Ukraine, and Mahoney is the series editor of Lost Horse Press' Contemporary Ukrainian Poetry Series.
Zychowicz and Mahoney recently talked with me over Zoom to discuss the exhibit. Our conversation was edited for clarity and length.
EMU's "King Kong at Ninety: Visualization in the Art of Stop-Motion Animation" celebrates the creativity behind the film that helped launch the Creature Feature
While spending an hour-plus perusing Eastern Michigan University’s exhibit King Kong at Ninety: Visualization in the Art of Stop-Motion Animation, I was struck by how, in some ways, it’s probably harder for young film buffs to stumble upon the old classics.
Admittedly, nearly all movies that survived are available to us at any moment now, but that tsunami of choices also means viewers must specifically seek out a film like King Kong (1933) instead of merely tumbling out of bed before your parents get up on a Sunday morning, turning on the TV, and sampling that week’s “Creature Feature”—a genre largely spawned by the runaway blockbuster success of King Kong.
Even so, as demonstrated by King Kong at Ninety—on display at EMU's University Gallery through February 23—theatrical rereleases of the film served this same purpose for years, offering moviegoers multiple opportunities to experience what were, at the time, cutting edge, eye-popping visual effects. (It’s interesting to note how the poster art changed with each release, as well as how it was visually marketed in other countries.)
Plus, EMU’s exhibit offers up Depression-era magazine features dedicated to revealing how these cinematic images were achieved—though more of these articles trafficked in shoddy guesswork (i.e., an actor in a gorilla suit) than in accurate, researched reporting.
But even these misinformed attempts hint at the widespread sense of wonder and curiosity inspired by King Kong. So how did this seminal movie come to be made?
Open the Vaults: Tania El Khoury's multimedia installation “Cultural Exchange Rate” immerses you in the artist's family history
If you could unearth all the secrets of your family’s past, would you?
Lebanese artist Tania El Khoury set out to do that with her interactive art installation Cultural Exchange Rate, which is presented at the Stamps Gallery, courtesy of UMS, until January 29. The multimedia work tells the artist's mission to trace her family’s roots by having gallery-goers open locked boxes and stick their heads inside to see videos, sounds, objects, and images of El Khoury's family journies between continents.
Originally from Akkar, a small village in Lebanon located near the river that separates Lebanon and Syria, El Khoury’s great-grandparents migrated to Mexico during a civil war. Her grandfather was born in Mexico, but her family eventually moved back to Lebanon, where he collected old coins and Lebanese liras, hoping they would be worth more than their original value one day when the currency exchange rate changed.
The story progresses to the present, with the artist becoming pregnant. In hopes of giving her unborn daughter citizenship in a country with a better passport and more cultural freedom, El Khoury searches for her grandfather’s birth certificate in Mexico, so her daughter can gain Mexican citizenship. The journey is frustrating, and while she hits a lot of dead ends, she also discovers family members in Mexico City that she didn’t know she had. Her story is one of blended cultures, resilience, survival, and hope.