Sophie/Elsie is a striking sculptural figure, vibrant and visible from a distance, a colorful, bright beacon in the newly expanded and reopened African galleries at the University of Michigan Museum of Art.
Johannesburg-based artist Mary Sibande’s fiberglass sculpture, created in 2009, and initially on display during UMMA’s closure, is now permanently installed. In the early days of the museum’s closure, Sophie/Elsie was visible from outside the galleries—then, construction came, and she was no longer visible from outside.
But Sophie/Elsie is once again on display in the reimagined space of UMMA’s African galleries. Along with works by Jon Onye Lockard, Shani Peters, Jacob Lawrence, and many more, Sibande’s sculpture brings new life to the gallery space as part of the ongoing initiative We Write to You About Africa, in which “contemporary African artists, scholars, and curators will be asked to write about their work on postcards, in their first language, and mail them to UMMA where they will be displayed alongside their works.”
The reinstallation—including a gallery extension—is now open to visitors in the Robert and Lillian Montalto Bohlen Gallery of African art and Alfred A Taubman Gallery II.
This is the fifth year we've compiled Ann Arbor District Library staff picks, featuring tons of recommendations for books, films, TV shows, video games, websites, apps, and more.
The picks are always an epic compilation of good taste, and last year's post was more than 35,000 words—incinerating phone data plans and overheating computers as the massive page loaded.
In a sincere effort to keep your electronics from catching fire, we've split up the hundreds of selections into four categories:
And since we've saved your phones and laptops from the flames, tell us what you enjoyed this past year in the comments section below—doesn't need to be something that came out in 2021, just some kind of art, culture, or entertainment that you experienced over the prior 12 months.
Double Goddess: A Sighting in the Abyss by Ayana V. Jackson at A2AC Gallery. Photo by K.A. Letts.
COVID-19 has wrecked plans and canceled events for nearly two years (and counting). It has sabotaged the momentum and slashed the incomes of Ann Arbor’s small community of visual artists and galleries, leaving a cultural landscape greatly altered in ways large and small.
But the creatives here are nothing if not resourceful and, well, creative.
My recent tour of the art spaces and non-profits in Ann Arbor and environs left me encouraged—and impressed—by the resilience of the city’s art community. Here are some of the changes I came across while reintroducing myself to the local art scene in early December 2021:
Stamps Gallery's "Envision: The Michigan Artist Initiative" celebrates creators who are inspiring the next generation
Based on my direction of approach to the University of Michigan's Stamps Gallery, I didn’t see Michael Dixon’s large-scale sculptural alligator head with one sharp, gold tooth before entering—though it's visible in the gallery’s large front windows.
Inside the sculpture’s large open jaw, children’s toys rest as if inside a toy box. Among them, a selection of brightly colored balls, dolls, and books we might recognize from a modern store, but also amidst the display are racist toys such as a mammy doll, which remind viewers that these harmful toys are still collected and sold, holding a space in contemporary American culture that often escapes criticism.
This idea is further enforced by the inclusion of problematic Dr. Suess books, which became a topic of national conversation this past March.
Dixon is among five artists represented in Envision: The Michigan Artist Initiative, a new program focused on promoting the careers of Michigan-based artists.
This awards initiative “recognizes the creativity, rigor, and innovation of Michigan-based artists and collaboratives—and honors their role in inspiring the next generations of artists in our state.”
Shizu Saldamando’s exhibit "When This Is All Over/ Cuando Esto Termine" captures the anxiety and depression of pandemic art
Over the past year, I've come across artwork that exemplifies what I would describe as a new genre: pandemic art. A significant number of emerging creatives are making work that displays a high level of anxiety and depression brought on by their isolation and a well-founded sense that their lives, plans, and ambitions have been put on hold. Shizu Saldamando’s solo exhibition When This Is All Over / Cuando Esto Termine, on view at the University of Michigan Institute for the Humanities Gallery until December 10 and curated by Amanda Krugliak, is yet another example of this distressed trend.
It's clear that the COVID-19 pandemic has been particularly difficult for early career professional artists like Los Angeles painter Shizu Saldamano. Her diverse circle of friends, many of them Latinx and/or LGBTQ, represent a cross-section of young creatives eking out their existence in L.A.’s gig economy. Right now, they are pursuing their avocations—as musicians, artists, DJs, and the like—in the midst of economic and medical uncertainty.
They are the subjects of Saldamando’s large portraits.
“No, not even for a picture”: Re-examining the Native Midwest and Tribes’ Relations to the History of Photography at U-M's Clements Library
This review was originally published December 3, 2020; after the jump, we've included a video interview with the curators published on AADL.tv on November 15, 2021 as part of 30 Days of National Native American Heritage Month.
As I look out over a pond that's rippling gently from snowfall, the pine trees and fields covered in white, I'm writing this post in my Christmas-light-bright house, which rests on Bodéwadmiké (Potawatomi) land ceded in a coercive treaty.
A version of the above sentence is also what begins “No, not even for a picture”: Re-examining the Native Midwest and Tribes’ Relations to the History of Photography, an online exhibition produced by two University of Michigan students with Native American ancestry for the William L. Clements Library. Lindsey Willow Smith (undergraduate, History and Museum Studies; member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians) and Veronica Cook Williamson (Ph.D. candidate, Germanic Languages and Literatures and Museum Studies; Choctaw ancestry, citizen of the Chickasaw Nation) used materials in the Richard Pohrt Jr. Collection of Native American Photography to explore ideas of consent, agency, and representation.
At Odds: "Oh, Honey ... A Queer Reading of UMMA's Collection" imagines a place where LGBTQ+ art can thrive
Art is often intentionally ambiguous, asking viewers to create meaning and metaphorically fill in the blanks with their interpretations.
So, then, what is queer art anyway?
(Spoiler! This exhibit will not define it for you.)
In Oh, Honey ... A Queer Reading of UMMA's Collection, compiled by doctoral candidate and 2019-2020 Irving Stenn Jr. curatorial fellow Sean Kramer, there is no essential “queerness” harnessed and presented in a neat package. Instead, the exhibit is framed by the words of activist, author, and professor bell hooks: “Queer as being about the self that is at odds with everything around it and has to invent and create and find a place to speak and to thrive and to live.”
The University of Michigan Museum of Art is now fully open to the public, but Oh, Honey—UMMA's first self-described queer exhibit—went live virtually in fall 2020. Even so, the online exhibit doesn't have the same impact due to Kramer’s curatorial approach: the physicality and placement of the works affect their readings.
In this vein, it is important to note that each artwork was created by a different artist with a unique relationship to the external world; not everybody defines queerness or “queer art” in the same way.
Highlighting History: "Harold Neal and Detroit African American Artists: 1945 through the Black Arts Movement"
Though Detroit is synonymous with musical innovation, the Michigan cultural center is not frequently framed as an epicenter of fine art. In a new exhibit, curators suggest that this is not because Detroit lacks—now or in the past—a vibrant art scene but because of historical oversight on the parts of art historians.
Eastern Michigan University’s University Gallery is the first place to host what will be a traveling exhibit with an in-depth look at an era, movement, and place in Harold Neal and Detroit African American Artists: 1945 through the Black Arts Movement. (You can also view the virtual exhibition here.)
The exhibit and presents a view of post-World War II African-American art history "essentially unknown to other scholars,” as the catalog states, and took 10 years to research. Julia R. Myers conducted interviews with artists, scholars, friends, and families of the featured artists, and located many works in private collections. Additionally, research was conducted by reading through numerous news sources, including the Detroit-based African-American newspaper Michigan Chronicle.
Artober is a celebration of arts, taking place October 9 and 10 along Fourth Avenue and into the Kerrytown Market. There will be around 75 selected fine artists, live entertainment, food trucks, craft beer, cider, and free admission.
The Guild of Artists & Artisans is kicking off its part of the Artober celebration with a new exhibition, Emerge, an all-media exhibition featuring work from young and rising artists in its Gutman Gallery.
Emerge, juried by local teaching artist Payton Cook, features 22 works from 15 talented artists ranging from middle school, high school, and college students as well as works from talented adult artists who are newish to the gallery scene. The exhibit represents a variety of styles and techniques, with a focus on exploration and experimentation, from sculpture and collage to photography and mixed media.
The Guild will also be hosting a socially distanced open-house-style reception on Friday, October 15, 4-6 pm. Artists, patrons, and community members are invited to experience the exhibition and meet some of the artists in a laid-back atmosphere. Visit Gutman Gallery’s Emerge Facebook Event for opening reception details, exhibition updates, and artist highlights.
Below are some more works featured in the exhibition:
Rashaun Rucker begins his artist statement for Never Free to Rest at U-M's Institute for the Humanities Gallery with a simple definition:
1. To assign to a particular category or class, especially in a manner that is too rigid or exclusive.
Synonyms: categorize, classify, label, typecast, ghettoize
In this exhibit, the Detroit-based artist examines the impact of pigeonholing Black men’s identities through a series of drawings and installations. Rucker's artist statement says he “compares the life and origins of the rock pigeon to the stereotypes and myths of the constructed identities of Black men in the United States of America.”