We usually travel to a museum to view its art. But with everything closed for the foreseeable future due to the coronavirus pandemic, the University of Michigan Museum of Art is bringing its collection to you.
UMMA's Art in Your Inbox officially launched on March 26, with the museum emailing images from its collection twice a week, accompanied by brief, thoughtful commentaries on the works. But the project's genesis came from UMMA staff members privately sending art images to one another; they found the exchanges comforting and decided to share their finds with the public.
The pieces are chosen with society's current predicament in mind, such as Joanne Leonard's photograph Winged Ones, which features a child in angel wings staring out a window. But UMMA isn't just choosing isolation and illness art; inspired by Netflix's runaway hit Tiger King, one email featured the Tigress and Cubs scroll by Konoshima Ôkoku, which linked then linked to 11 additional works in UMMA's collection featuring the big cats. Another Art in Your Inbox image was Julie Blackmon's photo Birds at Home, featuring five children sitting at a messy dinner table among 12 cracked eggs; the body of the email featured the headline, "Homeschooling for how long?"
If you'e looking to indulge your quarantined senses with virtual art, Google has collaborated with more than 500 galleries and museums to digitize their collections through the megacorp's Arts & Culture’s collection. The only Washtenaw space to partner with Google is the University of Michigan Museum of Art, leaving smaller galleries and museums to figure out if they have the bandwidth -- human resources and digitally -- to post virtual exhibits of their permanent collections or canceled exhibits.
Here's what we found so far:
Valery Jung Estabrook's hand-sewn exhibit at U-M's LSA Humanities Gallery re-creates an uncomfortable snapshot of a rural American interior
The LSA Humanities Gallery is known for exhibits that raise uncomfortable questions and featuring provocative artworks that cut to the heart of American culture. With its most recent exhibit, *Hometown Hero (Chink): An American Interior, viewers are invited to explore an installation designed by multidisciplinary artist and Paula and Edwin Sidman Fellow in the Arts recipient Valery Jung Estabrook.
Estabrook’s installation is comprised of a life-sized, hand-sewn re-creation of an American interior, which casually anchors iconography of America’s racist past and present against a backdrop of brown, dreary dimness. Jung bases the recreation on her experiences growing up in rural Southwestern Virginia, though the low-wattage lightbulbs and centrally-placed television are instantly recognizable to me as a person who grew up in the rural Midwest, suggesting that Estabrook’s experiences are not unique to the American South. *Hometown Hero (Chink): An American Interior casually and precisely captures rural American life, from the guns mounted on the wall to the La-Z-Boy-style chair upholstered with a Confederate flag. This familiarity is unsettling.
Ted Ramsay, a professor emeritus at the University of Michigan’s School of Art and Design, has long made expressionism in its many guises the focus of his painting. His last WSG exhibit, March 2013’s Spatial Narratives in Paint, was marked by expressive figuration, which Ramsay explained as, "In my figure paintings I strive for an aura of magic and mystery tempered with a subjective, but believable dose of reality." I wrote at that time that Ramsay’s “whose homage to silence is so complete, you can almost hear a pin drop.”
The paintings in Ted Ramsay: Visual Symphony Series, on display at WSG through March 14, are more boisterous than those in Spatial Narratives as Ramsay loosens his representational moorings by melodically flinging himself into his working surfaces. His Visual Symphony Series bears the conventions of abstract expressionism, but how they came into being are particular to Ramsay's working environment. As he tells us in his gallery statement:
A Thread of Jewels: The 6X collective's "Mistaken for Strangers" fills the A2 Art Center's Gallery 117 with wearable art
The contemporary jewelry-making collective 6X makes interconnected, wearable artworks. The six-member group of Midwesterners explained their approach as part of its February exhibition at the Ann Arbor Art Center: “Ties, which may not consciously be acknowledged at a simple glance, are visible upon further consideration of approaches to concept, material, and process.” Thus, the title of the A2AC exhibit, Mistaken for Strangers, in its Gallery 117 space references the connectedness of their creative processes, which may not be immediately recognized by viewers.
A2AC moved its Gallery 117 from the second to the first floor, allowing easier access for visitors who may have not been able to use the stairs previously. 6X has created a dynamic installation that emphasizes the collective’s desire to form relationships between their varied works. The group accomplishes its goal to visually connect seemingly disparate formal approaches, with two towers of open white boxes standing in the center floor space, each box containing a piece of jewelry, and additional pieces displayed on top of the boxes.
A quote by Nadeem Aslam prefaces the gallery wall text: “Pull a thread here and you’ll find it’s attached to the rest of the world.” The concept of the threads that connect us is enforced visually not only by exhibiting the artists’ disparate works together but also through a two-part installation of white thread. The loom-like threads are suspended between two walls in one corner of the gallery, and a two-panel installation hangs from the ceiling above a series of pedestals displaying the artworks.
The Guild of Artists & Artisans' new Gutman Gallery opens with an exhibit filled with love (and hearts)
On a standardly gray February evening I made my way through the dark and cold toward Kerrytown. The block of Fourth Street between Ann and Huron is not a particularly active space after five, but tonight was different. Brightly lit, and with condensation beginning to form, glances of color slipped out the storefront windows of the newly opened Gutman Gallery.
Operated by The Guild of Artists & Artisans, the Gallery is named for the Guild’s founder, Vic Gutman. A University of Michigan student in the 1970s, the campus asked Gutman to do something about the students who had started hawking their own art on the Diag parallel to the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair. His response was to create the Free Art Fair, which morphed into what is now known as the Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair, and led Gutman to found the Michigan Guild of Artists and Artisans in 1973.
The artists in Riverside Arts Center's Embrace: The Black Experience grapple with what that multifaceted experience means. They respond with artwork just as varied, from metalworks to photographs and digitally rendered multimedia.
Avery Williamson’s three hanging wall scrolls are abstracted line paintings that employ shades and shapes of brown as the main component of their compositions. Williamson is a multidisciplinary artist who works with weaving, photography, painting, and drawing. She describes her work as an exploration of “the narratives of black women in personal and institutional archives,” where they are “defined by names, occupations or skin color.”
Every new season the University of Michigan Medicine’s Gifts of Art brings patients and visitors new exhibits of inspirational, meditative, and thought-provoking works by local and regional artists. For the winter edition, the eight gallery spaces provide uplifting and diverse works, executed in a wide range of media: straight photography, digitally altered photography, oil paintings, oil and chalk pastels, designer hats, multimedia sculptures, and paper sculpture.
Unity of Purpose: "Taking a Stand" at Stamps Gallery features a range of multimedia works under a common theme of inclusivity
Stamps Gallery's Taking a Stand offers audiences a glimpse at the works of five artists who engage with themes of solidarity and comment on social and cultural issues at the forefront of contemporary dialogues. They grapple with science fiction, environmentalism, social activism, and the history and continuing impact of colonialism.
Executed in a range of media, the works in the gallery offer an array of involved experience and levels of engagement. Many works employ digital media, such as in Oliver Husain’s 3D film gallery and micha cárdenas’ interactive video game, while others, such as the art by Syrus Marcus Ware, appropriate traditional materials such as clothesline and clothespins as installation materials to hang letters on paper in Activist Love Letters.
Augmented Realities: Stamps Gallery's "Taking a Stand" features multimedia, 3D, and interactive installations
The Stamps Gallery's Taking a Stand exhibition opened on January 17 with a reception that featured a performance by Detroit artist Sacramento Knoxx along with Bianca Millar and White Feather Woman.
Photos from the reception show viewers engaging with 3D films, augmented reality, interactive drawings, and more through the works of artists micha cárdenas, Oliver Husain, Elizabeth LaPensée, Meryl McMaster, and Syrus Marcus Ware.
Taking a Stand curator Srimoyee Mitra writes:
The collectivist impulse of the projects recast the gallery as a catalyst, a site of action and possibility for urgent and meaningful dialogue on culture and politics. The immersive and interactive installations don’t just represent social concerns from our cosmopolitan present, they delve into playful and poetic exchanges with public audiences on empathy and decoloniality to imagine just and equitable futures. Drawing on the themes of science fiction, artists in the exhibition invite audiences to time travel, blurring fact with fiction, weaving fantastical narratives and desires with ancestral knowledge, collective memories, and stories from their natural and urban environments. They acknowledge the vitality of recuperating Indigenous, migrant, and LGBTQI subjectivities and practices to better understand how to heal our damaged planet.
The exhibition runs through February 29 and includes a number of related events:
- Activist Love Letters / Friday, February 7, 2020, 5:00pm - 7:00pm
- Queer & Trans Artists of Color Book Read Event #2 w/Darryl Terrell / Saturday, February 8, 2020, 2:00pm - 4:00pm
- Ann Arbor Art + Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon / Saturday, February 22, 2020, 11:00am - 3:00pm
See photos from the opening-night reception by Nick Beardslee: