Nastassja E. Swift wants to know what's behind the mask.
The Virginia-based artist's exhibit at Lane Hall, the home of the LSA Women’s Studies program at the University of Michigan, is part of a larger performance piece, titled she was here, once. Swift, in her artist statement, expands upon the intent behind her work:
Circling within conversations of marginalization, use of the black body and otherness, my work incorporates the idea of masking as a metaphorical tool to explore what it means to cover one’s face with another, questioning who’s being hidden and who’s being amplified. The mask themselves often acting as vessels of stories told through movement and in form, depicting the faces of our ancestral mothers as a way of demanding space for her and retrieving her power in the form of visibility of homage. Through fusing these larger-than-life size felted wool portraits with dance, I am able to shape experiences through storytelling and articulate self-identities in relation to ancestry.
Lane Hall’s gallery space is filled with various components of the project. Originally enacted by Swift and a group of eight women in the summer of 2018. The performance took place in Swift’s home city, Richmond, Virginia. First, the artist has suspended three of the large sculptural, white fiber masks worn and made by the women in the project from the ceiling in the main hall. Second, photographic stills from the initial performance line the walls of the gallery space. Finally, two television screens play both a mini-documentary and short film about Swift’s project on a loop.
Painting the Everyday: Sarah Innes' "Around the Table" at Ann Arbor Art Center focuses on the small moments in life
Ann Arbor artist Sarah Innes is a radical.
The fashion of the day in contemporary art is that we concern ourselves with the Big Issues: gender equality, climate change, gun violence, and the like.
Instead, Innes commits to painting only what she knows, deep in her bones.
She knows that life is precious and brief and consists of moments strung together like pearls on a necklace. She knows that children are born, make fun and mischief, move away. Parents, friends, colleagues, and significant others visit and dine, celebrate birthdays and anniversaries. Pets appear under the table and nestled in arms. Sometimes there is a death.
Around the Table, a small selection of her intimate paintings, is on view now at the Ann Arbor Art Center through July 23. Innes employs the image of the dining table, both as an organizing compositional device and as a metaphor for her life. Minute changes in the menu, changing seasons and an ever-mutating cast of characters provide a travelogue of her journey through time.
On June 22 at Riverside Arts Center, I had the pleasure of attending the first show presented by Fun Girl, a new Ypsilanti-based contemporary dance company created and run by Artistic Director Chloe Gray. The company offers paid rehearsals and performances to their dancers, as well as apprenticeships, and acts as a platform for technically based dancers to explore quirky movement while applying thoughtful activism.
Artistic Director Chloe Gray’s credentials are extensive, with her training beginning at the age of 6 with the Toledo Ballet and continuing at the Toledo School for the Arts throughout her high school years. She graduated from Eastern Michigan University where she double majored in Dance Performance and Women’s and Gender Studies, and her choreography and dancing have been featured in performance opportunities through Kristi Faulkner Dance (Detroit), ARTLAB J Dance (Detroit), Koresh Dance Company (Philadelphia), and Side Street Art Studio (Chicago).
“I always thought that I was going to wait until I was older to start my own company,” says Gray. “My plan was to graduate from college, move to a big city to dance, and then eventually come back to Ypsi to plant some roots. Through careful consideration and after falling in love with a Michigander, I decided to stay in Ypsi and go for it. We have to create in places and spaces where the art we want to see does not exist. If we all take off to big cities, how will art exist in our community?”
The show, entitled Girlfriend, featured four original pieces choreographed by Gray and performed by Fun Girl, as well as four pieces that were chosen through the Ypsi Dance Swap organized by Gray in January, in which choreographers from across the state could submit their work to be performed in a show at Riverside Arts Center. Several of the choreographer’s pieces would then be chosen by a jury to be presented at Fun Girl’s Girlfriend recital in June.
What's Love Got to Do With It: The Purple Rose's comedy "Welcome to Paradise" offers a dreamlike romance -- or is it real at all?
In Julie Marino’s play Welcome to Paradise, a young man who has been backpacking through Europe helps an elderly woman who is having difficulty at the airport. Rory doesn’t just help Evelyn to her cab. He accompanies her to her beach house on the fictional Caribbean island of St. Sebastian, a beautiful spot in the middle of nowhere. Exhausted, he tries to find an inexpensive place to spend the night, but accommodations are costly in paradise. She invites him for the night.
He stays a good deal longer. He rearranges her flowers. He rearranges her furniture to better see the sunset from the couch. And just by being there, he rearranges her life.
In a detailed and nuanced performance, Ruth Crawford embodies Evelyn, at turns feisty and flirtatious, basking in the attention of an attractive fellow as young as her grandson who caters to her needs before she knows she has them. Ryan Black is a fine Rory, thoroughly at home in Evelyn’s home and life.
"How does it feel to be the king of sad-dad rock?" shouted a fan last night at The National's lead singer, Matt Berninger, as he entered the Bell Tower Hotel in Ann Arbor.
The band had just finished a 25-song, two-hour set at the venue across the street, Hill Auditorium, which was filled to its 3,538 person capacity with sad dads (and moms) -- heretofore collectively known as SAD-D.A.M.
Berninger was joined by an augmented version of The National that added four additional musicians to the core quintet and they filled Hill with a massive wall of sound.
But the opening act, Courtney Barnett, achieved a similar feat with just herself on guitar plus a bassist and drummer -- and it was her second performance in Ann Arbor that day: at 12 noon, Barnett recorded an episode of the syndicated radio show Acoustic Cafe at The Leon Loft. (Check out a clip here.)
The abstract paintings of late Detroit artist Gilda Snowden are "Bold & Beautiful" at U-M's Connections Gallery
I will never meet Gilda Snowden.
I missed my chance when she died suddenly of heart failure on September 9, 2014, just as I was beginning to be dimly aware of her importance as an artist, an archivist of Detroit’s art scene, and a mentor to many of its young creatives. She left a large body of work behind, thousands of paintings and drawings, a few of which are currently on view at Bold & Beautiful at the University of Michigan’s Connections Gallery.
Snowden’s early work features bits and pieces from her collecting activities, collaged onto the surfaces of her paintings as opening gambits for her painting practice. She credited the influence of her Cass corridor mentors, who also worked in unconventional materials: leather, chainsaws, shotguns, barbed wire, and the like. By the time she produced the artworks represented in this exhibit, however, she had left those strategies behind for the more esoteric and protean qualities of pure paint.
“I like a Gershwin tune, how about you?”
If you do, put on your dancing shoes and head to the Encore Musical Theatre in Dexter for a feast of George Gershwin tunes and Ira Gershwin lyrics.
Crazy for You is a post-Gershwin, Gershwin musical. The 1992 Tony Award-winning best “new musical” brought light singing, dancing, and frivolity back to Broadway. Conceived by and with a book by Ken Ludwig, the play uses the Gershwins’ 1931 Broadway hit Girl Crazy as the framework and then adds numerous songs from other Gershwin stage and film musicals, a few tweaks to the story, and ample room for dance routines. The result is an appropriately bubbly, silly, charming tribute to a style of musical that lit the lights of Broadway in the 1920s and early '30s with great music that lingers on.
Jason DeMarte's intimate solo show Garden of Artificial Delights mixes the domestic, the “natural,” and the artificial to create a room-sized simulacrum of a still-life at the University of Michigan Museum of Art.
DeMarte takes over the space with his take on classic floral wallpaper, a foreboding gray background with a warm foreground containing peonies, poppies, and female cardinals. The stage of the exhibition is the entire ArtGym, a relatively cozy gallery space that houses DeMarte’s room-sized adhesive wallpaper, and six framed photographs. Each photograph is digitally manipulated and portrays what appears to be at first glance a traditional still life. The color palette and inclusion of floral elements in each photograph echo the wallpaper, with a gray, dreary fog contrasting against vibrant flora and fauna.
Except, it isn’t always flora and fauna featured in the frames of these photographs.
Instead, multi-colored candy floats through the dreary atmosphere, paint drips over a peony and covers a bird entirely, or perhaps canned whipped cream covers wilting flowers from which butterflies are attempting to feast. In the center of the gallery space, there is a square black bench that viewers may utilize in order to absorb the 360-degree immersive experience created by the wallpaper.
Each photograph is a digital photomontage comprised of multiple images, edited to appear “hyperreal,” as UMMA’s Assistant Curator of Photography Jennifer M. Friess observes. The resulting works of art are seductive, pulling us into the dismal yet confusingly bright and vibrant world of the birds and their candy.
Susan Jane Gilman set "Donna Has Left the Building" partly in Michigan "as a valentine to being here"
Being a culinary ambassador for cookware. Acting as a dominatrix. Facing search and seizure laws in Tennessee. Helping the refugee crisis in Greece.
These are all things that author Susan Jane Gilman had to have known or learned about to include in her new novel, Donna Has Left the Building, said fellow author Polly Rosenwaike in conversation with her at Literati Bookstore on Thursday, June 6. There, Gilman shared stories from her life and research that led to writing about these situations in her book. Within these experiences, Gilman’s characters may be flawed and behave badly, but they also display tenderness and sympathy, added Rosenwaike.
As a writer, “You want to have empathy for all characters,” Gilman said. “I’m all of them.”
This novel has strong ties to Michigan. Gilman wrote Donna Has Left the Building “as a valentine to being here” in southeastern Michigan at the University of Michigan for her MFA and then teaching at U-M and Eastern Michigan University. Gilman, who grew up in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, found the Midwest to be a big contrast to the way she observed that people seemed to be constantly performing in New York.
With Peripheral Technologies, curated by Thea Augustina Eck, the Ann Arbor Art Center continues its trend of bringing together a diverse group of voices who ask us, through their works, to reconsider the limits of fine art in an era when we are constantly being asked to do so.
The types of technology employed by the 12 artists -- and how they can be adapted for the creation of art -- are numerous, among them CNC (computer numerical control) machining, image scanning, computer-generated algorithms, and drone photography. Many artists pair emergent technologies with traditional or natural materials such as wood. These pairings create intriguing juxtapositions that ask viewers to consider our current technological moment in relation to manufacturing methods of the recent past. The artists come up with a different conclusion through methods, materials, and their finished works.