Made in Detroit, with Love

Made in Detroit, with Love

I‘ve decided to devote the entire blog this month to one of my passions, art. I want to tell you about some of my favorite exhibits, artists, curators, educators, lectures and venues that I’ve discovered over the past month.

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Love Talk: I’ll begin with a timely and thoughtful project Let’s Talk About Love, Baby by artist Chido Johnson (www.let’stalkaboutlovebaby.com). Johnson’s work is being shown as part of a larger exhibit called the Art of the Artists Book at Oakland University Art Gallery (http://www.oakland.edu/ouag) curated by Dick Goody. As the physicality of reading and the “book” as an object begin to disappear, Johnson, Goody and others are redefining the art form of the book and redefining the book as art. At the top of my favorites list, this exhibit reveals personal interpretations of the book medium in an age when virtual knowledge reigns supreme. Johnson’s special Valentine’s Day presentation I attended included Skype “visits” with artists from around the country and the world who could not attend. Artists on hand spoke about their contributions to the project. Johnson continues to spread the love with an exciting exhibit that’s taken on a love life of its own. Watch my video of Chido.

‘F’ Word Update: In pursuit of that which constitutes ‘F’ Word Project matter, I recently discovered several exhibits where women are leaving their mark. At the Scarab Club, the show Women’s Image was curated by Marilyn Zimmerman and Gail mally-mack, both long-time supporters of women and ‘F’ Word aficionados. This exhibit put a new twist on the term “Crone,” turning it into something sacred…exalting feminine wisdom to a place of value and appreciation within our culture. The exhibit culminated in an event called the Crone Celebration that honored and celebrated women who have made significant contributions to the community.

Moving from the wise old crone to the hip edgy college student Michaela Mosher of CCS, an artist who has already curated her first exhibit titled Women’s Perspective? Ms. Mosher has become a spokesperson for her artist peers. Young, passionate and articulate, Mosher has her eye on the future. Check out the video to hear this new-to-the-scene clear and compelling voice. I bet you will be hearing much more from her in the months ahead.

Mosher’s show at the Future 2 Casper Gallery included fellow CCS students Olivia Abrahamian, Mary Savage, and Hailey Choi. The Future 2 Casper is an intimate venue in Royal Oak with a radical format. The gallery allows the artist to launch an art exhibit, music performance, or poetry reading, giving the participants a percentage of a house cover charge. There are no additional fees.

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Venue Manager Kay Skyflower will hand over the mic and coax you up on the stage to “talk” about your work. Kay, aka Thai pop rock singer, sculptor, videographer, and promoter of artists, is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth and received her MFA from Howard University, Washington DC. The venue gets its name from artist Casper Milquetoast who was the first to respond to Kay’s ad and has had 200 shows at the venue to date. Upon entering the small intimate space complete with stage, sound system and hanging apparatus you immediately feel at home. Artist and writer Luke MacGilvray (http://www.mannekorpse.com) has shown at the space, and has also helped Kay interview artists and served as DJ. Luke was encouraged by Kay to publish a book from his journal writings. He says, “Kay allows artists to break out of the Catch-22 of, ‘to show in a Gallery, you need to have shown in a gallery.’ Kay is proud to give opportunity to artists and musicians who might not be established enough to show elsewhere.”

Other faves and women making their mark in the Detroit area: Monica Bowman, Curator and Director of the Butchers Daughter Gallery (http://www.thebutchersdaughtergallery.com) continues to launch innovative, evocative exhibits, showcasing new young talent from around the country. Monica, thank you for keeping us on our toes by stimulating our intellects!

Meeting Woody, Tony and Nate
A highlight of last month was the chance to finally meet the dedicated and talented staff of thedetroiter.com Woody Miller, Managing Editor; Tony Hepp, Interim Director of Arts and Humanities, and Nate Mullens. Mullens is employed by AmeriCorps and originally hired by YArts www.yarts.org as Exhibition Coordinator; in addition he heads Art in Schools. The program places professional artists in Detroit Schools to blend with existing curriculum teaching digital arts, photography, painting, music, video production and more. It is a rare opportunity for children of all ages to work directly with individuals in the field of visual arts and music. The goal is to build community. “Teaching is an investment in our youth,” Mullens says. He is “looking for funding and for ways to grow not only in relationships with schools, but to encourage artists’ growth as well by sharing what they do in new and different ways.”

YArts’ mission is to help and promote artists and find them paying gigs. A side benefit of Art in Schools is the benefits kids are getting from their experience and contact with artists. Thedetroiter.com fits into this mission by promoting, reviewing and creating dialogue around art and culture. The online weekly updates and informs insiders and outsiders of “Arts Specific” events.

The publication’s offices are located in the Bolls Family YMCA on Broadway in the heart of Detroit. The YArts and YMCA act as incorporator and fiduciary for thedetroiter.com. The online publication began with journalists John and Nick Sousanis who paid out of their own pockets to get it underway. After thedetroiter.com picked up my blog, I became a regular reader. Now it is a vital resource…my connection to the pulse of the art community and the cultural events the city has to offer.

Please Lecture Me
On the lecture front, Mathew Barney filled the house in January with clips from his new film about the death of the car industry. Barney shot scenes at two Detroit locations, The Sewage Plant and St. Johns Church. A DIA www.dia.org curator introduced him as “the greatest living artist of our time.” Barney spoke about finding inspiration for this new film in Norman Mailer’s text, “Scatalogical” and his interest in the Egyptian concept of the ”Seven States of the Soul” to a group that could be characterized as Pavarotti meets Fish. The film clips were hauntingly beautiful; to say that his speaking style was less than dynamic would be an understatement.

Anthony Huberman, curator of the Contemporary Art Museum in St. Louis, has put together at great the show at the MOCAD (http://www.mocadetroit.org) titled, For the Blind Man in the Dark Looking for the Black Cat that isn’t There. In a lecture last month, Huberman said he believes that art helps us understand less about the world, and that we are drawn to things we don’t understand. I like this idea of keeping the element of play, uncertainty and speculation in an exhibit, not giving all the answers. Interesting!

Cranbrook Academy of Arts’ Tuesday night lecture series has had a great line up of speakers (http://www.cranbrookart.edu/Pages/Calendar.html). The Institute of Science took over exhibitions for the next year due to Museum construction, and has launched some exciting exhibits. The last show featured Photographer Richard Barnes. Cape Farewell: Art & Climate Change is the current show. These exhibits are part of the series Artology: The Fusion of Art and Science.

A new discovery that’s turning into a fave is Brent Hallard’s online conversations about contemporary art, Visual Discrepancies (http://brenthallard.wordpress.com). The blog is great for visuals and informative interviews with artists. Brent lives in Tokyo, and travels to LA.

I’ve covered just the tip of the iceberg of the great art and individuals that make up Detroit’s creative community. To keep this vital community alive, please show your support by attending exhibits, events, and by collecting art!

“It is not our task to seek love, but rather to seek all the barriers we have to it, and remove them.” Rumi

All images by Dale Sparage, copyright and owned by the artist.