I recently wrote a piece for Pulp Magazine about the 24th Annual Prison Creative Art Project Show, which opened last night at the University of Michigan’s Duderstadt Gallery. This year’s exhibit, which features 670 artworks by 574 artists from 26 Michigan facilities, is diverse both in subject matter and media. It will appeal to anyone who values art that demonstrates authenticity, raw talent, and personal commitment. Best of all, the exhibit provides a rare opportunity to connect people who are isolated from society, and a chance to support them and their work financially.
To read more, and to see a short video about the program go here
Emerging artist Madhurima Ganguly’s provocative but uneven exhibit Bodh, currently on view at River House Arts in Toledo, presents us with a travelogue of the artist’s creative journey up to now. It begins in Kolkata, India, where she was born and educated, followed by emigration to San Diego, California and now her residence in the American Midwest.
The (mostly) small works on paper in Bodh illustrate Ganguly’s wide-ranging interests, from traditional Indian folk painting, to observations of the natural world, to explorations of south Asian materials and patterns, to the beginnings of a personal feminist worldview. Or as Ganguly writes, her artworks are derived from “…everything and anything. As a visual artist my works explore the possibilities of space, nature and images from living organisms at micro and macro level.” The richness of her heritage and the breadth of her travels provide Ganguly with an array of sources for her inspiration which need only to be organized and edited to produce a singular and satisfying body of work.
In Bodh, the most immediately successful pieces capitalize on Ganguly’s academic background in contemporary sculpture. Her abstract drawings are often single, idiosyncratic shapes that seem to reference natural forms and are presented as more or less symmetrical objects centrally placed on plain backgrounds. Coral, fungus, and even internal human organs provide her inspiration and manage to be referential while avoiding the illustrational. She also has a gift for the manipulation of materials that have an ethnic association, such as batik and gold leaf. A particularly satisfying example of this is Earth and Sky, the central image of which appears to refer to a coral form and illustrates many of the artist’s strengths. The richly colored blue ground and the saturated orange batik, combined with her characteristic lacy pattern painting and spiky tendrils, are unique and point to promising areas for future exploration. Other standouts in this vein are If Feelings were Human and Sand and Beach.
When Ganguly strays into the figurative realm, however, she lacks the technical means to create a convincing narrative. Her educational background is upper-class, post-colonial and westernized, and she seems to have an arms-length relationship with the more humble forms of Indian painting that she references in her representational drawings. Works such as Wall of Fame and Self-Portrait seem, to me, to be clumsy and touristic, and her personal iconography is still in the process of formation.
Ganguly is a cosmopolitan artist who feels the pull of her native culture while remaining a citizen of the contemporary art world. A rich diversity of influences will define her creative practice going forward, as she travels from her place of origin to an unknown destination, where her personal history and its innate conflicts can be resolved in a defining body of work.
For more information about Madhurima Ganguly and Bodh go here
I recently wrote a review for AADL Pulp of Works in Progress, a group show at Ann Arbor Art Center. Consisting of work by 24 (mostly) Detroit/Ann Arbor-based designers at varying stages in their careers, the exhibit illustrates the creative process of gifted thinkers and planners who bring functional works to life through fashion, graphic design, furniture, architecture, and industrial design. To read more about them, go here.
Meagan Shein, Jessica Tenbusch and Elize Jekabson in their fine art maker space
I recently wrote an article for Ann Arbor’s Current Magazine about Ypsi Alloy, a creative collective that features work by 17 of the area’s most talented professional artists. You can read about them here
Detroit’s contemporary art ecosystem seems to attract energetic, hardworking creatives who aren’t afraid to take on big multi-year projects that aim to fundamentally alter Detroit’s cultural environment. Things Feel Heavy, the independent curatorial project of accomplished painter and creative entrepreneur Anna van Schaap, is one of those ambitious and public-spirited efforts. This series of exhibitions and events has taken place over the last decade or so, throughout the city and beyond, in venues such as the Carr Center, the Charles H. Wright Museum and the Ann Arbor Art Center.
Van Schaap’s latest effort, You Can’t Touch A Ghost: Five Senses for a Cause, is a party, an art auction, a fashion show and a live musical performance that starts at 6 p.m. on Saturday, January 19, in downtown Detroit’s Gallery 2987. It will benefit Alternatives for Girls, a highly respected and successful Detroit non-profit that provides programs and services for homeless and at-risk girls and young women. It’s a cause that is close to the artist’s heart.
She comes by her interest in women’s rights by way of her art and her life experience. “I’m heavily influenced by the Dutch masters in terms of the palette and by some of the Italian masters like Caravaggio, but in terms of conceptual influence, my work is a modernist take on women’s issues,” she explains. “A lot of my work revolves around …being silenced or eradicated–how women’s identities are tied intrinsically to their bodies, and also about language, about speaking these truths…because we’re not allowed to vocalize our needs, our wants, our desires outright or efficiently, we find subversive ways to communicate through body language or gestures.”
As she investigated Detroit non-profits for You Can’t Touch A Ghost to benefit, van Schaap was immediately attracted to Alternatives for Girls because it spoke directly to her concern for female empowerment. Through extensive programs in Detroit’s public schools and shelters, Alternatives for Girls provides street outreach, educational support, vocational guidance, mentoring, prevention activities and counseling to help girls and young women make positive choices. She chose the organization “not only because they provide assistance and shelter and food and programming, but they also have a preventative element, which I think is such an important part of rearing young women, getting to them early, before problems start. They work with girls predominantly in the younger ages, 9 or 10, all the way up to teenage mothers. This is a large program and they’ve been around for quite a while now, and their reach is pretty far at this point.”
For You Can’t Touch A Ghost, van Schaap has organized a curated exhibition and auction that features some of Detroit’s best artists, as well as music by True Blue and Electric Blanket. The $15 cover provides entrance to the exhibit and performance, as well as an open bar and hors d’oeuvres and desserts by Forte Belanger and Celebrity Catering. For more information about You Can’t Touch A Ghost or to RSVP go here.
Participating artists: Callie Nazzpuller, Dominique Chastenet de Géry, öïö, Brian Spolans, Marianetta Porter, Leslie Sheryl, Kate Hanley, K.A. Letts, Erin Case, Ingrid Tietz, Renee Rials, Leanna Hicks, Jennifer Belair(Jennifer Belair Sakarian), Catheryn Amidei, Jessica Tenbusch, Sharon Que, Sarah Swarz(Sarah C. Blanchette), Michael Ross(Mike Ross), Nicki Szydlo, Parisa Ghaderi/Ebrahim Soltani, Donna Shipman, Michael E. O’Reilly, Jill Eggers, Tali Morgolin, Jeffrey Bowman, Caryn Bopp, Kelly Burke, Adrian Deva, Molly Diana, Marceline Mason, Meagan Shein, Alison Franco, Melis Agabigum, Kidané A’der Jhons, Paula Marie Deubel PMari. Anna van Schaap has also created a piece specifically for the event.
I recently wrote an article about the Detroit art scene for Chicago’s New Art Examiner, focusing on three organizations/projects that seemed to me to exemplify important features of Detroit and its artists right now. 1XRun, Playground Detroit and the North End neighborhood’s American Riad project demonstrate the entrepreneurial creativity, DIY energy, and artistic/social inclusiveness that I see in the city. I’m sorry I couldn’t write about more of the Detroit’s great galleries and projects, but that would take a book, not a magazine article. To read what I wrote, go here
Usually RustbeltArts.com represents my humble effort to get the word out that art–good art–is being made and shown in the Great Lakes region. There’s never a shortage of interesting fine art news to write about.
When I’m not writing, though, I’m painting and drawing and showing my own work. My solo show The Strangeness of Everyday is on view until December 21st during regular business hours in the University of Michigan’s Connections Gallery. Arts writer Ainsley Davis has reported on the exhibit for Current Magazine and you can read her very perceptive review here
My thanks to Current Magazine for paying attention!
I recently wrote a review of the exhibit Beyond Words, at WSG Gallery, for Ann Arbor’s online culture magazine Pulp. The eighth in a series of group shows featuring book art by Great Lakes regional artists, Beyond Words was curated by Barbara Brown. To read more, go here
Loraine Lynn here gives a useful description of the main themes of Toledo’s Sculpture X, with its emphasis on art as social practice. I’m dubious about the efficacy of this way of making art, and didn’t see anything in my (admittedly) limited experience of the work on view to change my mind. That said, I appreciate Lynn’s description of the proceedings and her earnest effort to grapple with the inherent internal contradictions and tricky social crosswinds of art as social practice.
All art is Social Practice rang out as some of the last words of this year’s symposium, spoken by Saul Ostrow, curator and co-founder of SculptureX.
The event’s ninth year iteration, titled Igniting Change, took place over two days at the Toledo Museum of Art and Bowling Green State University. The focus was on the concept of Social Practice, a way of working in art that often gets traced back to the 1990’s. During his talk, Ostrow pointed out that the emergence of Social Practice began as early as 1913 with the Russian Constructivists (with the rejection of autonomous art) and can be seen later in the 1930’s with Social Realism (in work by artists such as Diego Riveria and Dorothea Lange).
Despite discrepancies regarding its origins, Social Practice is rising in popularity, both in art and academia. Taking this into account the question of whether or not artists…