Tag Archives: Fiber Art

Ypsi Alloy Studio Collective

“Ypsi is the Brooklyn to Ann Arbor’s Manhattan”… or so I’ve heard. What’s meant by that, I suppose, is that despite Ann Arbor’s reputation as a cultural mecca, the increase  in real estate prices and taxes over the last few decades has driven artists and creatives of all kinds to relocate from Ann Arbor to cheaper digs in neighboring Ypsilanti. A vibrant underground arts scene has emerged there recently and I got  a chance to at least start exploring it by visiting Ypsi Alloy Studio Collective during First Friday’s monthly crawl of studios and galleries.

Ypsi Alloy Studio Collective  is a new kind of art animal, part open studio, part maker space. It’s  located in a big warehouse- type building in an industrial park on the outskirts of town.  The  artists share space, tools, utility costs  and inspiration.  I was immediately struck by the collegial atmosphere.

All the artists, most of whom are graduates of Eastern Michigan University, (5 of 12 were in attendance) are very focused on the making of objects that occupy the intersection of craft and fine art. The zeitgeist of southeastern Michigan is still very much  one of the manufacturing of things and these graduates of  Eastern Michigan University’s Art Department seem to reflect that.

Ypsi Alloy Studios 2
Jaw by Jessica Tenbusch

I knew only one of the artists going in: Jessica Tenbusch, a metalsmith and sculptor with whom I had shown work at the Walter E. Terhune Gallery in Perrysburg, Ohio, earlier this year.  Jessica was awarded a  prize for her sculpture, no doubt  the first of many honors to come. In her art practice, Tenbusch combines silver metalwork and  found natural objects such as bones, antlers, animals preserved in resin and the like. You can see more of her art here. Her work is mostly small scale, reflecting the size of the natural objects she incorporates into her sculptures.  Her objects and silver jewelry evoke her interest in the interplay between life and death in the natural world.

cathy jacobs
Window in Aqua by Cathy Jacobs

I had an interesting conversation with Cathy Jacobs about her journey from painter to fiber artist; One particularly thoughtful piece was Window in Aqua, a series of handwoven translucent scrims suspended from a wooden framework.  The artwork is meant to be both seen and seen through.

I was also impressed by the furniture  of Lauren Mleczko and Molly Doak of Lomo Collective. They make furniture from an inventive array of re-purposed chair parts, laminated plywood and found woods, sometimes going so far as to hand weave and dye the fabrics they employ in their upholstery.

Plenty of art remains still to be seen in Ypsilanti (I barely scratched the surface), but I will have to wait until the next First Friday in July.  And I’m looking forward to seeing the work of the other 9 artists at Ypsi Alloy Studio Collective soon.

Molly Doaks 4
Handmade bench with hand woven upholstery fabric by Lomo Collective

First Fridays Ypsilanti is a self-guided art walk that happens on the First Friday of each month.  All venues provide free art events including displayed art, live music, art workshops, puppet shows and more.  For more information go to FirstFridaysYpsi 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beauty is Strange…

and this strangeness differentiates it from prettiness, which is no ordinary thing.”                    Fred Tomaselli 2008

In Keep Looking: Fred Tomaselli’s Birds, now on exhibit at the Toledo Museum of Art,  the artworks first soothe and attract, then disquiet and disturb.  This  show is part of a series featuring   bird-related imagery which is held biennially in conjunction with a prominent yearly convention of birders in the Toledo area.  While this is as good a pretext as any for bringing this work to the rust belt, it doesn’t begin to describe the importance and interest of this artist.

Tomaselli Mob
Mob 2016

I have been a fan of Fred Tomaselli’s paintings for years, and looked forward to this golden opportunity to see them in person without buying a plane ticket (thanks TMA!) This show includes 5 paintings, a tapestry and a few assorted works on paper, all installed in Gallery 6 of the museum’s contemporary art wing.

The first thing you respond to in looking at a Tomaselli painting is its sheer obsessive  and hallucinatory beauty. The paintings feature layers of meticulously collaged images covered in resin and then over-painted.  The black backgrounds evoke night skies and acid trips. Though it isn’t mentioned in the accompanying museum text, it’s clear that Tomaselli is no stranger to altered states.

artwork_images_117082_505034_fred-tomaselli
Bird Battle

I loved all these paintings, but my favorite was Bird Battle (1997). The subdued palette and obsessive repetition of cutout birds with human eyes and (actual) hemp leaves put me in mind of some outsider visionary art.  From a distance the painting delivers a pleasurable punch of decorative pattern.  But as you draw near you see that this is a savage battle of all against all.  Birds attack each other in the air and in the trees, with many lying newly dead on the ground.  Tomaselli has distilled in one image all the beauty and all the cruelty of nature. In other pieces in this show, birds attack each other (Bird Mob), eat insects (Starling) and steal fruit (Migrant Fruit Thugs) but because the paintings are so intricately gorgeous  you can’t look away. You must keep looking.

Keep Looking: Fred Tomaselli’s Birds is on exhibit until August 7.  To see this must-see work and to get more information about hours and directions to the Toledo Museum of Art go here