Tag Archives: Ypsilanti

Outrage

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An assortment of artifacts from various political demonstrations, by Susan Fecteau

In this age of politics as warfare by other means,  16 contemporary Michigan artists have joined together to engage the enemy in Outrage, an exhibition of political art at 22 North Gallery in Ypsilanti from October 6 – 27.  The views expressed in this polemic exhibit go from left-of-center to far-far-left, and the mood ranges from existential dread to red-eyed anger to comic despair.

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World’s Smallest Man by Terri Sarris

Outrage was organized and curated by 3 like-minded artists, Susan Fecteau, John Gutoskey and Leslie Sobel, all of them politically active. Fecteau is noted in the area for her humorous but pointed political comments chalked on sidewalks outside the Ann Arbor residence of Governor Rick Snyder. Leslie Sobel is a longtime climate change artist-activist and John Gutoskey is a painter and printmaker whose focus is LGBT rights.  “The three of us met together with other artists in January, [2017] to talk about what we …could do in response to what seemed like the coming apocalypse,” says Sobel. “We weren’t really sure what we would get,” adds Gutoskey.

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Mother Fucking Assholes, box by John Gutoskey

Sobel comments about the work in the gallery, “It’s an interesting mix because there are artists in this room… who don’t normally do political work, and who have felt moved to do political work and there are some of us who have done political work as the subtext but not necessarily overtly in-your-face all of the time and some of it is very much in-your-face all of the time.”

Susan Fecteau’s art practice reflects her strong and ongoing activism, and goes from the nuts-and-bolts creation of signs for demonstrations to more object-driven expressions of her political views. She describes her ongoing sign-making project: “As artists, we felt we could really help people make effective signs, and probably the best thing we did was provide materials.  I scrounged a couple of truck loads of card board and we got sticks and paint… so we invited people to come over prior to any significant local protests, [and] we have continued that work.”

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How to Find your Spine, poster  by John Gutoskey

Humor is employed throughout the exhibit in the service of  political protest. Margaret Parker’s t-shirt design delivers a hilarious primal scream –or maybe a shout-out –for those of us who just can’t take it any more. Wooden boxes by John Gutoskey are well crafted, icy satire, and his posters are equally pointed and funny. Sam G. Fecteau Brown’s graffiti-encrusted toy trains and Val Mann’s embroidered vintage baby clothes are a softer, but no less urgent, expression of disquiet at this political moment. The sculpted head of Joan Painter Jones’ Martyr 4 has the horrified gaze of someone who’s seen way too much, and Terri Sarris’s freak show-inspired box  World’s Smallest Man effectively skewers its ridicule-worthy target. Jack Summers’s collage practically jumps off the wall, spitting and screaming.

Throughout history, artists from Goya to Picasso to Leon Golub and many more have used  art to make political points, even though doubts linger about its effectiveness in changing attitudes or affecting political outcomes. Art like the work in Outrage may serve more as encouragement to like-minded viewers, and to reinforce the values of fellow liberals without reaching or influencing political opponents, which makes it no less valid.  Leslie Sobel sums it up: “I think it matters.  I think expressing [our political beliefs]  in more ways than just showing up to demonstrations and picketing and voting is important. I think it makes a difference and it’s certainly the skill set that many of us in this room have. I do hope it’s effective in keeping the issues in the front of peoples’ minds.”

The artists in Outrage are: Sam G. Fecteau Brown, Alejandro Chinchilla, Liz Davis, Susan Fecteau, John Gutoskey, Joan Painter Jones, Esther Kirschenbaum, K.A. Letts, Val Mann, Brenda Miller, Margaret  Parker, Christine Valentine Reising, Theresa Rosado, Terri Sarris, Leslie Sobel, Jack Summers.

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For Forage: 4th Annual Festival of the Honeybee Art Exhibition

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Apis Mellifera x Homo Sapiens: Symbiotic Colony

As summer draws to a close and harvest time approaches, Jessica Tenbusch, Elize Jekabson  and Maggie Spencer  invite us to consider the honeybee.

The exhibit For Forage celebrates, in collaboration with the 4th Annual Ypsilanti Festival of the Honeybee, the many ways in which this indispensable insect contributes to the natural environment and human well-being. Participating artists were invited to “share visions, critique relations between humans and honeybees, share new perspectives.”  And share they have, with a variety of intriguing and insightful artworks that are well worth a trip to 22 North Gallery, in Ypsilanti MI,  where the exhibit will be on view until September 30.

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Colony (detail) by Riva Jewell-Vitale

In the cooperative, hardworking and self-effacing spirit of the honeybee, the anonymous collective Ann Katrine has created a series of small, wall-mounted artworks that combine the production of insect, bacteria, yeast and humans in a creative relationship.  The bees provide the honeycomb and the artists riff on the hexagonal shapes with red embroidery thread, sometimes echoing, sometimes augmenting the shapes. The translucent coating visible on the surface of the works is dried kombucha, a microbial cellulose material which is derived from symbiotic colonies of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). These subtly glowing objects  echo the interconnectedness of nature from the microscopic to the insect to the human.

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Pursuit of Pollen by Lush Lapel

A more playful tone is set by  two fashionable and off-beat hats created by Lush Lapel. In Pursuit of Pollen, the honeybee  appears as a decorative motif, along with seed pods, feathers and other bits and pieces. The results are fit for a queen bee of any species.

Also seriously fashionable are the brooches, necklaces and rings created by Riva Jewell-Vitale.  Her multi-piece wall-mounted installation of jewelry, entitled Colony, demonstrates her considerable talent as a collagist. She  creates inventive combinations of unexpected components that somehow result in elegant and mysterious wearable sculptures. bee-ryan-bogan

A more reverential note on the honeybee as Nature’s  martyr and saint is struck by Ryan Bogan. His insect reliquary, Blessed is the Fruit of Thy Womb, features the tiny body of  a honeybee suspended in a glass dome surrounded by precious gold leaf. Lovingly crafted and carefully composed, this piece wouldn’t be out of place in a modern religious setting.

If you are planning a trip to Ypsi to see For Forage, remember that 22 North, like many other arts spaces in the Detroit metro area, is open during limited hours during weekdays and on weekends, or by appointment. To find out more about the gallery’s exhibits and events go  here.

Or call:  501.454.6513

Artists in For Forage: Meagan Shein, Brad Naftzger, Heather Leigh, Ann Katrine Collective, Owen Wittekindt, Marshelia Williams, Michael O’Dell Jr., Rive Jewell-Vitale, Jonathan J. Sandberg with Kevin Kwiatkowski, Ryan Bogan, Lush Lapel

 

 

Echos in Ypsi

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Fascia by Riva Jewell-Vitale

Ypsilanti is the next Brooklyn!

Okay…maybe not, but there is definitely something going on in the town we,  here in Michigan, affectionately know as “Hipsilanti.”

After years of suffering by comparison to nearby Ann Arbor’s more affluent economy, Ypsilanti shows signs of becoming  a magnet for area creatives. Cheap work space and the presence of a particularly vibrant studio arts department at Eastern Michigan University are making the logic of locating an arts practice in Ypsi inescapable for many. Look no further for confirmation of this than the terrific work from Ypsi Alloy Studios,  on view now until August 28 at 22 North, a newish art gallery on Huron Street in Ypsi’s downtown.

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Portal by Cathy Jacobs

 Echos is the inaugural exhibition for this talented collective  of artists and makers, many of them graduates of Eastern Michigan University’s art program. 22 North’s exhibit space is thoughtfully renovated, with the rich patina of vintage plaster walls still visible behind pristine white gallery panels that show off these uniformly excellent and well-conceived artworks. Objects on display range from an industrial strength rocking chair by Rob Todd to  ethereal layered weavings by Cathy Jacobs. The exhibit is notable for the variety of approaches and processes demonstrated in the production of artworks.

I particularly liked the aluminum, white gold and thread piece Broken Flag by Aaron Patrick Decker, as well as the felted wool and burl Invasive by Ilana Houten and Stripped/Burned by Lauren Mieczko and Molly Doak.  And as ever, I remain a fan of the death-in-nature sensibility of Jessica Tenbusch’s delicate metal, wood  and bone pieces.

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Rocking Chair by Robb Todd

My hands-down favorite piece, however, was the grave and comic Fascia by Riva Jewell Vitale. This collection of found fragments from the back yard of the artist treats us to a kind of implied storytelling through the  curation of objects. Each shard and scrap seems both ancient and recognizably contemporary.  The careful arrangement of these bits of detritus hint at the unobserved, untold and unknowable everyday history of things and people.

Fascia is also typical of a trend that I  notice in art being made right now. Artists are collecting and curating existing objects and images rather than creating them.  It is as if there is already so much rich material in our world that we no longer need to produce fresh content. And judging from the satisfyingly complex and poignant emotional effect of Fascia, maybe that’s true.

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Broken Flag by Aaron Patrick Decker

Ypsilanti’s downtown is clearly on the upswing. Many of the gallery’s  adjacent storefronts have been purchased and are under renovation according to 22 North gallerist Maggie Spencer.  A number of new restaurants and retail stores (and an ice cream shop!) have opened recently.  There is ample parking and an active First Fridays program, the next one of which is scheduled for September 2.

22 North, like many other arts spaces in the Detroit metro area, is open during limited hours during weekdays and on weekends, or by appointment.  Find out more about the gallery’s exhibits and events (it’s also an active music venue)  here.

Or call:  501.454.6513

Artists in Echos: Kenzie Lynn, Aaron Patrick Decker, Cathy Jacobs, Riva Jewell-Vitale, Ilana Houten, Jessica Tenbusch, Meagan Shein, Lauren Mleczko, Molly Doak, Alexa Borromeo, Elize Jakabson, Lorraine Kolasa, Rob Todd

Are you an Ypsi artist?  What do you think about the art scene there right now?  I’d be interested to hear what you think.