Pivots and Pitfalls, June 2019
By Afua Serwah Osei-Bonsu
June 2019 opened an eclectic group show, “Pivots and Pitfalls,” that had to with the ups and downs of life. Throughout the month associated events were held including a gathering of local community social service organizations, “Community Potluck,” and a “Make and Break,” art performance where artists broke then reincarnated formerly assembled artworks anew. Perhaps one goal in life or an idea for Pivots and Pitfalls was to fix the broken, as if, if you can put this broken plate together, you can put this broken man together. Also make and break was to look at opportunities in problem solving, how to get new perspectives, adaptation and prevailing. RAC was looking at social themes, looking for gaps in local social services, looking for how we can help each other and working with artists to look at a variety of social perspectives. The events looked at stumbling blocks, getting lost and possibly finding ourselves again, letting go and embracing our efforts. Pivots and Pitfalls had to do with fumbling our way through life (together). On Family day, second Saturdays, there was a giant chalk alligator hopscotch drawn that coordinated with the event. The month long events were organized and curated by Trevor Stone.
Artists who exhibited include: Chris Sandon, Stephani Hicks, Nora Venturelli, Jason Ferguson, Karyn Stetz, Kellyann Johnston, James Rotz, Brian Nelson, Carolyn Garay, Madison Cooper, Avery Williamson, Keto Green, Gwynneth Vanlaven, Nick Morley, Simona Schaffer, Emilia White, Sudandya Aprillanto, Melissa Haimowitz Clouse, Emmalene Meyers, Julian Seeburger, Mike Rabalais, Leisa Thompson, Lark Allen and Lark Allen.
Contemporary artist, Keto Green presented three painted doors that relate to evictions and oppressive poverty conditions. He showed “Golden View,” “The Artist Within,” and “The Familiar.” His art is created from found objects. The doors were painted bright and rich colors, some featured Pac man images, figurative and scenic images from a tragic childhood where his brother was lost to a suicide following an eviction. Some doors he calls “the door of no return.” Keto has participated in programs at the Detroit Institute of the Arts and Inside Out. He received recognition from Brad Pitt’s “Make it Right Foundation.” In a photo of Keto, he is featured in what appears to be an “art world,” a room, maybe a basement, full of murals, paintings, objet d’art, a mattress, upon which sits a pensive artist. One is reminded of artists like Basquiat and the railroad teeth.
Keto wrote: “Living in a city full of drive and change. Overcoming poverty, while trying to make a difference. Pushing forward with faith and determination. Sacrificing self wants for generational needs. Destined for change in the world. Making the world a better place one masterpiece at a time. From Detroit, Michigan. Strength comes when you stand even when you don’t feel like it. Overcoming obstacles and uniting differences. Diversity is the number one thing. We’re just destined for hue.”
Matt Oishi showed an animation titled: “Destiny Animation.” Armored characters, some with ram like horns were featured drinking liquids, performing martial arts tumbling, falling in love. They were reminiscent of storm troopers and appear to be fighters. Some uniforms bear crests. They twirl guns, they are somewhat emotional. They squat, they fly. Oishi played on the rapid succession of computer generated images in 3-D animation.
Nora Venturelli was born in Rosario, Argentina then immigrated originally to California. She is a teacher of drawing and painting at the Penny Stamps School of Art at the University of Michigan. She is member/owner of WSG Gallery in Ann Arbor. Nora showed a nude painting that included 7 multicolored emotional renditions that juxtaposed painting and drawing. The painting comes from a series titled “Vice Versa,” that was shown at WSG Gallery in 2012 and 2017. It is as if a painter wants to draw with paint. Ms. Venturelli realized 9 years ago that her drawings and paintings were not integrated and were very different from each other. She desired to possess the same gestural and linear qualities found in drawing, within painting. Blue gestural images of the figure appeared down trodden, crunched and bent over. Red figures were forlorn, others showed realism. Ms. Venturelli has shown in numerous group and solo exhibitions both locally and internationally. Ms. Venturelli completed her BFA in Painting from the University of Michigan in Sculpture and Painting, where she was Magna Cum Laude. She completed her MFA from Eastern Michigan University in Painting. She is included in numerous public and private collections. http://www.venturellistudio.net
Sudandyo Aprillanto of Indonesia showed a painting titled, “Colorful Inside.” The painting reminds one of an earlier Paul Klee. Sudandyo described the doll like figure with interior of colorful pastel chalky looking color bars, as “steadfast in facing difficult times.” He likes to combine pastels, with acrylic painting and oil sticks. He uses basic techniques in drawing and painting like reduction, addition and change for execution. Sudandyo studied sculpture in Indonesia for 5 years. He completed coursework at Washtenaw Community College in painting, drawing, anatomy and photography. He currently studies at Eastern Michigan University with a major in Digital Media Production. He has exhibited in Indonesia, Australia, Germany and the U.S.
Emilia White showed a red and black stitched chasm mandala like textile art. In her current work she is exploring themes of pregnancy, birth, loss and motherhood. She is interested in “the circle as it relates to the cells in the body, the birth canal and mind or spirit.” Chasm represents the first in a textile series she hopes to evolve into sculptural forms. Ms. White comes from a performance and video background but has always been a “maker.” She says, “It’s nice to make something with my hands free from technology or long rehearsal processes.” Ms. White teaches time based media as a Lecturer at the Stamps School of Art and Design. She holds an MFA in Studio Art from Stamps (2012) and a BFA in Theater & Original Works from Cornish College of Arts (2003). Her work has been shown in Ann Arbor, Detroit, Minneapolis, Chicago, New York City, Brooklyn, Taiwan and Indonesia.
Melissa Haimowitz Clouse (aka Melissa Eve) work focuses on the merge of daily life with pop culture. In her painting she celebrates eating a pizza when you intend to work out and binge watching your favorite TV show. The Painting, “Yoga Pizza,” is about shining a light on taboo and mundane parts of life to make us think twice about preconceived notions and stereotypes. Melissa Eve is formally trained in painting, printmaking and photography. All these practices merge in her style and composition of paintings. Her images use black outlining and realistic animated scenic motifs. In the painting, “The Balance,” A woman with significant fat rolls is seen sitting in a yoga cross legged position, watching TV, next to an open pizza box, while on the TV, a girl is surfing. There is a TV Stand with books on it, plants, gaming device in front of a peach background. She primarily paints with acrylic on wood. She takes inspiration from folk and pop art aesthetics. She uses simple gestures and bright colors to translate her ideas. Melissa Eve has worked in the fine arts and events industries for over 10 years. She began her art practice under the name “The Brave Wimp.” She creates large scale floats and accessible eco conscious art that raises money for non- profits. Melissa Eve makes small hand painted charms, earrings and pins like a Jarritos Bottle. In 2018, she won The People’s Choice Award at DIY Street Fair in Ferndale, MI. She received her MFA in Photography from Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, MI and BA in Art and Art History from Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA. Melissa Eve currently lives and works in Detroit, MI. http:///www.thebravewimp.com https://wwwmelissaevestudio.com
Madison Cooper is an aspiring photographer who captured the Pivots and Pitfalls theme with her depiction of a young woman sprawled in an alley way in front of a graffiti décor drinking Lite Beer. The photo’s title is “Choosing not to feel.”
Mike Rabalais showed a screen print called “Junkie.” The Junkie appears to be mummified. Background text reads for once you have tasted night there to return, return, return, green. The piece is in greys and shadows.
Brian Nelson showed a bronze cast paper bag full of recycled pharmaceutical tablet bottles. The piece was titled “This is my bag of knots.”
Jason Ferguson presented, “Domestic Carnival,” that takes specific rooms of a home and represents them as flashing amusement park rides, transforming intimate interior spaces into objects of mass spectacle. Ferguson says, “Within the room dark and foreboding music, 200 hundred pulsing lights, steel joists and a trailer combine with a dining room table, chairs and oak hardwood flooring to create a carnival that is both familiar and uncanny. The apparatus is engineered like a carnival ride; the entire sculpture is mounted on a custom trailer that collapses for transportation to its next destination. Ferguson says his studio practice revolves around the replication and manipulation of common objects. He says by placing the familiar within new contexts his work elicits a sense of the uncanny. He often combines subjects with subjects that appear to be unrelated at first. For example, he applied medical protocol to domestic objects, used geological analysis to study historical architecture, combined the intimacy of the dining room with the psychology of a county fair and most recently he used medical scans and 3-D printing technology to make a full scale replica of his entire skeletal system. His creative practice is broad and produces artifacts in the form of performance, video, public interventions and sculptural objects. Jason Ferguson uses humor, the uncanny and an absurdist voice to create public interventions, performances, videos and sculptural objects. He received his BFA from Towson University and continued his studies at the University of Delaware where he completed his MFA in 2006. Ferguson’s work has been exhibited internationally including venues in Tokyo, Japan; Berlin, Germany, Sao Paolo, Brazil; Tirana, Albania; Kolderveen, The Netherlands; as well as national venues in New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington, Missouri, Virginia and recently he filled two rooms at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Detroit. His work has been featured in publications including the 3D Additivist Cookbook, Sculpture Magazine, SciArt Magazine, Hyperallergic, Artfizz, The Chicago Art Review and more. He has received endowments for his studio work and was the first ever recipient of the Manifest Grand Jury Prize in 2018. Ferguson currently resides in Metro Detroit where he is an Associate Professor in the School of Art and Design at Eastern Michigan University. www.jasonferguson.com
One of Kelly Johnston’s pieces was, “I have come curiously close to the end.” It reminds one of decoupage. Digital images, digitally collaged, a nude veiled in patterns and glitter then coated in resin. Ms. Johnston seeks to fight the phallacracy. She is using feminist works to subdue societal injustices from within the realm of fine art. She often uses nude female forms as subject matter. She reduces the forms to mere decoration. Ms. Johnston works at the Detroit institute of Art as an Art Handler. She installs exhibitions and moves art work through the museum. Ms. Johnston earned her Masters of Fine Art from Eastern Michigan University in 2017. She has exhibited her artwork across the US.
Karyn Stetz showed one of a series “Reclaiming her Vision, Changing Woman No. 1. The image is a digital print of two birds with drippings that connect sky with horizon.
Julian Seeburger exhibited, “Bruised.” Bruised is a color reversal photo image of needles, tree and roof. Artists often employ alternative means to make statements about the human condition.
Simona Schaffer, a Mexican artist based in Spain contributed two prints, “Crowd,” and “Surrounded.” Surrounded has to do with personal relationships between men and women, at a personal level and as a society. The way that society teaches us to establish these relationships affects each person’s life. Schaffer states that, “Mexico is a country where insecurity prevails and harassment is a common source of anxiety and stress for women in their daily lives.” Schaffer feels that gender violence has increased dramatically, as well as risk of rape, in many parts of the world. Schaffer feels that this potential violence is a definitive pitfall for women. “Crowd,” has one woman in a hijab and has to do with the people we cross paths with every day in the street. How we see their faces without recognizing their features, explained Schaffer. But that behind each blurry face is a story that intertwines. It tries to bring attention to the unseen, the marginalized, those who are different, which is represented by the woman in the Hijab at the back of the crowd. The original prints are linocuts assembled as digital prints. The technique is widely used for social movement propaganda. Schaffer has shown her work in Mexico, Chicago, New York, Barcelona, and Valencia (Spain). Schaffer had an important itinerary installation which was shown in El Faro de Oriente, an important and special place, and art center in a marginalized neighborhood and at the Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana, among other venues. Schaffer’s work is in Mexico, Spain and the U.S. www.simona-schaffer.com
Gwynneth Vanlaven is an artist and educator whose practice includes photography, installation, writing, performance and social engagement. Vanlaven received her BA from Knox College in Multimodal Language: Verbal Visual and Kinesic Systems (an independent cross disciplinary major) with a minor in photography. In 2010 Vanlaven received her MFA from George Mason University in Critical Art Practice, also as a multimodal course of study. Vanlaven has taught visual thinking, aesthetics and new media at the School of Art at George Mason University, until relocating to Ann Arbor. Vanlaven’s work has been featured in numerous exhibitions and published in The Washington Post and Performance Research and at the Smithsonian Institution and the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington D.C. In addition to her solo practice, Vanlaven works as part of “The Floating Lab Collective.” The Floating Lab Collective is a group of artists dedicated to social engagement and activism through interactive and inclusive art, working with local, national and international scope. Vanlaven presented reflections on a Floating Lab Project to the 2014 Association of Art Historians Conference at the Royal College of Art in London. In the Pivots and Pitfalls show Vanlaven showed a series about color statement as well as “It’s a pity, party’s over,” which features the artist with a piece of cake and signage with streamers. The photo had an associated performance at the opening where participants were served cake and brought into the realm of the photo. www.gwynnethvanlaven.net
Avery Williamson included photos that explored her family history. Photos in the show were: “The Boys,” “Baby,” “He Throws,” “Louise,” and “Marisa, Avery & Iris.” She used familiar images with different techniques and methods of abstraction. Some images appear hazy, vintage and dream like. Ms. Williamson uses family photographs and videos and film as common media to record big events and little moments. She was, “curious about if she could make hers seem more universal and more intimate for other people.” Further she states that, “it was important to me that the faces were blurred and the images captured a feeling.” Ms. Williamson is always searching for ways to transform photos and make them less direct documentation of the past. Additionally, the artist works with clay, weaving and painting. She currently has a piece called, “It’s Dangerously Close to Weaving,” at Rymer Gallery in Nashville, TN. Ms. Williamson was born in Philadelphia, PA, and currently lives and works in Ann Arbor, MI.
James Rotz contributed three photographs in the exhibition from the “Kibbutz of Desire,” series. The artist is a highly “intentional” photographer, preferring vintage film methods of photography over the modern digital. Rotz likes the color fidelity of film and often shoots with a medium format camera. His work ranges from serene settings, Americana, portraiture and nature. He feels the scenes he captures from the world are, “a substitute for language to express thoughts, notions and emotions that are difficult to express in formal language, whether verbal or written.” He commented on use of film versus digital as the contrast between delayed and immediate. The delay and the permanency of negatives may build in a photographer such as Rotz, greater intention and formality for each photo resulting in a particular quality of work. Rotz uses print and book formats for his work often paired with prose. Rotz studied Literature and writing at Purdue University-Calumet for which he earned a BA. He also has a BFA in Photography from Indiana University. He has a MFA from the University of Michigan. James works as a photographer for the Detroit Institute of Arts and documents a diverse range of objects including prints, drawings and the photography collection. http://www.jamesrotz.com
Carolyn Garay’s works appear as other worldly or abyss or what she describes as “pen places.” A parent could place one Garay painting in their home to inspire their children to greater detail. They are inner worlds, sometimes ominous, sometimes painted, sometimes pen worlds. Garay describes them as “forfeiture to excess.” She goes on to explain a compulsive need for an infinite looping of certain thoughts and experiences. Perhaps, they are additionally “personifications of conflicting selves, experiences, memories, turmoil’s, dreams, anxieties, exhilarations that may manifest into masses and make up the pieces of a mindscape.” Everything she says has something about it that makes her laugh, which may be the point of it all. They appear as something one might find in animation. She loves the juxtaposed “energy” emanating from the detail and the “creation compulsion.” She paints in oils and with the smallest micron pen. With paints, she usually builds up 3-4 layers, plus final detailing. Ms. Garay was born and raised in Ann Arbor, MI. She attended Eastern Michigan University for undergraduate and completed an MFA at Philadelphia Academy of Fine Art. She currently resides in Ypsilanti and shows annually at the Ann Art Fair on Main Street by Williams. She also shows at Tangent Gallery in Detroit. She started a time-lapse channel on you tube to talk about her process and for teaching: www.youtube.com/disheveleartmess
Stephani Hicks showed “Sock Monkey,” a stuffed monkey completely covered in ball pins. She is studying art and entertainment management at Eastern Michigan University. Sock Monkey was made in a 2017 3-D Art class when she attended Henry Ford College and was asked to take something and cover it completely. The result was a “voodoo” inspired sculpture. She feels the art work looks painful and falls into the Pivots and Pitfalls theme.
Chris Sandon showed a book titled “Venereal Disease,” in gold plate that was superimposed by the artist with surreal, abstract and or absurd illustrations in pen and ink. Sandon has been making and showing work for 20 years. He began his career as an oil painter and later moved into interactive costumes and building events around these costumes. He has shown his work in Chicago, Detroit and Grand Rapids. In more recent years, with two projects-“Spontaneous Art and Exquisite Corpse,” Sandon work was presented at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, The Toledo Museum of Art and the Smithsonian in D.C.
Nick Morley included a highly successful plinth like monotype print called, “Black Forest Stone,” and another called “Ether.”
Lark Allen showed a curious animated character etching titled “Squatting Figure.” Skin appears sagging, hair braided, an otherworldly figure of unknown origin. The figure looks sculptural and strangely ethnic.
Glyph Q&A with Artist Ryan Molloy, May 2019
By Afua Serwah Osei-Bonsu
Ryan Molloy, former head of EMU’s Art Dept. and current EMU Professor of Graphic Design exhibited 3 color risographs, “Knowing Loving,” “Countless Things,” “Sometimes the End.” The 3 prints where primarily vintage looking neon pinks and blues and interesting colors that perhaps can only be achieved from a risograph. They were stacked cubes that built both words and ideas. The colors Molloy described as chromatic or the layering of two colors.
AO: Share with me a little more about the risograph you used in your work?
RM: A risograph, or riso, is a digital duplicator that prints ink (one or two colors at a time depending on the model) instead of toner. It is similar to mimeograph in that a stencil is created around an ink filled drum which then transfers the image onto the paper. I tell students it’s like a photocopier meets screen printing. They were largely used for office printing as a cheaper alternative to photocopiers but as photocopiers and printers became cheaper their use diminished. Risograph printing hit resurgence several years ago when artists and designers started using them for small run press shops. If you want to learn more about riso printing here are a few little video about them: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHU9AAc3YeQ, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AIfV8dXZOjc.
AO: The cube design, the text and its relationship?
RM: Admittedly the design wasn’t originally intended to be printed using the riso. the type design originates as an experiment to find new ways for typesetting on a letterpress. This particular typeface was designed in a manner that it could tessellate and be typeset in both a traditional manner i.e. horizontal (left to right) and also the more experimental dimensional cube shapes. I attached some images of the typeface as it was originally intended for a letterpress so that you can see what I am talking about. This particular typeface is the product of an ongoing investigation of mine exploring how digital technologies such as CNC milling and laser etching can bring new approaches to the design of letterforms for letterpress printing.
The typeface was intended to be chromatic, i.e. two colors printed on top of each other so that they would produce a third color. This second layer of color (not seen in the images) is still in development and prototyping for the press. I often use the riso to test out things like this and it just happened to be that Trevor asked me to participate as I was developing the typeface so I figured I would make something using the updated chromatic version of the typeface. The nature of the riso being that it prints ink vs. toner also mimics other printing processes like letterpress where one color is printed at a time.
As for the relationship of the cube and the text? I did set a rule for myself that words had to have letters in multiples of 3 (3, 6, 9, 12, etc.) making them fill a complete block, therefore the format dictated the language and phrasing to a degree. The phrases are really just my own musings, truisms, etc.
AO: Is it a plan for something, is it mathematical?
RM: Is it mathematical, only in that the hexagon and the triangles and parallelograms it creates lend themselves to creating interesting tessellating patterns. Is it a plan, no. It was always intended for the 2-d flattened space of a page. I think more than anything the purpose of the typeface is to really challenge how we typeset language and see if there are new ways to think about the way type works on a page.
AO: Give me some background information?
RM: Since being interim department head I’ve returned to faculty as a professor in the School of Art & Design teaching graphic design. Having worked in graphic design, stage design, and architecture I would say I am an interdisciplinary designer, though currently I am mostly working within graphic design and more specifically type design. Here is a recent bio:
“Ryan Molloy is a designer and educator currently teaching graphic design at Eastern Michigan University. He received his Bachelor of Architecture from Texas Tech University and an MFA in Design from University of Texas at Austin. His creative work has been exhibited nationally and internationally and has received several awards including an Art Directors Club Young Guns award. In 2012 Ryan Molloy and Leslie Atzmon received a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Art Works grant for the Open Book Workshop, held at the Jean Noble Parsons Center, and the book The Open Book Project. Ryan Molloy and Leslie Atzmon also received a Sappi Ideas that Matter grant in 2017 for the redesign of Ypsilanti’s Riverside Arts Center visual identity and environmental graphics.”
Riverside Arts Center Review
Glyph, May 2019
By Afua Serwah Osei-Bonsu
Riverside Art Center’s (RAC), May 2019 exhibition titled “Glyph” was a huge success. It ran in the lower gallery until the end of May and featured many of the area’s most noteworthy artists. The opening reception was held in both the gallery and the Off Center adjacent space where there were performances from “Pure Dance Ensemble,” which was followed by a poetic performance art piece of “Typewriter Instrumentalists,” “Hannah Cut in,” by Carla Harryman and a later bass soloist. Artists attempted to look at language as a theme which was the thread that united the whole exhibition. Some artists tried mixing musical staff with runes, many employed a variety of text in their work, and some used body language in performative pieces. The exhibition was curated by Riverside Art Center’s Program Manager, Trevor Stone.
“Pure Dance Ensemble” is led by Dancer/Choreographer Gina Danene Thompson. Hip Hop and Jazz dance pieces were performed by Pure Dance Ensemble, which were heavily influenced by Haitian dance choreography with open palms and performed to a song by Ludacris. Performers from Pure Dance Ensemble that performed at the opening reception were: Celia, Lucy, Maxine, Fern and Scott. Their piece was called “Same Love.” What is unique about Pure Dance Ensemble is their extensive range from jazz and hip hop, to modern, African and ballet. They performed a second impressive performance on Family Day in the Gallery which takes place on First Saturday’s each month, with 3 dancers to hip hop and a marvelous ”Rag Time” piece with 3 chairs. Dancers are learning sign language as a catalyst for the design of movement and presented an inventive dance performance that Saturday. They will be performing in “Beau Monde” this spring. Pure Dance Ensemble includes 8th and up-Pure Teen, and Pure Youth- 3rd-6th, and Pure Kids- lower elementary. Teacher and performer, Gina Danene Thompson is a rare gem for this area, placements in her classes are sought after, as children and teens gain advanced skills in a variety of dance moves and frequent performances. Many go on to degree’s in dance. In the gallery, there are wonderful images included in the exhibition for sale of Pure Dance Ensemble in lyrical positions where dancers are grouped bent over in sequence and a second spiritual photograph which featured dancers, reaching up and reaching out. Both photos represent collector’s items for fans. In a brief interview with Dance Teacher and Choreographer, Gina Danene Thompson, she expressed her “joy to be here, that Ypsilanti had been needing these things for a long time.” She studied the Kathryn Dunham Technique and trained heavily in Afro Haitian Dance, Jazz, Hip Hop and Ballet.
The Typewriter Instrumentalists had two narrators reciting poetry and 5 seated at typewriters which were used as instruments. Many were reciting phrases and typing in sequence to create rhythms which were a truly amazing cacophony of sound. Some of the most amazing poetry/performance to ever arrive RAC. The piece represented a “narrative collage,” with a sea of voices, almost paranoid sounding, in unison at times and reflecting on futurologists, behaviors, or the sound of happiness or progression and procession. Flash to man in robes…“I packed my valises,” which sets up for travel, perhaps a mental travel or initiates imagination. There was some live singing that was reminiscent of Sinead O’Connor. All in all, the piece was both memorable and brilliant, waking up performance artists and poets simultaneously and painting a fresh canvas for both. “Neo Expressionist” was mentioned in the piece which may reflect on the union between performance art and poetry, as well as music or interdisciplinary works in general. They looked at the silence of negative spaces. How silence is a “sign of respect for one another and can be a political and communal barricade,…to illicit privacy.” They also looked at a “communal interior.”
Some of RAC’s gallery exhibitors included Margaret Parker, who showed a long white organza coat decorated with images of her art work done as a “walking retrospective.” The piece was originally a performance art piece shown in a Manchester Gallery, Woman in the Arts Exhibition and is reminiscent of gypsies who carried or wore all their belongings. Secondly, the piece paid homage to the afterlife. Looking into the piece or retrospective was a wonderful Kali sculpture made of cut t-shirts with many arms. Perhaps the audio that accompanied the piece reflected on the “afterlife,” or when you become the “sum of your parts” or total life’s accomplishments. Her jacket, sheer, as if worn by a woman no longer existing, but survived by her artwork, which became her afterlife.
An artist called Elijah Bobo, exhibited 3 letterpress prints, etched with cut type. One piece was “Mulatto Round Up,” another was “Tragic Boy,” and a third was “Rebel Breed.” Mulatto round up was perhaps the most controversial of the set of 3 prints that featured a Kentucky Fried Chicken or “KFC” motif with a “WIC,” motif, a government sponsored baby formula program. The artist may be drawing parallels to the controversial nature of the word “Mulatto,” which appears to be a slang derivative for mule with milk (late). Still in 2019, there appears to be status or class issues or general controversy for interracial marriage and procreation. How the other two prints relate to “Mulatto Round up,” could be a Tragic birth? Or a subsequent rebel breed? Contrary to status quo. Rebel Breed was printed in red and green and white Christmas colors. “Mulatto Round Up,” was printed in yellow, orange and black, with black and white text. The piece is somewhat autobiographical and looks at Afroism. A third piece’s text states, “one dropped one pped,” which relates to the 25% black origin that was decisive in racial declaration with a double meaning perhaps of a urinating then dropped infant. Bobo talked about “hypo decent,” at the artists talk following the opening. Bobo said, his fonts were “Trushkin” and “Cowboy.”
Steven Driscoll Hixson showed 3 pieces that included text and movement. One piece was a black and white contrast quilt with excellent craftsmanship. Pieces showed obstruction and fragmentation using text and movement of walking imagery.
Ava Ansari (in collaboration with Andrew Quitmeyer) presented “Subway,” a highly successful public performance art piece. Ansari is a “third wave immigrant from Iran” that studied in New York, and currently runs between Ypsilanti/Detroit areas. Ansari says, “she is dancing for the freedom of public movement.” She is featured in video dancing sensually, then crests and becomes ecstatic in a Times Square, New York City Subway Station. The subway traffic ebbs and flows, some pass her by, a few become spectators, most have things to do and places to go and will ignore her. There were continuous coming and goings of the subway juxtaposed with the dancing of Ms. Ansari which she says is a “poetic statement on the power of our bodies as fluid glyphs constantly recreating motions and emotions.” Her hands, like two birds, floating and winding, and she says to, “sculpt the air with contemporary Persian dance forms.” The juxtaposition against the train and her were sharp, exposing and hiding her dance through the windows of a passing train. She danced as if a song played in her head, or some kind of “freedom demonstration” or even to dance with the subway or subway passengers. She was wild and free, swinging her head and letting down her hair from a bun, hanging from a ceiling rail upside down and then ending with extraordinary grace. The piece ends and Ms. Ansari sits down next to a man who appears to be without housing on a bench, then a train passes and she disappears. It represents “man and machine,” man’s movement, contrasting machines movement. It could even represent a cultural freedom, or a freedom of space, or a personal or feminist triumph or even a healing? It suggested something about when the body speaks or has language beyond movement or when in protest and a simple dance could be as strong as a poster or a riot. One wakes up a people, ignites a crowd. Perhaps an artist is given amnesty in regards to cultural barriers that may prevent such an artwork? Ms. Ansari’s work has dealt alot with space, transgressing disciplines, working with her body and social topics. Ms. Ansari is interested in transforming space. She studied “Arts Politics,” at New York City’s NYU Tisch School of the Arts. She is also founding member of groups AAYA (Ann Arbor\Ypsilanti Art Group) and Poetic Societies. She utilizes a variety of networking and technologies to present a diversity of artworks. Subway has been presented at the Eyebeam in NYC, Sazmanab in Tehran, ArtIT2013 in Milan and Artaud Forum in London among others.
Barbara Neri presented a Quadtych mixed media piece that included children running and children playing with toy guns. Some figures were colorized features in newspaper print outs from Associated Press. All 4 pieces exhibited each a word Who-Are-These-Men? One print featured images from a Bosnian war, others in military camouflage. It was a juxtaposition of youth playing with guns who later become these future men of war. Perhaps, to see in the child, his imminent future or to remember the man once a child.
Golsa Yaghoobi presented 3 portraits of women with text. The text was written in Farsi and translates to, “God, you have refined and polished us according to your will (Khajeh Abdullah Ansari), another reads, “For all my life, I will not quit this intoxication, this half drunkenness,” a third painting reads, “The breeze of the new day is welcome, on the face of the flower.” All three were very fine oil paintings which highlighted a distinction between oil and acrylic qualities. The oil colors were very rich in color and quality. The women were shown wearing headdress, turbans and scarves. Eyes were thoughtful, gazing back at you. Ms. Yaghoobi describes her work as intertwined both cultural and religious. She is an artist of the Iranian Diaspora. Her work is better understood through the history and culture of Iran, inclusive of changes and conflicts. She is a product of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, where she spent her youth. She has attempted to unveil her voice and body. Her images she feels challenge “the oral, spatial and corporal limits for women in Iranian culture.” She uses herself and women she knows as subjects and framework for her art. She speaks with her art to a viewer that is both Iranian and Western. Ms. Yaghoobi is a painter and print maker based in Detroit. She studied at Sooreh Art Institute in Tehran and MFA in Painting and Printmaking from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Arkansas. She often creates etchings, lithography and oil paintings on canvas. She is held in private collections in the U.S., Iran, Canada, United Kingdom, Japan, Czech Republic, and UAE. In addition to holding her private studio practice, Ms. Yaghoobi is privileged to teach foundation at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit and various classes at the Atelier Art Studio in Royal Oak Michigan.
Gwynneth Vanlaven showed 3 photos and a wonderful photo flip book in the exhibition. The photo book was cut into 3 rectangular sections where you flip through portraits exchanging eyes, noses and mouths to redesign faces and emotions. Her work was contained many social themes relating to in one photo, eating disorders. In 2007, the artist stated that she was struck and crushed by a car, which made her gain visible identity as a disabled. She has been shifting disabled identities, via her work. One photo described difficulty getting out of the bathtub. The accompanying text in the bathtub photo reads “Activities of Daily Living.” It asks independent, Yes or No? Vanlaven wishes to ask what can it be like to have no independent way out of the bathtub? She used a long extended exposure to capture this moment and the image looks like a ghost exited the bathtub. She addressed specific binaries, the language of boxes, independent vs. dependent, to script her own independence. She feels it is possible to “adapt” to new circumstances via creative potentials. Ms. Vanlaven uses camera timers and duct tapes to capture some images. Another of Vanlaven’s photos exhibited has to do when one acquires a mantra of “fat, ugly, stupid.” Vanlaven states that “this atones a woman who is too sensitive, too passionate, too engaged, too intense, taking up too much space.” When one becomes an “internalized critic,” says Vanlaven, and has body dissatisfaction/body hatred. Vanlaven talks about the “silent scream” with her work.
Azya Moore featured a series of comparative and scientific or medical observation photos of two women. Photos contrasted racial differences which were highlighted by text in a research style wording. Artist looked at “quantifiable humanity,” when values are placed on mankind as was done in slavery and even in abortion cases. Artist was asking, “what does it mean to be human” on different levels and “how do we become whole?” Ms. Moore highlighted America’s controversial enslavement and related ideas, laws and conditions that resulted. Ms. Moore was intensely thoughtful, sensitive and probing for answers to heal and simultaneously challenge prevalent national ideas. Ms. Moore studied Painting, Photography, Museum Studies and Mixed Media and earned her BFA from Michigan State University.
An artist called Petra Keppers, included encaustic paintings with embedded poems relating to climate change. Poetry series related to “Neo Expressionism” a hot topic for this area, where artists explore multiple directions for the new expression of poetry or art often using interdisciplinary or innovative approaches. Petra was also featured as one of the narrators in the Typewriter/Poetry performance. She is working in a “Somatic Writing Studio.” Her work on the encaustic paintings utilized wax and blow torches to convey earthly problems. She is an international performance artist. She is working to accelerate poetry via “Neo Expressionism,” from movement to performance, to oil paint and beeswax.
Ypsilanti children were included on podiums in the exhibition and created animated emoji art works. Some emoji’s were completed by Girl Scout Troup 40602 and Ypsilanti Community Schools as well as children from Weiss Elementary International Baccalaureate. The cut paper art works represent the influence of technology on the youth of today. The children attempted to design their own original emoji, animate their expressions, creating loving ones with heart pupils or angry ones with slanted eyebrows or even devilish ones with horns. Attention to technological imagery by youth can be noted as well as their ability to extend it and design their own original pieces with Emoji animated styling.
Happy & Existential Birthday to Afua Serwah Osei-Bonsu May 28, 2019
By, Afua Serwah Osei-Bonsu
This year I was planful about my journey forward which is one of my favorite pastimes.
I thought I would craft an original career as a scholar, artist, international teacher, diplomat and author.
I envisioned teaching parts of the year abroad. I imagined myself either starting a school, running a department, or teaching a semester here and a semester maybe in Ghana or Mexico.
I adopted the new vision to be an “international teacher.”
The other thought I had was how an artist succeeds. I think there are plucking grounds for ripe and primed artists via artist residencies. I was at the Studio Museum in Harlem and The Saatchi Gallery showed up to see artists in residence. In Europe, there are residencies like the Rijksakademie that also connect artists to European galleries. Artists in art residencies have completed BFA and MFA, have a body of graduate and professional work, professional studio-they are vetted artists and ripe for the picking. Also their associates within these programs are other artists that become colleagues and make introductions and form their creative circle. You get mentorship at residencies that polish the artist. Perhaps that is something someone like me should do, both go to residencies or perhaps run one in Michigan or in Ghana.
What I think galleries do or should do is keep databases of their groups or pools of artists and keep building on these artist profiles and send them briefs for appropriate shows. So artists are revolving in different shows.
We need in America more residencies for artists where artists are connected to galleries. There are new emerging markets for online art sales like with the Saatchi Gallery that are pursuing high and low strategies and price points with print and original sales-where everyone walks out with something.
One thing that many art departments failed to recognize is the need for art writing to bring art to life where the viewer has more information and ability to engage. The Sotheby’s Institute has an online certificate course in art writing.
I am still having many thoughts about giving and philanthropy. There need to be backbones in communities. You have to know when not to be poor but to find a way to make yourself rich because you’re the backbone. When you need to provide jobs and shouldn’t stop thinking until you have achieved appropriate wealth and vision strategy. When you have not occasional monies, but regular monies and look to models like the Salvation Army that runs big thrift stores to power shelters etc.
I am thinking about successful systems. I am thinking about when art provides “ideas and inspiration” and when art is “functional” and provides a viable solution to a problem or then, is it no longer art?
An existential birthday for me has been buying spiritual books every year around my birthday. I got: “Ceremony,” by Leslie Marmon Silko, “The Masters and The Spiritual Path, Climb the Highest Mountain Series,” By Mark Prophet, “Foundations of the Path,” Mark. L. Prophet, “The Path to Attainment,” By Mark L. Prophet.
This year I gave myself a ton of gifts which was a thrill. They are still on the way to me. I got myself a “birthday shirt” which is light blue with daisy embroidery. I ordered a bicycle pump and will start cycling again this season when it arrives. I got a picture of the ocean. I got a risograph print from artist Ryan Molloy. I got a piano theory book. I played “Happy Birthday” on the piano several times. I am attempting to memorize the notes. I ordered three pairs of shoes, 2 summer sandals and a pair of green New Balance. I got tart pans. I baked and baked: Brownies a la mode, peanut butter cookies, poppy seed muffins and lemon bars. I got serving trays and a large bowl good enough for paella. I imagined my future dinner parties. I got a pink sheet. I got a house cleaning house dress that is pastel/ carnation/ frosting colors. I got a nightgown. The nightgown reminded me of dogs and fireplaces.
My mother sent me some money. Another friend in Chicago sent a blender for some margaritas.
I got Bruce Lee Video’s, Willy Wonka, vintage Disney, I got Chinese Music, some musicals and foreign language tapes. I have been loving both cassette tape and videotape. I got some plastic containers to organize my school work station. I got a new curling iron. I got some “Aveda Stress-Fix” oil perfume that smells divine. I got rose water spray.
I applied to a writing program and researched another writing program and both filled me with the joy of anticipation. I got a “Pocket Style Manual” by Diana Hacker (writing) that covers clarity, grammar, punctuation and mechanics, MLA/APA/Chicago/CSE, usage and grammatical terms.
I got an “Intermediate Algebra” book by D. Franklin Wright/Bill D. New. I am a big fan of the highly useful algebra. I thought about books, informational books, culturally defining books like “Castaneda” or “Wild Irish Rose” or “Arabian Nights.” I thought about Creative Non-Fiction and Poetry. I thought about placement within knowledge. I am working on a book about Interdisciplinary Studies. I thought about learning. I thought about auditory then recognition in early learning and throughout life and in advertising, this strange link, how one comes to know, how one comes to have. I thought about analysis and how it makes you way smarter. There’s tacit knowledge, but there’s graduated and developed thought. Becoming a thinker.
I started a book log this year. Our local Ypsilanti library is recommending that children read about 1000 books a year. I am aiming for longer books maybe 388 books this year.
Those are some of my main thoughts on this 2019 birthday. I am really happy to be so peaceful and serene. I spray rose water on my hair to catch the beauty of the rose to it.
Afua Osei-Bonsu Self Portrait Photo Credit: Afua Serwah Osei-Bonsu
I have to deliver my love
No time for nervousness
Or shaky, shaky inhibition
I have to deliver my love
Afua Serwah Osei-Bonsu Self Portrait Photo Credit: Afua Serwah Osei-Bonsu