The 2021 Graduate Degree Exhibition of Cranbrook Academy of Art at the Cranbrook Art Museum offers a straddling of separate spheres across time and space as it relates to memory, the physical and digital body, and disciplinary categorizations. The exhibition features a wide range of work across concentrations. Among those defined below are architecture, fibers, and photography. While the highlighted artists are classified by their majors, much of the displayed work transcends limitations imposed by the mediums’ historical working methods and perceptions. This feature is highlighted in And that’s on who? Mary had a little lamb., the tufted rug of Qualeasha Wood, a student of the Photography department “embracing her role as a young hot ebony on the internet,” a phrase that begins her artist statement. In this wall hanging depicting a sunny day, a blackened silhouette of a woman holding a red pair of scissors is positioned in the foreground in front of a lamb. It can be assumed that she is going to shear its fleece as “white as snow;” however, this vision and that of implied race is never truly offered to the viewers. With photography technologically rendering images of the body within rectangular space, Wood physically and metaphorically rejects this contained geometry of the black body within the landscape to offer and reject consumptive access among viewers.
In Chickpea Landscapes, an illuminated wall-based sculpture of Jessy Slim, an Architecture student, Slim attaches clay she prepares with garbanzo beans, a food staple native to the Middle East, to backing fabric. Held up in areas with stakes, the cloth undulates and protrudes to form a mountainous topography that cracks like rock fissures peeling from its foundation. It is through these material explorations, and physical transformations, that Slim interrogates how immigration from Lebanon has displaced and reconstructed her memories tied to home. Physical recollections being kneaded only to flake from the landscape and crack, asking to be tended to with hands bearing witness to past views and meals eaten. This position of the in-between, a journey on the traffic-ridden freeway, is also highlighted in Same Road Different Day, a circular embroidered wall piece by Fibers student Kaylie Kaitschuck. Surrounded by hot wheels driving single file down the dotted line yarn roadway is a landscape to get lost in. Butterflies flap their wings; snakes slither toward burning bushes that flowers emerge from; goldfish swim in a pond surrounding by a checkerboard path with a swerving car; lightning strikes; the sun strikes a smile; a series of frowning faces ascend a yellow ladder to happiness; airplanes and sharpened, levitating pencils fly; hands reach for clouds at the end of the rainbow which tell you to “DREAM BIG.” What time is it? The pink band watch doesn’t work; instead its clock face is a portal. Am I spiraling? Is this a spiral? Where and when am I being transported? The road goes in circles, and I’m still stuck in traffic.
I think I’ll get off the freeway at the nearest exit and make the trip back to Cranbrook before the end of the week, after which the work is deinstalled.