On a sunny Sunday, I ventured down Liberty — past Main — to the Ann Arbor Art Center. Despite being my first time venturing upstairs, it was my second-ever visit. Both times, natural light and kind staff have made the space feel open and inviting. The first floor was comprised mainly of their shop behind a small gallery space of artworks for sale, but stairs in the middle of the room invited me to see the exhibition space in their 117 Gallery. This juried exhibition was media-focused, displaying drawings from multiple different styles and perceptions.


I never really know the best direction in which to roam around a gallery, but there were only two other visitors there that afternoon, so I had some freedom. The first artwork I saw was a large, colorful piece that had received honorable mention: Scott Teplin’s mixed media piece Big School. I remembered seeing it on the AAAC website, but in person, the colors were much more vibrant and the large piece encapsulated much detail.

There were some more traditional pieces, such as John McKaig’s Blind Crown, a large-scale colored pencil piece full of exquisite drapery. Often enamored by drapery studies from both a viewer and artist perspective, it became one of my favorites.

Detail of “Blind Crown”

Beside it, a 3D-drawing pen and plant-based resin sculpture by Lavinia Hanachiuc named Silkie3 hung with its shadow close by on the wall. It didn’t take very long to notice the depths of the variety in style from piece to piece, and I quickly began to realize that I was getting an indirect lesson in the possibilities of drawing as a media. While there wasn’t an every-other order from the traditional to “experimental” styles (for lack of a more accurate descriptor), there was a nice shift from framed pieces to installation-types every so often.

The gallery space flows from windowless to brightly sunlit-spaces, though I enjoyed all of the shadows created of the three-dimensional pieces no matter the light source. I never thought about the corners of galleries until I noticed Larry Cressman’s Drawing (Into a Corner 10) installation drawing, composed of teasel, graphite, matte, medium, and pinsi — seemingly created to be shown in a corner. It sticks out, drawing attention to itself, though somehow also seemed reserved…an element that I enjoyed.

“Drawing (Into a Corner 10)”

Aside from final results of drawing, an exhibited piece was a drawer itself. The center of the room boasts a robot drawing machine by Ashley Pigford, available for demonstration with the assistance of AAAC staff. I didn’t end up using it, but I’d be interested in seeing its results.

As far as the gallery space itself, I liked that it was on the second floor because it felt like a more personal and unsupervised first experience with the art on show. There was no pressure to react in any specific ways, which I sometimes sense when viewing galleries with a staff member nearby or passersby peering in through a window. The sunlit section was more inviting than the other space flowing into it, but that’s absolutely a personal bias and not related to the exhibition itself. I attended alone on a particularly quiet afternoon, but it would be a fun outing with friends as well. It was also a nice chance to see works done by artists affiliated with the Ann Arbor arts community, outside of the university bubble.

This gallery visit was kind and eye-opening with simple displays of a wide range of works. I highly recommend a visit! It’s free and open to the public, and if you’re an interested art-buyer, many of these works are for sale. On March 16th from 5-7pm, the day before the exhibit ends, AAAC is hosting a happy hour as one of the final chances to see Art Now: Drawing. There will be refreshments and an interactive drawing activity — if it’s with the robot, I want to see results! Otherwise, gallery hours are below.


REVIEW: Aftermath: Landscapes of Devastation

The sublime is what captivates your attention, the mix between horror and beauty. This discomfort that the sublime evokes by being fascinated with something horrifyingly beautiful is what the latest photography exhibition at the UMMA revolves around. Aftermath: Landscapes of Devastation brings to the forefront of our minds how we use photographs to mediate and memorialize disasters. While the exhibition includes 150 years of medium, it depicts the course of over 2,000 years of human history and photographs moments to last into the infinite future.

Instead of displaying the pictures in chronological order of when the event occurred, the pictures play with time, as the sequence is nonlinear, the arrangement dealing with the increasing amount of time between when the event occurred and when the photograph was taken. By capturing a landscape of devastation mere seconds after the event or two thousand years later, the effects of that devastation can be either visible or invisible, creating a landscape with a timeless story tied to the land.

A lot of the photographs were indirect, not clearly depicting any “devastation” at first glance. This exhibition really makes you stop and read the description to understand why certain photographs belong in a collection that starts with the mushroom cloud of an atomic bomb. Even that is an interesting choice — a distant view of a giant cloud in the sky that is a clear sign of devastation without overtly showing the scene from the ground. It is hard to miss the mushroom cloud, but the unimaginable carnage of bodies remain unseen. The picture that follows is an aerial shot of an accident on a beach, the conglomerating crowd and oblivious beach-goers fully captured in this spectacle that is centered around one individual’s life and near-death, an unforgettable memory that will now always be remembered.

9/11 has its place in this exhibition, the two selected photographs shaping our collective memory and national identity as we continuously return to this historic event. However, events of less obvious violence that are equally devastating have their rightful place too. The repetition of the land at Shiprock taken throughout one day represents the relative timelessness of a geographical sight that is perceived despite the destruction on native land that has slowly taken its course through many years.

One of the most interesting photographs was one of joy in an environment of devastation. Bosnian-Muslim refugee children are playing in a bombed building, this innocent side of human nature persisting in a haunting scene very unnatural yet very human, and this direct juxtaposition tugs at your heart as the suffering and resilience of families during a period of war and genocide makes this image — and this ongoing reality — truly devastating indeed. There are certainly many more photographs, each as intriguing and thought-provoking as the last, that makes this exhibit that is on display until May 27 worth seeing.

There is beauty and tranquility in these photographs despite the devastation, and it is precisely because of that that there is something harrowing about them, these moments — or aftermath of moments — suspended in time and carried into infinity. Natural and manmade destruction is never forgotten. Even if it escapes the lens of a camera, it will be forever ingrained in human memory and the natural history on the land.

REVIEW: 2017 Undergraduate Juried Exhibition.

Student galleries feel variegated, if there’s a single word for it. Like leaves that grow into different colours and shapes, it’s an exhibition that doesn’t know what it wants to be yet, a showcase that simply brings the best of undergraduate work into the spotlight.

With whatever two cents I have on institutional theories of art and the artworld – I like these spaces, maybe more than museums because of the modernity, the messiness, the fact that I could probably say ten years down the line “oh yeah, I know that guy – we went to school together. I saw his early work way before he became famous.”

The Creative Body

This was the thought, the primary impression that reverberated while visiting the Stamps gallery downtown, the glowing letters looking sunny off South Division Street through the rain of an Ann Arbor November: this is the future of art right here, in progress, developing, new.

With expansive media use, the content of the artworks are even more diverse, with much of the form and the subject focused with a modern-day lens and astute freshness. Here, the exhibition highlights a kind of innovation in art by Stamps students, ideas shaped by a digital revolution and the shifting notation that this digitalization is beautiful. The interdisciplinary quality, refined by technology, is seen in Audio Reflection by Maddi Lelli, a sound installation coded in TouchDesigner that forms a hypnotic circle that moves with the inflection of a voice, and The Creative Body by Camille Johnson, a paper maché puppet that uses projections and soundscapes to tell its stories, exhibited before in Detroit and Ypsilanti events.

Glacial Archi-Structure

Glacial Archi-Structure by Juan Marco uses collections of data of topographical structures on glacial recession to create beautiful, geometric representations of information. And Lazy Susan by Rachel Krasnick is a laser-cut and digitally fabricated sculpture, forming a delicate spiral of plywood that doubles up as a turntable.

Glacial Archi-Structure

Many of the pieces also reflect current social climates and the stresses of a particular generation, including artworks such as Tortured Housewife by Beth Reeck, which digitally collages 50s advertisement-esque pictures to explore the constrictiveness of societal gender norms, and Finding Peace by Gillian Yerington, a landscape constructed out of recycled wrappers, so that the viewer is quite literally looking at nature that has been shaped by our waste.

Finding Peace

Conversely, much of the art also finds itself in organic expressions, universal sentiments. Others expand the limits of form and material. From Broken Compass by Kara Calvert, which opens up feelings of alienation and emptiness across a cotton fabric canvas of batik dye, to Fold and sew by Grace Guevara, folding and sewing copper metal like fabric, expanding the definition of what fiber could be.

Fold and sew

In the end, there’s a lot of interesting work in the exhibition by some incredible students (and many more not mentioned in the review) – innovative, smart, socially-conscious, or even terribly funny – variegated remains the only word I can think of to describe it, a gallery poised on the precipice of change, of what’s new and contemporary, of students still growing and creating. So be sure to check out the Undergraduate Juried Exhibition before December 16th!

PREVIEW: 2017 Undergraduate Juried Exhibition.

From November 10, 2017 to December 16, 2017 is Stamps’ annual Undergraduate Juried Exhibition, located at the new Stamps Gallery at 201 S. Division Street.

Featuring the exceptional work of Stamps students, jurors (Anne-Marie Kim, BFA 2004, Samara Pearlstein, BFA 2008, and Ron Watters, BFA 2001) have selected a showcase of the best works to be recognized. From sculpture honed with the eye of industrial design, to illustrations steeped in keen social commentary – the works present the possible beginnings of the next Picasso or Ansel Adams or Emily Carr (and so the list goes on). Go out there and support your fellow students; see the art of what’s happening now.

Free entry! Open from noon to 7pm, on Tuesdays to Saturdays.

PREVIEW: Artists of the Photo-Secession Gallery Tour at UMMA

When did photography become an art? At some point, people took cameras and tried to capture people and places and things not simply for the sake of capturing them, but for the beauty of it. This was the beginnings of pictorialism.

As the UMMA web site states about the early pictorialist photographers:

Their poetic compositions drawn from contemporary life, combined with the use of expensive and labor-intensive printing materials such as platinum and gum bichromate, established these photographs as complex and nuanced works of high artistic quality.

The exhibition is open now and will remain open until March 5th.

Their next FREE upcoming gallery talk/tour is:

Sunday, December 11th at 2pm

Check out their calendar here for more information on the other upcoming gallery talks:

January 15th at 2 pm

February 19th at 2 pm

REVIEW: Detroitography talk + exhibit

Alex Hill, the founder of Detroitography, spoke to a packed room inside the South Thayer Building about putting an emphasis on the human side of statistics and big data.

Although not a native of Detroit, Alex has been able to fuse his background in medical anthropology with his current work at the Wayne State Pediatric Research Center and love of statistics to create a number of incredible maps of Detroit.

Where's the nearest Starbucks?
Where’s the nearest Starbucks?

All of the maps are created using open source data to make them accessible to everyone. The aim, as Alex explained, is to present data in a way that shows the actual implications and makes it relevant to people.

When bringing up the Detroit bankruptcy–the largest municipal bankruptcy in history at 17 billion dollars–Alex addressed how the water shutoff was a fatal flaw in looking at data. While the city saw that they could save over 100 million dollars by confronting delinquent accounts, no one thought to consider the fact that the majority of delinquent accounts were owned by people that could not pay them off.


The rest of Alex’s sleek red, white and black presentation addressed the overarching question: how do we relate data not just to other data, but to people?

There is a risk of drowning in big data, as he explained, and it is up to us to figure out how the data relates to human beings. One of the biggest flaws about statistics is the belief that algorithms are completely objective. This is completely false–someone had to write the code for that algorithm, and they chose all the variables. Nothing is completely unbiased.


Numbers don’t motivate, but the connection to the people that correspond to those numbers. One map of the MidCassTown Corridor was a collection of responses from residents of that very corridor. Some residents called it the Cass Corridor, and some called it Midtown. Mapping the data showed the Midtown-naming residents to be in the more affluent, modernized areas. As one individual stated: “They [white people] call it Midtown.”

Detroitography is an interesting concept, there’s no doubt about that. Will it be effective? Will mapping data about Detroit have a positive impact on policy decisions for the city, or will it turn out to be simply another aesthetically pleasing project related to the Motor City?