Friday, February 15, 2008

Detroit to Ann Arbor - Opening Reception

Detroit to Ann Arbor Creative Work from Detroit Artists
An Exciting Cultural Event Featuring Detroit-Based Artists
Opening Reception

Saturday, Feb. 16th

Light refreshments provided
Show Runs Feb. 16-March 4th
Showing in the Michigan Union Art Lounge
Questions? email:

Kevin Beasley

Waterjacket, 2008
headphones, audio selection
Counterplane, 2008
pine wood, spray paint

Detroit is not just a city that I find interesting, but rather an environment that feels like the woods. Moving to Detroit from Virginia (from the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains) five years ago, I realize that in my own observations there is a bias towards nature’s presence, but this comparison is not a sensory one, but rather the ambiguous state I see in both. The ephemeral quality of natural occurrences reminds me, increasingly so, of Detroit’s landscape. There is a current in the air that gives Detroit a distinctive quality unlike any other metropolitan area, although it has every characteristic that a major city would contain. On the contrary, its identity is so difficult to put a finger on. As if the indistinguishable is the distinction. Grit, grime, and industry constitute most American metropolitan areas if you’re in the right neighborhood. So the “grittiness of Detroit” does not satisfy an accurate description for me.

My work leans toward the experience of spaces and place, and how we interact, and identify with them. My paradoxical observations and unfamiliarity with Detroit, combined with the increase of travel in my schedule, forced me to look at not just my destinations but the spaces in between; these places and signifiers that got me thinking about other things. The spaces where we read, contemplate, and talk to ourselves. I became more interested in the elusive, rather than the identifiable. These observations act as metaphors in my work and really operate in the process of creating what I make and how I place them in the context of its environment. The material elements allow for a sensory experience that triggers our percepts and gets us thinking about our thoughts, feeling our feelings, and attempting to conclude on what these objects mean. This, ultimately, requires viewers to bring their own sensibilities to play, in order to create an experience that may have never been felt before. As if the objects never exist until one truly engages.

Taurus Burns

True Colors – primary self-portrait, 2008
Oil on Canvas

I moved to Detroit from Ann Arbor in 1998 to study Fine Arts at the College for Creative Studies, where I received a BFA in 2002. I remember when I would visit Detroit before moving here, I thought it was the most depressing city… mile upon mile of ruin and poverty. But after living in and around Detroit for almost 10 years, I see the city in a different way. There is an innocence in everyone I meet that is highlighted by an environment that wreaks of abandonment... it is a beautiful contrast. There is a force of life that is creating change and renewing this once vital city.

Detroit has really grown on me. I continue to meet many people in the city that I admire for their courage, resilience, creativity and passion. I enjoy being a part of that community as I enjoy watching the city find its legs. Since graduating I have continued to show my art around southeast Michigan and to pursue new challenges to my creative work and self-awareness. Currently I am on the exhibition committee at the Detroit Artist Market- a longstanding gallery in Detroit dedicated to the education and promotion of contemporary art. In my own paintings I create both realistic and symbolic paintings of people that explore basic universal human desires. Examples of my art can be found on my new website:

Katherine Leisen

Grocery Store, 2008
Watercolor & mixed media

Detroit is a notorious topic. It is easy to dismiss its popularity as appealing to one’s morbid sense of curiosity, but I think the attraction also stems from an excitement generated by the unknown.

For many people, the disparity between Detroit’s land space and its population produces a sense of confusion. The vast gaps between neighborhoods are often filled with waist-high grass housing pheasants. These pastoral scenes are sandwiched between building and sidewalk rubble and liquor stores.

It is strange to live in a place more discussed than lived in. I have lived in Detroit as an adult for almost five years. It surprises me to write that. I suppose I live in Detroit because I feel comfortable here, but I certainly don’t mind the cheap rent.

No one cares what you do here. Depending on your attitude that is either a nightmare or a rare invitation to experiment.

My list of Likes that is pertinent to Detroit:

I like things that don’t make sense.
I like the open spaces here that force me to think and breathe, despite the incinerator.
I like seeing the unexpected beauty.
I like characters.
I like absurdity, and I laugh when things feel true.
I like saying hi to people on the street.

What a weird city this is. Is this a small rural town? Is this an industrial capital?
The city changes its clothes every time I look around.

I once described living here as being “a very internal experience.”

I think that’s still true.
– February 2008

Andy Malone

Mayor Bear (part 1), 2008
Digital print on paper

I create drawings and kinetic sculptures that reflect on life in Detroit and other subjects that interest me. I primarily incorporate common whimsical archetypes (like toys and cartoon animals) to comment on sober matters.

The inspiration for this piece is the Detroit political machine (which could easily provide material for a weekly comic strip). I am fascinated by how Detroiters are knowingly manipulated and pandered to when a scandal strikes. We pay attention to the drama but remain detached (this is a survival mechanism). We tend to forget that our elected officials work for us, and we have the power to hold them accountable. This, of course, is not a uniquely Detroit phenomenon.

When I'm not on my soapbox, I'm hanging out with my wife Elaine and baby girl Julia.

A portfolio of my work is available here:

Teresa Petersen

OWL, 2008

Light up assemblage made from Detroit junk

Teresa Petersen is an artist living and working in the city of Detroit, Michigan. In Detroit, junk is an abundant resource. Every trip to her studio is a chance to find interesting objects to work with, either on the side of the road, or at a thrift store. She works in several media, specializing in found-object assemblage sculptures, collages made from vintage prints, catalogs, and magazines, and mixed media pieces containing elements of both. The individual objects making up each piece serve to form a cohesive final structure as well as individually relate to the theme of the piece as a whole. Her work emphasizes and explores the relationships between women's stereotypes and ideals: in culture, in nature, and in our throw-away society.

More things Teresa at:

Rachel Reynolds

Isolated Observation: Color Separations
Warm Chroma Scheme : Hats, Slacks, Collars & Cuffs, Shirts, Shoes, Sacks & Suspenders, 2008

acrylic paint & colored pencil on Dura-Lar

Isolated Observation: Color Separations
Beige Brown Tan Taupe: Furs and Skins, 2008

acrylic paint & colored pencil on Dura-Lar

How much of what we look at do we really see?

Often, the field of one’s vision is obstructed. Our eyes connect the dots and our minds fill in the blanks. We are able to recognize and identify. But, what we know about what we see is ultimately based on either popular pre-conceptions, or through personal experience.

Particular spaces yield certain situations. My intentions lie in wandering, observing and understanding urban environments. Working to illustrate more than the physical particulars of a site, I select a fixed place from which to study present culture. By limiting the perimeters of location and people to a specific space and routine, I create a position from which to locate common denominators, discover patterns and raise questions relevant to Here and Now.

Determining commonalities and finding patterns can be used to stereotype— but the act of recognizing similarities also entails distinguishing differences. Above all, it is the individuality of others that is present, and it is through active engagement with others that individuality can be recognized and assumptions may dissolve.

This body of work is derived from six months of utilizing Detroit’s public transportation system. My reaction to the daily abundance of source material led to the practice of limiting my observational drawings to record only what I witnessed in terms of one color each day. This methodology of isolating subject matter through the lens of color resulted in an in-depth look at the apparel of my fellow bus riders. Clothes offer clues to the culture of a place on many levels. They may indicate age, sex, employment, climate and of course, personality.

“It is the journey that is the objective, not the end place where we are going.”

Godfrey Reggio describes this as a way to approach viewing his film, “Koyaanisqatsi.’

Christopher Schneider

Shopping Carts (part of 3 a.m. series)
Color photograph

Porta-john (part of 3 a.m. series)
Color photograph

Detroit was recently named the most miserable city in the U.S., one more list heaping dubious accolades on my city. Detroit is also at or near the top of the lists for obesity, illiteracy, unemployment, and violence. In other words, it is a great place for an artist and the perfect place to make something happen. I moved here from South Florida and there is no comparison-- Detroit is a far more interesting, culturally rich place with friendlier people full of pride. Not many cities' residents proudly wear clothing that say their cities' names like they do in Detroit. It also provides opportunity since property values are affordable. It is the quintessential underdog city and I have always been inspired by the underdog. This work here comes from the helplessness that I feel toward corporations. It is my way of fighting back with one of the few weapons that “we the people” have – humor.

I moved to Detroit to attend the Cranbrook Academy of Art. Since graduating, I created the Cranbrook Summer Art Institute, which offers art classes to teenagers at the Academy. I also organized the non-profit group Hatch, an artist collective that is about to purchase an old police station to convert it into an urban art center.

Info about Hatch here:

Stephen William Schudlich

Urban Picked Up Paper Color Chart, 2007
Paper, Digital Output, Acrylic Cube

This chart is comprised of color information tiles representative of waste paper found on the streets surrounding the intersection of Woodward Ave. and Mack Ave./MLK Jr. Blvd. Data was collected throughout July of 2007.

I create maps. Many are constructed from data that I collect when I walk and drive around the city of Detroit; data and clues that speak to what’s going on and, what’s not going on. These pieces are put together in a very clinical and scientific way yet, with a tongue in cheek brand of humor, in visual pieces as a means of making the information engaging and accessible to the user.

I’m a fourth generation Detroiter. And so I spent a lot of time within the city of Detroit. When driving around the city, my father would always take what was called the “long way.” The long way always facilitated a visual candy store of things to see. People on the street, great architectural wonders, the ball park, Eastern Market, Michigan Avenue, all that sort of stuff. That love of exploring still exists in trhe work that I produce today. I enjoy driving through the city of Detroit, through its urban areas, through its blight-affected communities. I have this fascination with these places and, I like to record the visual stories and the material that I see there. I take my son with me on these trips now. He’s only three. He probably won’t remember a lot of it. He does remember, however, when he sees a house that’s broken, he will tell me, “Dad, that house is broken.” He has a real keen awareness of that. He also says that, “They need to fix that house.” My son is the smartest person in the car on those trips. I look at this information, and I want to make it available to people.

I’m not an activist, I don’t have a political agenda, but I do foster the idea that perhaps some of these charts and installations can be put before people who may have a voice or may have the ability to affect a positive change in a community that clearly needs so much of it today. I have this fascination with this city that I was raised in, and that my ancestors were raised in and had such a foothold in. It’s in me historically, it’s in me genetically.

More about Stephen here:

Clinton Snider

Untitled, 2008
Oil on canvas

I have lived in Detroit for many years, since moving here in 1991 when I started college. Over the years the city itself has been my muse. I find deep inspiration and wonder in the streets, and neighborhoods and the nature found in Detroit. I have thoroughly investigated the abandoned spaces of the city, exploring scores of moldering buildings, vacant fields, and countless dilapidated houses, blocks upon blocks of empty broken streets and sprawling fields that at one time were neighborhoods, or fenced in forests that were once yards. Gathering forgotten objects and bringing them back to the studio, and laboring to uncover the hidden significance.

In my wanderings I encounter discarded photographs and family albums, which I take and keep safe. Occasionally I feel a need to paint one of the images. Painting for me is a means of empathizing with a subject, and by painting an old photo I allow myself to peel back layers of time and glimpse into that moment when it was taken. I want to go beyond nostalgia and find something more tangible; there are many sensations, humor, pride, sadness, or doubt, sometimes within one image.

Quite recently I uncovered images of my father in the mid seventies, when he was an agent with the F.B.I. It was surprising to see my father looking younger than I am now in a recognizable Detroit neighborhood. Of course I knew he worked in the city but I never made the connection that he must know these same streets (in perhaps a different way) that I am so fond of.

In these particular 8x10 photographs He is on site of a fraud investigation where contractors have apparently been taking HUD (Housing and Urban Development) funds to clean up abandoned houses. Instead they were burying the debris and keeping the profits.


With its thousands of deserted, moldering buildings and blocks upon blocks of empty, broken streets, Detroit is the mother of all scrap yards. And ever since the late 1960s, when abandonment of the city by businesses and the populace began to explode exponentially, its trove of cast-offs has been mined by legions of scavengers, including at least two generations of visual artists. True bricoleurs, these cultural producers have worked by bringing the refuse of life into the refuge of art, imbuing the otherwise forgotten with renewed significance and thus value. Thirty-six year old Clinton Snider is one of the latest to emerge.

This work builds a new representational order literally upon the debris Snider has collected and adds narrative content to its visual form. In these pieces, which are basically paintings executed on junk substrates, the material aspect of art work is always evident. Painted on top of retrieved strips of lumber, the conventional "window" view is interrupted by the different lengths of board that have been hammered together,

Subverting the rectangular plane of traditional easel painting. Melancholy seems to be the pervasive mood here, but not entirely, on one level the painting is about the decline of modern civilization in Detroit, but on another arguably more important level, it is about the persistence of life even in the city's most desolate provinces.

More info on Clinton at:

Andrew Thompson

“Where ya’ headed, Stranger?”, 2006
Materials pulled from the trash, the studio floor, previous artworks, and adhesives.

When driving to Milwaukee, my girlfriend and I hit a deer outside of Kalamazoo. The deer didn’t die right away, so we had to wait for the sheriff to arrive to end the deer’s life. While waiting for the police, an off-duty fire marshal stopped by and offered to beat the deer to death with his flashlight. Luckily, he did not have the large flashlight with him. This situation, the moment before the sheriff pulls the trigger of his shotgun, is reconstructed through found materials and adhesives. These discarded and unwanted materials are tossed together to create some facsimile of real events from the past. These constructions become hardened and steadfast with glue. At times, memory and one’s psyche are reminiscent of this proposed process, inaccurate articles and residue of something from the past that exists in place of fact. Memories can be unlooked-for and undesirable, yet ever present. What if the things we threw away were as persistent as memory?

Andrew Thompson grew up in Kansas City, Missouri and received his BFA in Sculpture from the Kansas City Art Institute. Thompson moved from Cowtown to Motown to receive his MFA in Sculpture from Cranbrook Academy of Art. Since graduating, Andrew works as a collaborator with the Gallery Project in Ann Arbor as graphic designer and curator. Andrew teaches art at University of Michigan, Wayne State University, and Oakland Community College and currently resides in Detroit, MI.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Detroiter Show coming to Ann Arbor

In conjunction with the upcoming Semester in Detroit program at the University of Michigan, the students are hosting an art show of Detroit-based artists at the UM Student Union Art Lounge with the purpose of getting students familiar with Detroit art and excited about all that’s going on here. The show is organized by Kate Hariton, of the Semester in Detroit Planning Team, and Nick Sousanis, Director of the UM School of Art & Design's Work : Detroit exhibition venue and co-founder of The exhibition, which opens Saturday, February 16, with an opening reception from 7-10 pm, will feature 12 Detroit artists to be named soon.

More details to be posted in this space soon.

For more on Semester in Detroit, please click here: and here: