Archives for the month of: July, 2012

I know that I have been going on and on about Re:View Contemporary, but there’s still more. The current show “War Paint” features the work of Niagara, an early collaborator of the late Mike Kelley. In fact, Niagara painted a portrait of Kelley just for the show.

Many of Niagara’s works feature sexy women dressed like soldiers and armed with red lipstick and a permanent wave not to mention a punchy quip with a whole lot of attitude. But there is a serious side to the story – the show is inspired by WWII and images of the 1940s, and is about the human spirit in times of war or adversity.

Treat ‘Em Rough Boys by Niagara

But don’t just hang out in the front gallery spaces. At the back there are works of hot, up and coming talent like Ian Swanson and Cedric Tai, whom I mentioned in previous posts. But there is also Matthew Zacharias, an artist whose recent solo show, “Childhood, Boyhood, Sonic Youth” received critical attention in Hyperalleric and Grassfed Art.

Flipbook by Matthew Zacharias

Zacharias’s art begins with a narrative response to images, ones that he’s heard before or just made up. His works are constructed from paint, silk screens, video, found objects or “whatever means necessary to get the job done.”

Accessory Kit by Matthew Zacharias

And speaking of silk screens ….

Another leg of our tour is a visit to Cyberoptix Tie Lab, where we will be witnessing the genius of artist-entrepreneur, Bethany Shorb. Her hand printed ties sport unique, clever and edgy designs. She takes the stodgy out of wearing a tie and makes it downright fun. I bought my 16 year old son a blue “Squid Brain” and he just loves it.

Squid Brain Ties at Cyberoptix Tie Lab

Bring your credit cards … I don’t think you’ll be able to resist taking one (or two) home. Take a look at her website at

For more information on Re:View Contemporary, Niagara and Matt Zacharias, go to


Last stop on the WCA Detroit Art Tour is Lincoln Street Art Park (LSAP), an outdoor public art and exhibition space born out of bicycle culture and a dream of sustainability, community engagement and good urban design. It is located on the property of Recycle Here!, a grassroots, neighborhood, recycling event that evolved into a city-wide, fully-funded program.

Beginning humbly in 2011 with a grant awarded by Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs administered by the Detroit Recreation Department, LSAP has grown organically to meet the pent-up demand of Detroit artists and residents seeking to engage and celebrate the diverse history, culture and creativity of the local community.

Within the first year, LSAP commissioned an installation, two sculptures and two murals. Additionally, work was begun on pathways, a performance space, a fire pit and various gardens.

“Pheasant and Freighter”, a spectacular 92’ x 20’ mural by Marianne Audrey Burrows anchors the north end of the park and is the backdrop of a perennial wildflower garden and compliments a large bird’s nest sculpture of steel re-bar and guitar strings.

LSAP founders are: James Willer: (architect, site planner), Matthew Naimi (land/materials donor; site development), Marianne Audrey Burrows (muralist, art coordinator) and Michelle DiMercurio (volunteer/activities coordinator, marketing/PR, budget-keeper, garden design, graphic designer).

Simone DeSousa, artist and owner of Re:View Contemporary, has an impeccable eye and offers her patrons a taste of art on the cutting edge, betting on a select few of Detroit emerging talents to make their mark — locally, nationally and internationally.

Drawing Machine Inspired By Ross Byers

Cedric Tai, born in Detroit, received a BFA from Michigan State University and is currently pursuing a Masters of Fine Art at the Glasgow School of Art. He is one of DeSousa’s picks as well as one of Detroit’s darlings, a young awardee of the sought-after Kresge Fellowship in the Visual Arts.

Tai has had solo exhibitions nationally and internationally and is currently exploring a new body of work that includes kinetic sculptures, conceptual pieces and text based works. His work thrives on discovering the essence of the particular and how to create momentum with a strict set of limitations. He does this with paint, clay, light, people, sawdust, inks, expectations, and ideas.

Most recently he has created a drawing machine that traces the perimeter of a room, like a child’s Spiralgraph toy. “Sometimes the best work is the kind that doesn’t have a destination, we don’t know where it fits in, but it represents itself honestly.”


A must see gallery on the WCA Detroit Art Tour is Re:View Contemporary, now featuring “War Paint” with works by Niagara, a punk musician painter with a sexy, sardonic wit. Re:View Contemporary can always be counted on to keep pulse on what’s sharp and edgy in the Detroit art scene and represents some its homegrown risings stars. Ian Swanson is one such artist and will be having his first solo exhibition with the gallery this September.

Post Pre History by Ian Swanson

Swanson was born in Detroit, received a BFA in painting from Wayne State University and is now an MFA candidate at Pratt Institute. An active member of the Detroit art community, he co-founded project space ORG and helped establish and organize exhibitions at the North End Studios. Swanson has exhibited nationally and has been featured in New American Paintings #95.

Swanson is experimental and multi-disciplinary in his studio practice, his works investigations of contemporary popular, aesthetic and historical culture. Fascinated with the liminal state between dissolution and causation, Swanson’s works are “formalist reductions and recombinations of cultural archetypes transformed through repetitious engagement.”

His current focus is on the intersections of image, space, and time: visual, psychological, commercial, and virtual; illuminating the strange logic of shared representations of the present through abstraction, intuition, and appropriation.


The Detroit Art Tour for the WCA Summer Conference begins at 10:00 am on July 21st in the Rivera Courtyard at the Detroit Institute of Art where I will be giving a presentation on Diego Rivera’s Industry Murals.

2013 will mark the 80th anniversary of Diego Rivera´s most accomplished frescoes in the United States. In March 1933 the Detroit Institute of Arts inaugurated this masterpiece, the most controversial work of art in Michigan history. Criticized and defended by city leaders, art critics and people on all sides of the political spectrum, Rivera’s mural summoned thousands of viewers to Woodward Avenue to witness a unique artistic interpretation of Detroit’s industrial might.

Infused by ancient Mexican cultural elements and excited by the notion of Detroit as the city of the future, Rivera’s artistic impulses manifested a rare blend of unconditional reverence for technological advancement, industrial design and manpower with a deeply rooted faith in ancient Mexican cultural and religious values.

The outcome witnessed in Spring 1933 by thousands of spectators was an astonishing 27-panel monumental work that merges Aztec deities with modern machines. Join the WCA Detroit Tour and learn more about this unique and artistic jewel of Detroit.


Using the cotton T-shirt as a stand-in for the ordinary person, Margaret Parker’s “Ladder Unraveled” reflects on the flimsiness of the American Dream and questions how identity can be altered by financial turmoil.

Parker’s creation is fabricated from decontructed t-shirts which she refashions into a dramatic yet delicate sculpture that aims to discover new meanings from old fragmented realities. The human element is prominent in her conceptual vision through her use of such a humble and generic garment as her primary medium.

With parents who lived through the Great Depression, Parker like many Americans, was brought up with the expectation of a brighter future, and a promise of  “American exceptionalism” that would not fail her, only to be disappointed by the current state of economic hardship in this country and the global marketplace.

“Ladder Unraveled” faces the disappointment and insecurity that results from these false promises and shattered dreams, and dares to propose something new. Working with fragments of the old, Parker rebuilds and inspires a stream of invention, a ladder that leads to a realm of yet to be formed ideas and constructs.


For the past 2 days Margaret Parker and I have been at the Gallery at the Duderstadt Center at the University of Michigan setting up Man Up! No Balls About It, the exhibit for the Summer Conference of the Women’s Caucus for Art. As co-chairs of the exhibition committee of the Michigan Chapter of the WCA, we have been working like crazy for months. And happily, after all our efforts, the exhibition is just about ready and will open this Thursday on July 12.

“Ladder Unraveled” (pre-installation) by Margaret Parker

Local artists have been dropping off their artwork and shipments have been coming in from artists all over the United States and Canada. We are particularly grateful to Birgit Huttemann-Holz and Kathleen Letts for helping us unpack and lending their curatorial know-how, which included some serious “man power”, moving heavy exhibition pedestals and wall partitions.
“Neimandsland” by Birgit Huttemann-Holz

And we cannot forget the cheerful contributions of Amanda Moyer who helped us hang some of the bigger pieces and patiently aligned title and name cards, not to mention doing a little of touch up painting on the gallery walls.

“The Antithesis of Masculinity and Feminity” by Amanda Moyer

Thank you artists for your contributions, artistic and otherwise!!! We look forward to celebrating with you at the artist reception on July 20, 6-9 pm.


I look in the mirror these days and aside from signs of aging, I see glimpses of my mother, my aunt, my grandmothers. Even the face recognizer in iphoto identifies the resemblances. Images of my mother and me come up as the same person. At one time this would have upset me greatly as I wanted total independence from her … I didn’t want to act like her, look like her, sound like her, walk like her … She was bigger than life, like Aunty Mame, dramatic and wild and just plain out there. I wanted to stability, serenity and quiet.

For decades, I worked hard at individuation and accentuating the differences between us. She was artistic and erratic, so I was academic and controlled; she wore vibrant colors and theatrical clothes, I wore dark cool shades and dressed more casually; she was intense, I was calm; she was a little ADD, I was a little OCD; she was the life of the party, I preferred to stay at home; she was extremely affectionate, I was more reserved. She had a crazy way of talking with her made up words and going off on tangents; I tried to speak plainly and clearly, and studied linguistics. The list goes on.

In one particular instance, in my early twenties, my fear of being like my mother became overwhelmingly clear to me. I had just graduated from the University of Toronto and as reward to myself, I made an appointment to get my hair cut at Vidal Sassoon in Yorkville, a fashionable shopping district in midtown Toronto. My hair was long at the time and I told the hair stylist, Alfredo, that I was up for a dramatic change. I wanted to go quite a bit shorter, but not too short or too severe. The discussion went on for a while and I thought that the two of us were in sych. But evidently Alfredo had his own ideas, and he gave me the shortest haircut I ever had, not much different than my mother’s gamin cut, her signature style, very similar to Mia Farrow’s haircut in Rosemary’s Baby. So we are talking extreme.

I looked in the mirror and just stared at my reflection in total shock, holding back tears. I looked just like my mother. I had crossed that line of self differentiation and I was horrified. Now don’t get me wrong, the horror did not come from a feeling that my mother was unattractive. She was in fact quite stylish and even stunning, and to be honest, she was the better looking of the two of us. It’s just that I wanted to be myself, and I had to fight for that so hard in our relationship because she was quite a forceful personality and had strong ideas about the way I looked and acted. And I fell short, often. I know she loved me, but I was an ongoing project for her, her little doll.

But back to my haircut – Alfredo finished up with the ritual of twirling me in the styling chair holding a hand held mirror positioned so I could see the way my hair looked in the back – I could barely speak but I’m sure I said something in acknowledgement and then just paid my bill, ran out of the salon and immediately went to Holt Renfrew down the street to buy a hat. I was so desperate to cover my hair, that money was no object and I bought a very glamourous and quite expensive wide-brimmed black straw hat, and plunked it on my head and walked out of the store.

And there’s the irony. The hat solution was no solution at all since not only did my mother wear her hair very short but she also adored hats, the more dramatic the better. She wore big hats with flowers, Mary Poppins hats, cocktail hats, bowler hats, tams with feathers, even tiaras (an embarrassing story that deserves a whole entry on its own). There really was no escape for me.

And now my mother’s been gone over a year. Her short hair and dramatic ways are only the stuff of memories. I look in the mirror and see her and see myself struggling for years … and for what. To have waited until my 40s to discover that yes indeed I am an artist like my mother, that I am intense, dramatic and wild. That life is like a drug for me, like it was for her, that I want to scream and dance with joy when I sense beauty, whether its a work of art, the sound of music, the fragrance of a flower, the sight of deer in a meadow or the touch of someone close to me. Just like my mother. That I make up crazy words and go off on tangents just like her.

Yes I see you my beloved mother, every day, in my face, in my eyes, in my hands, in my feet, in my thick coarse hair, that’s just like yours, only a little “longer”.


Two artists featured in “Man Up! No Balls About It” explore the notion of power by reversing the gaze, objectifying men as sexual objects of fancy.

Motorcyclist by Maxine Olson

Maxine Olson’s “Fly” series fixates on the male crotch. Her motivation was primarily to challenge and confront basic attitudes and double standards she had experienced as a woman. Men in art history are portrayed as powerful, as poets and artists, with no emphasis on their sexuality, whereas women are often portrayed as sexual objects. Her intent was to “confront male sexuality by focusing on their crotch and to see how the images would be interpreted.”

“Frocked” by Maxine Olson

Brenda Oelbaum’s “Family Jewels” is a collection of antique glass paperweights with images of sexts from men.
 Her installation turns the paradigm of ‘Men see, Women are seen’ on its head, so to speak. For this exhibition she took the show title ‘Man Up’ literally. Oelbaum quips, “‘Man Up!’ sounds like a ‘HARD ON’ to me. So in these pieces I am presenting the viewer with a collection of DICKPICS sent to me by virtual strangers. To titillate, to shock? Oh my, how can that be?”

“Family Jewels Collection” by Brenda Oelbaum


The artwork is starting to come into the Gallery at the Duderstadt Center at U of M for the WCA’s upcoming visit “Man Up! No Balls About”. Cyane Tornatzky is one of the artists whose work will be featured in the exhibit. She is a digital artist working out of Fort Collins, Colorado and is Assistant Professor of Electronic Art at Colorado State University.

Tornatzky’s digital images play with the physical posturing of power. She has identified as a feminist since the age of 13 and over the years has seen feminism get a bad name in spite of the still omnipresent signs of white male privilege.

Tornatzky doesn’t feel adversarial to those in power. “Who can blame them for wanting to stay on top? Instead, maybe those not on top can ‘try it on for size’ and see what it feels like to unconsciously access a physical embodiment of strength and power.”

Man Up! No Balls About It
July 12, 2012 – August 9, 2012
Artist’s Reception: Friday July 20, 2012, 6-9 pm

Gallery in the Duderstadt Center
The University of Michigan
2281 Bonisteel Boulevard
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-2094