BY MICHAEL J. HLYWA | Staff Writer
When a gallery director admits with a smile that an upcoming show is one she will enjoy walking through every day for the next month, you know you’re in for a real treat. That’s how Anne Rubin, director of Gallery One, feels about the current show “Emerging Artists: Michigan.”
“I love it,” Rubin said. “Every piece is so strong, so beautiful, so unique. I’m really excited about it.”
The fourth and final installation, which opened on April 8 and runs through April 27, in Gallery One’s “Emerging Artists” series takes a step back from a regional focus and showcases the work of artists from across Michigan. Like in the previous installation, the artists featured have something to say about life and use interesting, various techniques to say it.
When Rubin designed this year’s gallery series, she had only one theme in mind: highlighting up-and-coming artists who live in, were educated in or have something to say about Michigan. That the last show seemed to also have a theme of employing found objects was a fortuitous coincidence.
At a glance, the works in the show seemingly have nothing in common. Upon examination, however, the show’s artists, Marco Terenzi, Kate Silvio and James Rotz, all seem to explore putting down roots, one more literally and the others more conceptually.
Terenzi, an Oakland County resident and recent graduate from Detroit’s College for Creative Studies, definitely plays with botany, but in a surprising way. Terenzi started out by painstakingly crafting a seed bank for a collection of his family’s generations-old heirloom seeds, using antique tools and old-world techniques.
“All of the seeds these days are genetically modified,” Terenzi said. “It’s just important to have these original seeds.”
From there, he started to explore the collision of nature and industry.
“Then the other two pieces evolved from the idea of these engineered seeds,” he continued. “So they’re like a scifi-based what would happen if bioengineering got to the point where these things could construct themselves, like self-growing structures.
“They’re made in old-world construction techniques. So they’re made using dying processes like riveting and ironwork. They’re like futuristic seeds from the past.”
Rubin appreciates Terenzi’s craftsmanship and his fusion of two distinct concepts.
“I’m really impressed with him,” Rubin said. “He has taken what is basically an industrial approach and made it organic. He’s done a really outstanding job at weaving these two things together.”
Like Terenzi, Silvio, the show’s second artist, also completed her undergraduate at CCS, but then went on to get her master’s degree from Cranbrook Academy of Art. Now she lives with her husband and 18-month-old daughter in Grand Rapids and teaches sculpture and 3-D design at Kendall College of Art and Design. It’s evident in her older work that Silvio is also no stranger to organic forms. Being a new mother, however, has narrowed her focus to the creation and nurturing of life.
“I basically create my work in response to my life,” Silvio said. “The body of work that I’m working on right now is in response to being pregnant and this huge transition into becoming a mother, which is a crazy thing.
“So I’ve been working on this body of work that revolves around the tradition of making quilts for a newborn child. (I’m) just thinking about that tradition and the heart that goes into it, the work, the handcrafted feeling and my attempts at creating those things out of rubber and steel.”
Most wouldn’t think to use industrial materials to convey the softness of a quilt or the tenderness of a mother, but Silvio says they’re the perfect means to represent the life-changing role of parenthood.
“You become entrenched in who you are, and then all of a sudden you’re nurturing,” Silvio explained. “So I think that those materials are ill-equipped to be comforting, they’re ill-equipped to take care and to nurture, and I think we all are as people ill-equipped (for parenthood). In my mind it’s trying to make those things work and become comforting and nurturing.”
The show’s final artist, Rotz, of Ann Arbor, recently received his master of fine arts in photography from U-M. His collection of three large photographs and three companion books, entitled “Kibbutz of Desire,” challenges people to take a fresh look at their surroundings, ignore the obvious and find the hidden beauty. In other words, recognize and remember why you took root here, wherever your “here” is.
“I add the notion of accepting your environment in its totality, including the negative attributes, physical and otherwise, rather than fighting, complaining, and ridiculing those attributes, you accept them, while reimagining the space or redefining the space’s poetics, these elements that provide identity, history, and personality,” Rotz wrote in his artist statement.
For Rubin, Rotz’s photographs are strikingly grounded.
“You can really feel where he was when he took these,” Rubin explained. “They do move you to the spot. And they’re all sufficiently familiar, so that’s easy to do. And I think that’s what it’s all about, finding yourself in the place you belong, dealing with the fact that it’s never going to be perfect.”
But to really understand Rotz’s concept, Rubin says you have to take the time to read his handcrafted books.
“Just buzzing through is not going to do it,” Rubin said.
In fact, that’s true of the entire exhibit. All of the artist’s pieces demand careful consideration. They have a lot to convey – more than can be said in a passing moment. And that what gives Rubin reason to smile.