Detroit Art City!

Nick Cave Costume Heard Herd
Nick Cave Costume Heard Herd
Nick Cave Costume, with happy young dancer!

Saturday was an outdoor performance extravaganza of Nick Cave’s costumes from his residency at Cranbrook.

Starting first with the lovely afternoon, and the sense of community that manifested in crowds of people on the hill ready to watch the dancers in anthropomorphic costumes dance and move to the beat of a small marching band.

I went with a friend who lives in Detroit, and the first thing that happened was that we decided to park far away and walk rather than pay $10 to go in the structure. It is in a very pretty part of the city, so we got to walk through a beautiful (if poorly maintained) park, and then down the hill to the park, which has another hill in it.

Grazing horses in front of the Renaissance Center
As they played L’après Midi d’un Faun, Horses grazed

Then, once we found a spot, we ran into the first person that we know, who had brought her mother, in from out of town. They shared our sheet and watched the show, chatting about the world, the community etc.

But the young woman wanted ice cream, so I went down the hill to get ice cream with her. And who should follow us back up the hill, but 2 of my students from FLY! I vaguely knew that one of them might be there since I had been talking to her mother earlier in the day. Even so, it was very random to be chased up the hill by 2 kids under 12.

Then the show, and afterwards, another FLY teacher was there with her kids, who were in our camps this summer too.

It is amazing how small the big scary world is, when it comes down to it!

Then someone said there were installations in the Dequindre Cut, so we walked down there and saw several installations: swings on an overpass, crazy steel-wire lightning erupting out of a hill, some weird constructions made out of gator board, and lots of beautiful murals/graffiti.

Having walked down the Dequindre Cut required a decision: to walk back to where we parked a few blocks from Milliken State Park, or to walk towards downtown and back up the river. I always love a good walk.

So off we went, down Gratiot, past a church with an Oktoberfest and a live pretty good live (high school) jazz band. Past the Fail Jail. Past several pieces of public art including some I’d never noticed before. Then into Campus Martius, and walking down Woodward to Hart Plaza we found some of those wacky merry-go-round chairs and some neat gazing balls.

The Ren Cen ever present with us on our journey, and Canada within sight for the last angle of the triangle.

In the photo of me, although the new landscaping in the park is more interesting than the statue, it is of one of the Stroh’s who loved bird-watching. We did see and hear some birds (and freighters and steamboats, oh my!).

Detroit Art City!!!

Little Red with a Twist

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Little Red in the show, Into the Woods, gets to turn the Wolf into a new cloak, after the part of the story you know. I won’t give it all away, but here’s a sneak peak at how she’ll look when the unexpected part of the story starts.

This play is great with all kinds of archetypical and symbolic overtones. You should definitely come see it if you are in the A2 area.

Participating in the Cannon

Summer Sun on top of Sun Rug
Although I would not say that these rugs were inspired by the work of Sonia Delaunay, after a series of drawings I did last year that were circular, someone directed me to look at her work. Of course I knew of her work before, she did both costume and fashion design, and when I was studying costume I stumbled across her renderings of geometrically influenced clothing many times. She was never as famous as her husband Robert Delaunay, but like Josef and Anni Albers, they were both artists of some repute.

Electric Prisms by Sonia Delaunay
An example of one of my inspirations, Sonia Delaunay’s “Electric Prisms”

Her work is geometric, but full of movement. In a book that I have called Cubism and Fashion, one of her circular drawings, a little like the one above is titled “Las Danseuses” (The Dancers), and you can see the circles as the spinning motion of dancers.

I suspect that this drawing, called “Electric Prisms” is about the intersection of people moving, though I’ve read no theory about it, so my guess may be incomplete. I think that because of a video of her from the Centre Pompidou in which she talks about wanting to contribute to the new generation of painters in the way that they learned from the previous generation.  She names Cezanne, specifically.

But towards the end, she explains where her interest lies now in the context of the “We were [working] with color and with rhythm, because all of life has rhythm. [I try] to see it, to feel it, but now, I’m disengaged from the theoretical aspects our research, and I express myself […] like poetry”*

In my own work, I play with color, line, shading, and form to create motion, to evoke emotions, as she says, seeing it and feeling it and making poetry visual vocabulary.  These rugs, though they are practical objects are about more than just pretty things for your floor.  They are inspired by a feeling, a desire to connect both to the older generation, as my grandmother taught me many hand-crafts, and to give something to the future by using sustainable practices as an artist when they are available to me.

 

*The translation/transcription is by me.  That’s why some things are in brackets: to make the translation understood more readily, I changed words that were either inaudible [working], or sound clunky in the informal English context of blogging “Il s’agit de le voir, le sentir” is literally “It acts upon,” but often treated as “The work is about” where I decided on “I try,” because the others felt too clunky.  Towards the end (1:09-1:18 or so), maybe my vocabulary fails me, or maybe it was just difficult to understand until she gets to the end about “like poetry.” Filling in or corrections welcomed.

Concentration

Summer Sun Rug (in progress)

Started a new rug to consign at a local boutique, more about that when I put the rugs and purses in progress into the shop.

Though I love drawing and sketching, often it is not the place where I make breakthroughs. The materiality and spatial relationships of things are somehow distant when they are on paper, and I can visualize something bigger and better, so at some point I just have to “waste material” and make it three dimensionally.

Perhaps that’s one of the reasons that recycled materials are so fascinating for me. They are cheap, sometimes discarded, sometimes just re-claimed and re-purposed. They are usually cheaper, so if something gets screwed up there is little risk.

Last year I did a series of drawings that were colorful concentric circles, inspired by a variety of sources, not least my own childhood attempts to do Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.”  This year those drawings have inspired or perhaps influenced the rag rugs I’ve begun to produce.

I’ve been reading a book put out by the Michigan State University Press about research done on a collection of Finnish American Rag Rugs. Though I never associated my hatred of waste and love of creative re-use with my Finnish Cultural Heritage, the more I read of this book, the more think that it, along with certain habits of humor and prosody, were inherited from my Finnish family.

The book contains stories about how the women, mostly from my grandmother’s generation or older, learned to weave, where they got their looms, whom they taught, and why they wove.

Although my rugs are crocheted rather than woven, it is interesting that, as a 4th generation Finnish American (mixed with other things, though also not more than 4th or 5th Generation on any side), some of the Suomilainen traits have trickled down.

I’ve written elsewhere about going to Finland while living in Spain, but I’ll briefly re-state it for you here and now:

It was half-way through my second year in Spain. Though at this point I still have an American Accent (can one ever really lose it entirely?), my Spanish is otherwise perfect. Nevertheless, every time I go someplace where they don’t already know me, people try to speak to me in absurdly broken English.

So I go to Finland, for a little more than a week, and within hours, people are speaking to me in Finnish, by default. They do not speak to the Germans in Finnish at the cyber cafe where I go for a late night cup of tea. To me, I look just as much like them as I do like a Finn.  When she goes before me in line to buy a pack of gum, they speak in English to the Chinese girl who lives in Oulu and actually DOES speak Finnish.

Finally in exasperation, I teach myself, trying to remember how my grandmother would pronounce things, how to say “I do not speak Finnish,” and “Do you speak English?” At a book store when my oil pastels set off the alarm, I try the first one, and the lady looks at me funny and switches without a beat into English. I explain I’m looking for a bilingual Kalevala. Then at a yarn shop I use the second. This time the girl looks much more confused and starts to reply in Finnish, catches herself, and asks, “But, don’t you speak Finnish?”

A year later, in Brussels, we stumbled into a Finnish Cultural Center. To my Belgian Tour Guide, they spoke in English, to me in Finnish. (It was simple, “Hei Hei” “kaksi euroa, kiitos” “takemiin”). I passed rather than point out that I wasn’t in fact a Finn. They heard me speaking to him in English spattered with French.

Ethnic Identity is funny. At some point in my life it was very important. In 5th grade I did whole projects of study on nothing but Finland and Jewish-ness. As I’ve gotten older, though I appreciate and better understand some of my roots, I also appreciate the freedom of being an American. I pick and choose. I adopt Spanish table manners, and Persian cooking; Japanese paper-folding, and French radio.

But somehow, despite all my picking and choosing, some of my heritage shows through.

Bracelets for Ecoride

Photo of 2 Bracelets

Next Sunday, the 23 of June, is the forty-first annual EcoRide. It has a couple of different loops for local bicyclists that stop at a variety of eco-conscious area sites. Ann Arbor is rife with ecologically conscious farmers, recycling and re-use places, etc, so the EcoRide only stops at a few, but it is nevertheless a fun day.

This year, I’ll be participating in their new pop-up art gallery event in Riverside Park (the ANN ARBOR one, not the Ypsi one), bringing along my rag rug (and maybe some little things) and sharing my skills as a fiber artist to raise awareness about sustainability. Just like the now slightly tarnished “Live Strong” bracelet, participants will be invited to make their own recycled t-shirt bracelets, titled, reCYCLE bracelets. Hopefully it will not only be fun for the young riders, but will inspire others to share what they know about recycling.


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Here’s a video I made for the Ecology Center so they can promote the EcoRide.

In addition, my mother will be at the Leslie Science Center in the Project Grow Garden there. She makes recycled garden sculptures that can be used as trellises, light trees, or scarecrows as well as looking really cool.

Recycled Planter with pink flowers