3rd times (still) a charm
With a new class of fellows, Kresge Arts in Detroit has poured $1.3 million into the region's arts community
Published: June 29, 2011
Current artist-in-residence and head of the sculpture department at Cranbrook Academy of Art, Heather McGill studied at the University of California at Davis and received her MFA from San Francisco Art Institute in 1984. A West Coast native, McGill has lived in the Detroit area for the past decade. Here, she says, she has the proximity to manufacturing to construct her sculptures and drawings. "The city's industrial heritage, specifically the auto industry and Ford's philosophy of mass production continues to intrigue me," McGill says. From her time spent in southern California, her work was influenced by the region's fetish artists, custom car crowd and surf culture. "Colliding modes of mass production (laser cutting) with customization (idiosyncratic sprayed patterns), I create work that appears seamless, mechanically wrought and gesture-free," she says. "I feel my voice is unique to the usages of these mediums, which are primarily employed within the gender-specific domains of customization and commodity production. Custom culture is implicitly based in male sexuality, where the painted surface embodies the object of desire and ultimately power. How can this thin veneer reflect so many stereotypes, project so much conventional imagery and accrue gender assignment?" McGill has received support for both permanent and temporary installations from the National Endowment for the Arts, LEF Foundation, California Arts Council and the San Francisco Arts Commission. Her work is found in the public collections of Sprint, Albright Knox Gallery, Fidelity Investments, Progressive Art Collection, Hallmark, Daimler, Compuware, Miami Art Museum, Kresge Art Museum and the Detroit Institute of Arts.
When it comes to large murals, mosaics and public art installations in Detroit, Hubert Massey's name is most likely the first that comes to mind. And he's somewhat of a people's champion, intent on collaborating with communities to create art that tells their stories. Among several other locations, his work can be viewed at the Museum of African American History, in Paradise Valley Park, at Campus Martius, and across the I-75 Mexicantown Bagley Bridge Gateway. A Grand Valley State University grad, Massey studied at the University of London, Slade Institute of Fine Arts. He studied with Stephen Dimitroff and Lucienne Bloch, both apprentices to muralist Diego Rivera. Massey is one of the only African-American artists who paints in the true Buon Fresco style. Massey says that he enjoys the work of Robert Tomlin, Henry Heading and Richard Bennett. "They're three extraordinary Detroit-area artists with very different talents," Massey says. He adds that the greatest impact the Kresge Fellowship will have on his career is that it will allow him to delve deep into the exploration and expansion of his art in new settings and cultures. "My passion for community artwork is rewarding because of my love of portraying the people that it represents," he says. "But these are often people who are economically challenged. Kresge's support is like a form of commission that allows me to continue serving the artistically underserved."
With work shown throughout the United States and Europe — including solo exhibitions at Salon 94 in New York, Galerie Laurent Godin in Paris, and Fargfabriken in Stockholm — the Phoenix-born artist Liz Cohen is currently an artist-in-residence and department of photography head at Cranbrook Academy of Art.
Cohen was recently included in Neville Wakefield's Commercial Break for the 54th Venice Biennale, Car Fetish, I Drive Therefore I Am at the Museum Tinguely, in Basel, Switzerland, and Femme Objet/Femme Sujet at the Centre de Art Contemporain in Meymac, France. Cohen is best known for her subversive auto sculpture project, "Bodywork," in which she transformed an East German 1987 Trabant into a 1973 Chevy El Camino. (See more of her work at tinyurl.com/3e629p6.)
Before Mark Newport landed in the Detroit area (he's an artist-in-residence and head of fiber at the Cranbrook Academy of Art), he lived in Amsterdam, New York and studied undergrad at the Kansas City Art Institute and received his MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Since then, he has exhibited internationally, including having work in collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Detroit Institute of Arts. At the moment, he's in the studio working on a series of small-scale carved figures based on the G.I. Joes and action figures he had as a child. "They are carved of wood and are costumed in either a knit or flocked costume," he says. "The figures have posable arms, heads and hips. Some explore the body type of the hero while others explore the relationship between the costume and the body underneath." As Newport sees it, artists themselves are posable as well. "I think there are many roles for artists in society. Some engage the community directly through social interactions, performance, public gardens, in order to explore a range of issues," he says. "Others observe and experience their daily life and make work in response to those experiences." Newport says he respects the commitment in work and teaching of Gerhardt Knodel, whose efforts, he says, "expanded and defined the field he works in."
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