Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Two Detroit Art Shows in One Night (5/15/09)

College for Creative Studies

Student Exhibition

As an art educator, I get free tickets to attend the opening of the CCS Student Exhibition every year. This year, I took my son Jesse with me. Jesse is a really good artist, largely self-educated (he grew up mostly with his mom, out of town). He's not in art school, but it's one of a number of things that crosses his mind once in a while, I think. Anyway, I thought he would enjoy the show; he agreed to tag along.

After some serious noshing in the art educator's tent, we hit the show. First stop was the illustration department. (I graduated from CCS in 1980 with a major in illustration, and was also on the faculty part-time as an instructor of airbrush illustration from 1988-1992 or thereabouts.) For the uninitiated, CCS is a high-powered private art school with a long tradition and great reputation. The Illustration department is one of the highlights of the school (well, I may be biased, but really, it's a great program-- typically, faculty members are all working professional artitsts). Here are a few samples of some of the work that we saw...

First up, a couple of really disturbing pieces by Matthew Debeul.

A very nice painting by Alonzo Edwards

Moving along to the Fine Art part of the show, we found some strong painting over there as well.
This first piece is by Lisa Poszywak.

The next piece is by Camille LaMontagne.

Sorry, didn't get the name on this next piece. It was really crowded, and we were moving pretty fast so we could get over to the other art show later that evening

This is only a very small sample of the show. CCS also has a major automotive design program, digital media, crafts, etc etc etc. Due to the time factor, we limited ourselves mainly to the illustration and painting areas of the show.

For more information, click here for the CCS website

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Free Alcohol [ism]
Amanda Faye Cain

So I was at the opening of the CPOP show a couple weeks ago... Jesse and friend Dan B showed up. Dan whipped out a postcard and said, "Hey, you should check out this show a friend of ours is putting on." The card said FREE ALCOHOL [ism], a photography installation. At the bottom it read an opportunity of choice. "This friend of ours, Amanda, gives people a bunch of free booze, and takes photographs of them as they become increasingly drunk." It sounded intriguing...

A couple weeks later, after attending the CCS show, Jesse and I went to see Amanda's show. It was a one-night deal, located in Detroit's Russell Industrial Center. The RIC is a very large, old factory complex built between 1915 and 1925. Originally housing an auto body supplier, it is now home to a number of artists, printers, and other businesses. It's definitely old and funky, and very Detroit.

We pulled into the parking lot, and climbed some very steep stairs, all the way up to the fifth floor. We came out of the stairwell into a very wide corridor. This hallway was so wide, you could drive a truck through it. I have been in a number of other parts of the RIC, but this area was pretty dark and deserted. After following the corridor for some distance and through a handful of turns, we arrived at the location for the show.

We entered a large dark room, and as we came in, I saw a young woman, bathed in a red light, writing on the wall. This was the artist, Amanda. She was very intent, focused on her work.

(Amanda, a bit later in the evening)

We walked past the area where she was working, following a long curving path lined with old church pews. They led to a platform, on which was, I don't know what to call it exactly, let's say a pavilion of some sort, with a bright light inside it.

I walked up a few steps, and discovered that there was no entryway. Pulling the curtains aside, I entered the pavilion. In it was a number of tables with different kinds of alcoholic beverages, some people drinking, and a whole lot of photographs affixed to the curtains. The photos (shot by Amanda) were of people drinking and appearing to get increasingly drunk.

The atmosphere was pretty calm, people drinking and conversing. Some people started pouring themselves some pretty hefty drinks!

I wasn't the only one taking photos.

So all in all, I found this whole thing to be very interesting. Anyone who has followed this blog for any length of time will probably be aware that I am not the biggest fan of installation art. However, I found this show to be very intriguing on a number of levels-- there I was, walking around in this installation, watching people partake of the free booze, enjoying the photos that were hanging on the curtains (attached with wooden clothespins), taking photos of the people and of the photos and of another guy doing the same thing. It dawned on me that I was not just an observer, but, like everyone else there, was really an active participant, a part of the artwork itself in a sense.

I stayed for about ninety minutes, took a bunch of photos, and talked with several people, and had a pretty good time in general. (I quit drinking twenty years ago, so I was not a participant as a consumer of the free beverages.) By the time I left, things were getting a bit livelier. A few people were definitely showing some signs of having had a few drinks, but overall, the atmosphere was still pretty relaxed.

My original impression of what was going to be happening here was that the artist was going to be taking pictures of people drinking. That she had already done, prior to this show. I spoke with her for a few minutes, and asked her if she would be taking photos of people there that evening. She said, "I don't know, maybe later-- we'll see what happens." Initially, from what Jesse and Dan had told me, I thought that this whole thing was going to be really more of a goof, but after attending the event, and more specifically after reading Amanda's description of the show on a facebook page she had created for the event, I came to realize that there was actually a more serious tone to the event than I had initially been aware of; in fact, I suspect that many of the participants were not really even aware of this. Read her description as follows:

Amanda Faye Cain Friday, May 15, 2009 at 8:00pm Russell Industrial Center 1604 Clay St., Bldg #1, Floor 5 Detroit, MI I have taken photographs of 12 people drinking alcohol in a controlled studio setting. I will be showing 189 of these photographs which are a mix of digital, 35mm and medium format. The mix represents my progression through our technological, fast-paced world. Most of the film was scanned before it was printed. Free alcohol will be self-served, and there will be twelve different kinds to choose from. I have worked on this project for two years and will present a hand-written manuscript of my experiences with alcohol now; over the past two years, and of my experiences with it as a child. I want spectators to think about their actions. I was hoping that by providing viewers with enough examples of psychological distress, the choice to drink might be hindered. I will also photograph the results as they happen, and somewhat feel like a mad scientist. Alcohol is, and has always been part of our culture. Though I have researched the written side of information on the addiction throughout these two years, I did not come across the answer to why this is so. There are multiple reasons, or justifications if you will, why people choose to be intoxicated, but none of them involve facing the reality of a situation. I am not going to be the one to say that something that damages the body is bad for the body, but I will present opportunity for others to reflect on themselves and their relationship with their subconscious desires.

Did any of the participants actually reflect on themselves and their drinking, or were they just drinking? Let's hope that at least a few folks got the point. (I'm not anti-drinking, by the way; it was just something that did not work very well for me personally. Moderation is a good thing.)

Congratulations to Amanda for this show, and kudos to her for putting so much time and energy into sharing with others something that obviously has a lot of meaning for her.

BTW, I recommend that you check out the Russell Industrial Center website-- click here.

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(Note: these photos were taken with my new Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS, with no flash or tripod. The "IS" stands for "image stabilization", which seems to work pretty well, for the most part. Nice little camera, smaller than a deck of cards.)