“Keep kids away from art,” said Ronen Goldstein, an Art and Design senior whose work is on display for the School of Art and Design’s Sixth Annual All Student Exhibition at the Work: Ann Arbor gallery on State Street. “It’s like a terrible drug.”
Take Goldstein’s words as a warning. With a mix of multimedia sensations, you may find yourself wandering around the gallery, surprised and unable to escape the attraction of your peers’ paintings, photographs, video and sculptures. You’ll quietly reassure yourself you’ll leave after just one more piece.
You – like many of the exhibiting artists at the Work gallery – might find yourself addicted to art.
But why? Work: Detroit, the new sister gallery to Work: Ann Arbor, explores that question with its “Why – Why we make creative work, from the people who make it” exhibit. The answer at this show can be found within the art itself.
A video installation in the basement of the Ann Arbor gallery tells a story. Projected clips of home video, visible through tiny metal keyholes in a white wall, give the viewer a voyeuristic glimpse into another person’s life. This exposure evokes feelings and questions about oneself through the lens of another.
The installation’s setup alludes to the greater reason why students create art. To all but one or two people, the story is blurry and out of focus, but who can squeeze in and press their eye up to a keyhole in the screen can watch the lives of strangers unfold. To those who stand behind the openings with keys dangling from silvery strings above, there is a moment of clarity.
That’s what keeps Art and Design juniors Cassie McQuater and Danielle Davis going.
“You throw half of your sanity into your art, but there are moments of clarity,” said Davis, who contributed a painting of a deep-blue Detroit scene with a missing figure hauntingly carved out of the work.
“You can go long through periods of nothing and then have this one really great moment that can last you for the next few months,” said McQuater, who is displaying a minimalist line drawing of a “frog or turtle guy” laying on pillows at the gallery.
Yet for all of the students it seems to be more than just a search for clarity that drives them to create. Davis said that, like many of her peers, “making art is what you do – you can’t help it.” “For me, anyway, it’s an all-encompassing thing,” McQuater said. “It’s a purpose, but more.”
But for many, the process of realizing that purpose as a student is a challenge. “(The School of Art and Design) challenges your notion of aesthetics and order in conjunction with your sanity,” Goldstein said. “Have you ever had a salt bath? It’s kind of like that . but you wrestled a tiger beforehand.”
Yet while Goldstein and his peers view being a student in the School of Art and Design as challenging because of the constant work critiques and, therefore, criticism of one’s self, the diverse work that comes from the school must make up for it.
Goldstein is running a video project, “Out of Focus,” in the basement of the gallery, from the Prison Creative Arts Project. He collaborated with two inmates to create a piece influenced by the struggles they faced before incarceration. And while seasoned artists like Goldstein are continuing to make waves in the art scene, those new to it are causing more than just ripples.
New work from freshmen gives us something to look forward to in the future. In the Jean Paul Slusser Gallery on North Campus, work from freshmen in the School of Art and Design rivals that of some graduate students.
A series of oil paintings by freshman Sarah Jones mixes the expressionist style of painting with dripping paint and large brush strokes on miscellaneous paper items like comic strips, patterned contact paper and wallpaper. The effect Jones creates with her combination of color and pattern could make even the most skeptical critic stand silently in awe of the young spirit that spilled out, in the most pure and raw form, onto a canvas.
Another freshman, Maria Svidler draws the casual stroller in with a magnetic force from her mixed media sculpture. Suspending a blue dress made of Tyvek, a synthetic fiber, from a wooden frame by weaving threads of thin string as immaculately as a spider, Suidler not only catches the dress in her web but also the viewer.
Work: Ann Arbor, along with the Slusser Gallery and Warren Robbins Gallery on North Campus, boast works ranging from simple sketches to elaborate conceptual pieces. Regardless of the intricacy of the works in these galleries, each piece represents both what and why students around campus continue to create.
“I think that when you decide you want to be an artist, that takes why you want to create to the next level,” Davis said. “When you decide, it becomes your purpose.”
There will always be those people who walk out of a gallery huffing, “I don’t get it.” But these artists will make you get it.
And while they admit that art has completely taken them with its addictive nature, don’t be afraid to try it just this once.