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Sticks & Stones: A Social Art Happening

After months of planning and rallying (and anxiety on my part), Sticks & Stones took place last night. The social art happening consisted of people, standing in the street as silent "statues" holding posters of comments collected from MLive articles over the last year. The sentiments from these comments were largely about Ypsilanti, its inhabitants, youth and activity here, many of them stereotypes, hateful and hurtful in nature. 

For the first 30 minutes, participants stood in line at MarketPlace Square* and didn't speak to pedestrians. Viewers started to gather and read the posters, one by one. A number of people came up to me visibly moved and upset by the comments. They couldn't believe they were real. The combined impact of seeing them all together brought tears to people's eyes. 

Following the silent portion of the event, we asked people to answer 3 questions: 

1. What is your first memory of being discriminated against?

2. Have you ever been the perpetrator of intolerance/hate and how do you feel about it now?

3. What real action can you take from this point to drive positive change?

People took to social media, standing with one another, taking photos, streaming video, meeting new friends. Using the hashtag #sticksandstones, we shared content which will be collected and shown at our studio next month during First Fridays Ypsi, September 2nd. It was positive and wonderful and powerful. (You can continue to use the hashtag #sticksandstones and be part of the show too!) 

As we look back on the event and view these photos, we see the diverse support we had last night, in race, ethnicity, age, experience, and we are moved by their belief in our vision to stand up to hate.

Ironically, the media attention we received drove even more hateful commentary, which we find amusing and helpful. The same people who hated on the event and called us "mershmallow soft" (their spelling, not mine), cited Clint Eastwood's phrase to "get over it", also took the time to listen to the radio interview, find social media comments and cite them when writing more comments, and read the article which resulted in online arguments. What I've come to realize is that while I try to listen to political figures who I will not vote for, or read comments from those I don't agree with, our event hit a nerve. (At the time of publishing this blog post, there were 154 comments on the MLive article). 

Here are facts as I know them:

• When Clint Eastwood was growing up, there was no internet. Kids and adults didn't cyber-bully and humiliate one another publicly, resulting in deaths and suicides.

• Words have power. They are the seed of dialogue, conflict, resolve, debate, argument. Its visibility and ease of consumption on social media is a root for sensationalizing violence in our country. 

• From a little online research, the commenters from our piece have likely not dealt with the racist, classist, elitist, discriminatory words they're doling out. And lastly, most of them would not make those comments in a public forum. 

• The joke is funny until it's about you. 

Ypsilanti is a rich community. It is filled with some of the most talented and generous people I have ever met. The educators, business owners, parents, children, senior citizens, and civic leaders I've spoken to over the last couple years have given us confidence that we are on the right path. I owned and lived in a home in Ypsilanti 15 years ago and witnessing the continued evolution of this city is phenomenal. 

Nick and I have different stances on seeing the obliteration of comments on articles. While they make me ill to read sometimes, I don't think they need to be removed. I recognize it's the same commenters over and over again, who are unable to find the silver lining in anything that is not serving their own needs.

These events which cost money and time and energy to produce are more meaningful than any comment they could ever make from the security of their couch. We create the news, they just consume it. 

*We applied and were approved for a street closure with the City. (Our production of this event also required additional insurance coverage, fee and deposit).  Although the barricades didn't show up until later than we anticipated, our artist participants were generous with their time and posed for photos in the street beyond the first 30 minutes. For this, we are so grateful to each and every one of you. A very special "thank you" goes to Mayor Amanda Edmonds for her swift response and the Ypsilanti Police Department for their service and smile. 

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Exhibiting, jurying and moderating at Pop•X

Our friend Omari Rush has been really busy over the last year. He's the Curator of Public Programs at the Ann Arbor Art Center and has been producing Pop•X, an arts festival of ten pop-up pavilions in Liberty Plaza. The public square is located at the corner of Division and Liberty Streets in downtown Ann Arbor and will be transformed starting next week, into a ephemeral playground of installations and happenings. 

We were lucky enough to take part on a few different levels. During the planning stages of the festival, I got to sit in on some preliminary meetings and then jury the exhibitors. And as it turns out, Nick is one of them. I won't give too much away, but his work will speak directly to the usual inhabitants of Liberty Plaza, a group of citizens that are often marginalized for various reasons, who will be displaced during the festival. You can see his pavilion and work on opening day, October 15th through October 24th. 

I'll moderate a talk, Workspace Design, on Monday, October 19th at the Ann Arbor District Library. I'm excited to sit down and talk to a group of innovative business owners in the area including Sava Lelcaj Farah: CEO, Savco Hospitality; Shane Pliska: CEO, Planterra; and Dug Song: CEO, Duo Security. It's a free event and fascinating topic so I'm certain this will draw a crowd. 

We hope to see you there! 

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Art Happenings In Chicago this Weekend: Oct 3 - 5

We got our tickets to see David Bowie Is at MCA a while back and we're excited it's finally upon us this weekend. After talking to our friend Chris, it turns out there's a ton of art events going on. 

The Great Chicago Fire Festival is being put on by Redmoon Theater with a ton of support from the City. We expect to see a lot of impromptu performance, installation and art pieces all over the city and particularly the waterfront, right where our hotel is. I can't wait to see the spectacles. 

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I'm so bummed that our tickets for Bowie are during this time but there's also the Shockingly Modern Home Tour going this Saturday. We're huge fans of architecture and I especially love to see how people dwell in these types of spaces. 

There's also the West Town Art Walk, a series of venues, galleries and spaces hosting openings along Chicago Avenue. It will be a walk down memory lane for us and I hope we can make it. Check out the long list of participants here.

And here are a few other art walks this weekend: 

Little Village, Oct. 3 -5

Ravenswood, Oct 4 - 5

Various home salons throughout Chicago take place each Saturday in October in Re-mapping the Salon.

There's no photography allowed in the Bowie show but I'm excited to do a full review when we get back next week. Maybe we'll see you around this weekend! Go out, see art. xx

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Cold? Make art.

I've had the pleasure of working with Tim Péwé (and his son Gus) multiple times now. Tim is a sculptor, welder, wood-worker, illustrator, inventor... I could keep going... Most recently I worked with Tim on one of the coldest nights of the year, in his amazing barn-turned-workspace.  Although he had his wearable wood burning stove fired up, the temp inside peaked around 45˚ (note the jackets in the pics, which were taken by Gus).

Getting approval from Tim.

Getting approval from Tim.

I've photographed many works for Tim, ranging from a larger than life skeleton to a puppet named Neandro. The objective this time: a wearable candelabra.

The shots below showcase some of the details.

Because Tim is more prolific than most artists I know, there's always something else that can be photographed. A punching bag...

Or a demon dragging a man down to hell.

I'm excited to see what's next!

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Video : Alone in 1,000 Square Feet at Pecha Kucha Night

A few weeks ago, N presented at Pecha Kucha, an event where people in the community come together to show a series of 20 images with 20 seconds to speak about each one. With his most recent project of capturing six characters in vibrant scenery and scenarios, N ran with the opportunity to show off some of his performance skills by acting out each character as the slides changed. Check out the full video below and see some of the images from the series here: Alone in 1,000 Square Feet. [vimeo 58218433 w=500 h=281]

N is already working on the next series of photos for this project with some slightly different guidelines. If you're interested in being photographed in character, let us know. We can make it happen.

Upcoming Pecha Kucha themes and dates are as follows:

Wednesday, February 20, 6-8pm: Technology

Wednesday, March 20, 6-8pm: International

Wednesday, April 17, 6-8pm: Anything Goes

If you'd like to be a part of the fun or know someone that would, contact Emilia White at northquadhd@umich.edu and help spread the word about this exciting event.

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An Exhibit We'd Like to See : David Bowie Is

N is a huge fan of David Bowie's. And for good reason. His name has been synonymous with imaginative thinking and music and art for over four decades.

dezeen_David-Bowie-is-at-the-V-and-A_1aAbove: album cover shoot for Aladdin Sane (1973) courtesy of Duffy Archive

tumblr_lgq06iLvAp1qdbfozo1_500A Bowie copycat for a children's campaign.

On March 23rd an incredible collection of memorabilia, costumery, photography, musical archives and objects will showcase the life and work of David Bowie at Victoria & Albert Museum in London. The show, titled simply "David Bowie Is" will have over 300 items and only cover a fraction of the pop icon's presence.

dezeen_David-Bowie-is-at-the-V-and-A_6Above: photo collage of manipulated film stills from The Man Who Fell to Earth (1975-6) courtesy of The David Bowie Archive and Studiocanal Films Ltd

dezeen_David-Bowie-is-at-the-V-and-A_3aAbove: striped bodysuit for Aladdin Sane tour designed by Kansai Yamamoto (1973), photograph by Masayoshi Sukita from The David Bowie Archive

bowie_earthling_album.480

Original photography for the Earthling album cover, 1997 Union Jack coat designed by Alexander McQueen in collaboration with David Bowie Photograph by Frank W Ockenfels 3 © Frank W Ockenfels 3

 If we were closer, we would certainly be seeing this show. For now we'll just listen to tunes on the record player and check out his new song and album, "The Next Day". Tickets and full information can be found here.

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Alone in 1000 Square Feet

It's important to stay busy, but it's also important to have fun. I recently began a series of images involving six different characters. Over time their stories will grow and conflict. The guidelines are simple: only I can be in the image and it must be shot in my apartment, common area or basement. The techniques, however, are limitless.

I present: the brilliant psychopath, the afflicted war veteran, the clever spy, the distressed burglar, the turbulent mob associate and the flamboyant detective.

We can do the same for you. Contact us for more information.

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Enter Stage Right

Our friend Amanda has been acting for the last ten years and we recently saw her in a riveting performance of Antony and Cleopatra, at the Kerrytown Concert House in Ann Arbor. Her next role, however, is more behind the scenes: she's the director. The plays were written by local playwright James Ingagiola and will be performed as part of the Ann Arbor Civic Theatre's Studio Series, October 19-21. Exploring the various styles of writers such as Pinter and Mamet, the production will prove to be an exciting interpretation of Shakespeare. We can't wait to see it! We were invited to snap some publicity photos of the amazing cast. Enjoy!

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Jim Henson, Muppetry and An Unyielding Obsession

This past weekend N surprised me by hooking up a Detroit errand with an event at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Heather Henson, daughter of the late, great Jim Henson was putting on a performance with her troupe Ibex Puppetry called Celebration of Flight. Not only was I completely floored that he found out about this fantastic opportunity before I did, I was elated to see some artistry and performance at work.

I don't remember a time in my life that The Muppets were not around. Prior to their "comeback" in last year's The Muppets, I was still clamoring for Animal and singing the theme song. (Some say there's even a Halloween photo where I wear a pig snout and N's face is painted green...) Something as genius as what Jim Henson started in the '60s would always have a place in my heart, even if it wasn't reaching further than Grover watchers out there via Sesame Street.

We saw Jim Henson's Fantastic World, a retrospective exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry in 2009 which included early sketches for animations, silkscreen posters he did in college and even key design elements from The Dark Crystal. This was, of course, all dwarfed in comparison to the Kermit which we were introduced to within the first ten feet of the exhibit. It was magical.

Needless to say, I was enamored by the motion, fluidity and realness of the birds and forms created by the puppet group. It was a hot day but the strong breeze made for a beautiful back drop as we watched the performers manipulate kites, bird forms and weave among one another with ease.

My path in art has meandered but never strayed far from appreciation of great artistry and concepts. Jim Henson's legacy and its ability to make us believe is what continues to inspire me.

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The Process

Our ideas begin here. They're given life here.

The keepers are then digitized.

Lastly, they're printed on high quality archival photo paper in rich, saturated colors and sent to you.

The end.

-NY-

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