Art at EMU. Eastern, as we call Eastern Michigan University, right next door to Ann Arbor in serially swooning Ypsilanti, has an art scene that is always worth a serious look. It’s compelling all year round, and every year, Mid-January to early February, are both the Annual Juried Student Show and the Faculty Exhibition. This year’s AJSS takes place in the lovely Ford Gallery in stately Ford Hall. It runs from January 11th through February 2nd, with the always-gala reception, free and open to the public, on Wednesday, January 18, from 4:30 to 6:30. It has refreshments and hors d’oeurvres and is a clever idea for a date or a family outing, or for people who just like cutting edge art by up and coming artists. The three cash awards are presented at the opening, funded by entry fees matched by the University. I like a student show with cash prizes. Sooner or later students have to learn that art without commerce is a hobby. The 57 works on display are drawn from the entire undergraduate community, not just art majors. I like that, too. The more open the competition the better the winner in any field, from golf to découpage.
IGG. The Student Show is organized by the Intermedia Gallery Group, whose usual gallery space is the Student Center Gallery within Eastern’s sunlit, spacious Student Center. Throughout the year the Student Center Gallery showcases a new student artist every two weeks. The exhibit is part of the educational process for artists as they learn gallery practices in anticipation of being working artists in the cold, cruel real art world. Hanging and placing your own art is not just for beginners. A couple of years ago at the University of Michigan Museum of Art Julian Schnabel was hanging his own fabulous show, and I wanted to go over and get a snapshot with him, but my wife wouldn’t let me. I would have anyway, but we had another couple with us.
Eastern’s School of Art and Design Director of Gallery Programs is the unsinkable, irrepressible Gregory Tom. He earned his MFA at Cranbrook (ceramics), and his work is part of the permanent collections of the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Cranbrook Art Museum and other major institutions, public and private. Prior to EMU, Greg was Director of Exhibitions, Programs and Development at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit. (Translation: If Eastern doesn’t give this guy a raise, somebody else will.) President of the IGG is Helen Vachon, senior at the School of A&D. She has been a life-long artist who never had a second thought since she was three. For years she was a ceramicist, changed her focus to figure drawing and the human form, and now her work is based on maps and map-making, exploring interpersonal connections. Taking over soon is IGG vice president, Jordan Wilshaw whose work has been based on fibers and sculptural practices, although lately it has been focused on text-based work.
The Show. This year’s juror, Hunter L.V. Elliot, is the youngest and perhaps the wildest in years. He earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in sculpture and printmaking at Kent State University in 2014. He rebels against artspeak, the shuffling of artist statements and academic art language, which he calls pseudo-intellectual. (And, I would add: boring.) In 2016 his work was exhibited in Austin, Texas, South Korea, and Cleveland, Ohio, which has a vibrant art scene. He currently lives in scintillating, non-pseudo Ypsilanti and brings an immediacy and depth of focus to his selections. As always, you be the judge about who should win the prizes, and that’s what art is all about.
Look out for the entry of Jeremy Walbridge. He was a prize-winner last year and has spent another year finishing up his BFA (with a minor in Animation). His thesis show will be exhibited at the IGG Student Gallery, February 6-17. A technical and artistic virtuoso in 3-D design he has spent every waking moment over the last year in the Digital Fabrication Lab honing his artistic skills, and as lab tech even learning how to fix and service the machines. My advice to readers is to buy anything you can find of his work. He is going to be a superstar with Disney or a similar mega entertainment corporation sometime soon. Just don’t forget the little people, Jeremy!