Wavelengths Exhibit Inspires Community to Experience the Meaning of Art

Throughout history, artists and scientists have sought to learn how the human eye perceives color in the natural world. The “Wavelengths” exhibit considers Michigan-based artists’ use of shape and repetition to create both simple and complex approaches to color. “Wavelengths” is currently on display at the Ann Arbor Art Center’s (A2AC) new downtown gallery.

Gallery Director and “Wavelengths’” Curator Thea Eck wanted to lean on Ann Arbor’s creative energy and exciting events when planning for A2AC’s summer schedule. 

Michigan summers are brief so I wanted a show that was visually bright and colorful while tackling a larger theme of how we perceive color,” Eck said. 

“Wavelengths” highlights both professional mid-career artists and extremely gifted emerging artists together in the same space, showcasing a few pieces from each artist. This offers a deeper understanding of the artists’ work. Visitors of “Wavelengths” will get to see up to six pieces from each artist, whereas most shows only feature one or two works from artists. 

Photo provided by Thea Eck.

A2AC wanted to give the contemporary art scene around Ann Arbor something new and exciting to rally behind, as well as give viewers an insight into the artists’ practices. 

The exhibit explores the art and science of color through the lens of five artists working in ceramics, neon, letterpress, glass, paper, and textiles. 

Matthew Shlian folds large digital prints to create interactive artwork where the image relates to the paper folds. The perception of his work shifts throughout the day with direct lighting. 

“I hope people get a little bit of wonder spending time with my work,” Shlian said. “It invites a closer look. Maybe they find themselves paying attention to things outside the gallery with a closer look as well.”

Photo provided by Thea Eck.

Ingrid Ankerson is a graphic designer working with letterpress to create art. Ankerson said that along with color, “Wavelengths” is also about process. 

“Each of the artists in the show have a very specific and time consuming process to make the work they do,” Ankerson said. “I hope people visiting the show learn something about the craft behind the work.”

Brianna Barron’s glass art is also on display.

“I utilize organic forms and lines, in conjunction with bright and pastel colors to create objects and environments that blur the lines between artifice and reality,” Barron said.

While the art featured in “Wavelengths” vary in both concept and aesthetic, they all share a common thread of color and repetition.

“I think this thread created a super interesting experience of relative color and its effect on the viewer’s perception of the work within that space,” Barron said.

Other artists featured in the exhibit include Kira Keck (textiles) and Victoria Shaheen (clay and ceramics. 

Photo provided by Thea Eck.

Each artists’ practice involves being selective with color.

“We are inundated with color in our natural world,” Eck said. “So some of the artists lean into this, such as Brianna’s fungi-inspired forms, and others choose to find the edge of what our human eyes can perceive, such as Ingrid’s neon pantone colors.”

In some cases, the tools utilized dictate or place constraints on the artwork. Each artist in “Wavelengths” makes conscious choices with their tools and materials, yet at the same time are constricted with what their materials allow for. 

 “’Wavelengths’’ artists are visually connected by this repetition, which is at times meditative and at times physical, like Brianna Barron’s glass work or Ingrid’s letterpress pieces,” Eck said. 

The 2023 season marks a new brand and mission for the A2AC Gallery. Shows curated for this season inspire people of all ages to experience art, rather than just viewing it. Visitors are encouraged to leave the gallery more conscious about the meaning they draw from the art.  

Photo provided by Thea Eck.

A2AC’s new street-facing, downtown gallery allows any passerby the opportunity to see contemporary art. Located in the heart of the social district, the A2AC has been curating art shows for the public for over 100 years. 

“I hope that we can do shows here at the A2AC that create ripples, that cause someone to pause hours or days or months later and think,” Eck said.  “It’s important for people to experience art that creates more questions than it answers and to feel discomfort or to want to know more about what they are looking at.” 

‘Wavelengths’ will be on display through Aug. 19 and admission is free. 

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