All posts by Steve Panton

160 Ijania Cortez

Born Detroit, 1990, Lives in Detroit

In Transcendence: A Portrait of Corey Teamer, a 2018 mural by Ijania Cortez at Brush and Baltimore, the eponymous figure rotates to face the viewer through three successive images. Each image is slightly larger and at a slightly higher elevation, and this, combined with the glowing orange, Rothko-esque background, reinforces the ascendant trajectory implied by the title. 

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159 Juan Martinez

Born Bogota, Colombia, 1976 / Lives in Detroit 

In San Clara Del Cobre, Mexico, where a nineteen-year-old Juan Martinez went to trade school, and where copper working goes back to the pre-Columbian era, they do things the hard way. Standing in a close circle around a hot ingot, typically manufactured from recycled scrap, the copper-workers beat, in turn, to flatten the ingot to the desired thickness before creating the beautiful utilitarian objects for which the city is known. It is punishing labor, but there is a magic in the rhythmic blows, the cascading sparks, and the gradual transformation of the metal. 

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155 Diana J. Nucera working as Mother Cyborg

Born Chicago, IL, 1981 / BFA, San Francisco Art Institute, CA;  MFA, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, IL / Lives in Detroit

WHAT IS AN ALGORITHM?” Ask Mimi Onuoha and Mother Cyborg in their 2018 zine A People’s Guide to Artificial Intelligence. If the question appears startling in its directness, it may be because we have become accustomed to having the spotlight pointed in the opposite direction, to have algorithms direct their gaze on us. Onouha and Cyborg’s zine is a grassroots statement of non-conformity to this power dynamic.

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153 John K. Bunkley

Born Detroit, 1964 / BA, Oakland University; MLIS, Wayne State University / Lives in Detroit

I‘m a Fellini fan,” confides painter, musician, archivist, and all-around cultural polymath John Bunkley. “The question I’m always asking myself is, ‘What would Fellini do if he came to Detroit?'” It is a good question. What would the late Italian director, whose films famously interpret everyday life as a magical synthesis of dream and reality, make of the otherworldly streetscapes and raw humanity of the beautiful city of Detroit?

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152 Onyx Ashanti

Born Iuka, MS, 1970 / Studies at Grambling State University, LA / Lives in Detroit and elsewhere

Somehow, I will dissolve into one of my constructs ….. I don’t understand the process yet.”

The late Detroit poet and musician Mick Vranich described his ever-increasing estrangement from even the outermost reaches of mainstream culture as a process of moving from the underground to the underworld. There’s a similarly inexorable feel to Onyx Ashanti’s ongoing life journey of transformation, transhumanism, and, as the above quote predicts, perhaps even transmutation.

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149 W C Bevan

Born Medina, Ohio, 1986; Studies at Memphis College of Art; Lives in Detroit

Hobo hieroglyphs and graffiti conversations of indeterminate age flashing by on successive railroad cars. Buildings, streetscapes, and the signature architectural details of long-past designers. The sun, rising in the east and setting in the west. Past histories, big and small, hinted at by countless physical marks or archived records. Every W C Bevan mural begins with one foot in its local environment and the other in the artist’s eclectic but highly coherent worldview. 

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148 Kayla Powers

Born Dallas, Texas, 1988 / BA, Western Michigan University / Lives in Detroit

Sometimes I wonder if my work is really about performance,” Kayla Powers confides, offhandedly. It is a strange conjecture from an artist whose primary medium is weaving. Still, it makes sense when you realize how deeply intertwined Powers’s art is with her desire to model a particular type of relationship to the world.

Power’s work is determinedly local. She sources regionally grown fibers, and, crucially, she has developed the knowledge to create natural dyes from plants that she grows and forages in Detroit. Powers has learned these skills through a lengthy process of research and experimentation. Still, she is generous in making them available to others through workshops and how-to articles on her website. As she says, “being a good community member is important to me.”

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Research and Advocacy 2

Objective: Require the Wayne County Commission to follow an open and transparent process when appointing board members to the Wayne County Art Institute Authority.

Why we’re doing this: To allow the Art Institute Authority to draw from a broader pool of qualified applicants, and hence permit it to hold the DIA to higher standards of delivery.

Actions to date: we wrote to the Art Institute Authority requesting that the term limits for the board members be added to the Wayne County Art Institute Authority Home Page. In practice, this also required that term limits be defined for the board members since previously their terms had effectively been limitless

Outcomes: in May of 2021, term limits were set for all nine members with the earliest five set to expire in May 2022. These expiration dates were added to the Wayne County Art Institue Authority web page.

In addition, we were verbally assured that a transparent process for nomination of replacements would be put in place towards the end of 2021.

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Research and Advocacy 1

Objective: Require the Wayne County Art Institute Authority to comply with the Michigan Open Meetings Act.

Why we’re doing this: So that the people of Wayne County can hold the Detroit Institute of the Arts to higher standards.

Actions to date: we consulted with an attorney specializing in government transparency issues, and on 9/7/20, filed a Freedom of Information Act request with Wayne County for information on Art Institute Authority meetings and meeting minutes.

Outcomes: As a result of our actions, Wayne County created a home page for the Art Institute Authority which includes dates for upcoming meetings, members of the authority, minutes from previous meetings, bylaws, governing legislation, service agreements with the DIA, and other information.

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143 Halima Afi Cassells

Born Detroit, 1981 / BA, Howard University / Lives in Detroit

Multimedia artist Halima Cassells relates her artistic trajectory to the birth of her three daughters – Nele, Nia-Rah, and Nzinga. This is a perfect illustration of Cassells’s belief that creativity is a practice that is inextricably intertwined with life. Homeschooled by “hippie” parents on the East Side of Detroit before heading to Nataki Talibah Schoolhouse and Cass Tech, Cassells identifies a visit to Tyree Guyton’s Heidelberg Project (Essay’d #109) as a disorienting, but ultimately life-changing event. “It was the first time I saw art living and breathing,” she says.

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Art@TheMax VII – online

Art@TheMaxVII was an online experience including interviews with Sydney G. James (Essay’d #68), Judy Bowman (Essay’d #132), Carole Harris (Essay’d #45), Ryan Standfest (Essay’d #110), Halima Afi Cassells (Essay’d #143), and Jeanne Bieri (Essay’d #65) It also includes excerpts from Oren Goldenberg (Essay’d #66)’s video, “A Requiem for Douglass.”

The evening also includes a special performance by DSO musicians Principal Percussion Joe Becker, Assistant Principal Percussion Andrés Pichardo-Rosenthal, and cello David LeDoux in response to Carole Harris’s work.

The entire video can be viewed on youtube via the link below

Workshop – The Questions of Curating in ECOLOGY

In this highly interactive, online workshop, participants will work collaboratively to apply the curatorial process to design and create compelling projects in the field of ecology. During the workshop, participants will work in small online groups to develop their ideas by collectively discussing a series of guided questions. At the end of the course, participants will get the opportunity to review their exhibition or project proposal with leading curators.

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Workshop – The Questions of ONLINE Curating

In this highly interactive, online workshop, participants will work collaboratively to apply the curatorial process to design and create compelling online projects. During the workshop, participants will work in small online groups to develop their ideas by answering a series of guided questions. At the end of the course, participants will get the opportunity to review either a design proposal or a working prototype with leading area curators.

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135 Tawil & Khoury

Leyya Mona Tawil, Born Livonia, MI, 1975 / BDA University of Michigan, MFA Mills College, Oakland, CA 

Mike Khoury, Born Mt Pleasant, MI, 1969 / BA(Econ) University of Michigan, MA Central Michigan University, MA Michigan State University / Lives in Northville, MI

On a sparse stage, a woman’s body rolls sideways, spinning about its central axis, ricocheting from one edge of the space to the other, back and forth, sometimes at alarming speeds and almost crashing into the audience, other times slowing down, exhausted. In comparison to the familiar, childlike, head-over-heels rolling, this movement seems alien and serious. The woman is clad in a stylishly cut, army-green, hooded raincoat and wears black boots that periodically land solidly but awkwardly on the floor, searching in vain for a physically sustainable way to continue the body’s rotation. Elsewhere on the stage, a black-clad musician holding a viola alternates between periods of repeated, siren-like glissandos and silence. There is a palpable push-and-pull between dancer and musician, but who is pushing and who is pulling is hard to say at any moment in this uncompromising performance.

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130 Ash Arder

Born Flint, MI, 1988 / BA,  University of Michigan; MFA, Cranbrook Academy of Art / Lives in Detroit, MI

Can you grow an apple with an Apple? Can you ever really describe the wind? These are the sort of questions – often at the intersection of culture and agriculture, and at the boundary between the digital and the physical – with which Ash Arder likes to engage. Her investigations are esoteric but allude to something universal. Trained in media studies, Arder uses art, with its essentially undisciplined relationship to knowledge, to explore the world she has been born into.  

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120 Vito J. Valdez

Born Wyandotte, MI, 1952 / Studies at the College for Creative Studies / Lives in Detroit, MI

Art, for Vito Valdez, is about expressing something real – an idea, an emotion, an experience, or, even better, all of the above. Valdez’s visceral 1999 paintings Columbine and Kosovo, for example, combine dynamic brush strokes, intense colors, and fragmented references to the perpetrators and victims of violence to convey a sense of deep anger at the senseless massacres that occurred in these places. It is impossible to deconstruct the exact experiences that underlie these paintings, but perhaps they include the time Valdez spent working as a surgery technician while a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War, or his childhood growing up in a tough environment where masculinity and violence were often interchangeable.

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