Category Archives: Steve Panton

39 Olayami Dabls

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Born Canton, MS, 1948 / Studies in Mechanical Engineering and Art, Wayne State University / Lives in Detroit

Olayami Dabls’ sprawling outdoor installation at Grand River and West Grand Boulevard verges on a world where America rushes by, cocooned in tons of rusting metal – in other words it overlooks Interstate 96. Dabls knows that world. He trained as a mechanical engineer, and worked as a draftsman for Chevrolet Motors. Then in 1975 he had a serious car accident that hospitalized him for three years. During that time he turned to painting (his minor in college) as an escape from the constant physical and psychic pain. He left the hospital and never looked back, taking stints with the original African-American museum, and various theater companies, before eventually founding a gallery with his wife. Around 1998 he moved to the present location, starting the African Bead Museum that carries his name, and transitioning from an artist/gallerist to an educator/storyteller. Continue reading

30 Matt Corbin

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Born Pittsburgh, 1945 / Studies in Industrial Design, College for Creative Studies, Detroit / Lives in Detroit

What does Matt Corbin’s performance piece GYMSHOELIFESTYLE, in which he periodically wore size 22 gym shoes to the high school class he taught, have in common with the found object assemblages he has been making for nearly four decades? Actually more than you might think. Continue reading

27 Chido Johnson

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Born Nyadiri, Zimbabwe, 1969 / BFA, University of Georgia; MFA Notre Dame University, Indiana / Lives in Detroit, MI

Chido Johnson grew up knowing the meaning of struggle. His Methodist missionary parents were deeply committed to the Zimbabwean independence movement, and one of his early memories is of the family being deported for his father’s political cartoons. Continue reading

20 Dylan Spaysky

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Born Waterford, Michigan, 1981 / BFA, College for Creative Studies / Lives in Hamtramck, Michigan

How do you construct a life in the ex-urban cultural wasteland of Waterford? How do you create meaning from the detritus of America’s lowest-common-denominator consumer culture? Two questions that may, or may not, interest the artist Dylan Spaysky. Most likely he would politely decline any such lofty dimensions to his work.

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18 Elizabeth Youngblood

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Born Detroit, 1952 / BFA, University of Michigan; MFA, Cranbrook Academy of Art / Lives in Detroit

Elizabeth Youngblood’s work combines great personality and remarkable restraint. Typically starting from a monochrome palette and the repeated graphical element of the line, she has utilized her dexterity with fiber, wire, ceramics, drawing, and paper to quietly produce a visually coherent body of work that has continued to evolve over a period of several decades.

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15 Frank Pahl

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Born Trenton, Michigan, 1958 / BA Wayne State University, MFA University of Michigan / Lives in Wyandotte, Michigan

As we enter the age of “the internet of things,” with its universal connectivity and planned obsolescence, what to make of an artist like Frank Pahl who uses almost theatrically non-standard ways to connect discarded objects into sound-making mechanisms? Continue reading

13 Scott Hocking

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Born Redford, Michigan, 1975 / BFA, College for Creative Studies / Lives in Detroit

If James Brown was the hardest working man in show business, Scott Hocking is arguably the hardest working artist in Detroit. Even a virtual trip through the monumental site-specific installations, photographic studies, and gallery projects on his website is an exhausting business. But hard work can only get you so far, and doesn’t by itself explain how Hocking, alongside contemporaries such as Clinton Snider and Mitch Cope, has managed to develop an international practice based in, and often quite literally on, the city of Detroit.

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09 Carl Wilson

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Born Detroit, 1956 / Lives in Hamtramck, Michigan

Carl Wilson’s autobiographical print projects are clever, heartfelt, and often filled with self-deprecating humor, but most of all they show an artist with an exceptionally refined capacity to reflect unflinchingly on life, its pleasures and demons. To be sure, Wilson has seen more than his fair share of the latter: raised in humble and difficult circumstances on Detroit’s east side, falling prey early in his life to a manipulative religious organization he calls “the cult,” spending years breaking his health in automotive assembly plants, and then finally, after emerging from all these tribulations into a new phase of his life, suffering cancer and two years of total deafness. All this informs the story of a natural artist who, thanks in part to a timely buyout from Ford Motor Company, but more importantly the loving support of his new wife and emergence from the constraints of a stifling religion, decided late in life to devote himself full-time to his work. It also explains the apparently fearless way in which he opens himself up through his work—for after all these experiences, what more is there to worry about?

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