Photo by Robert Leary
I am writing from the perspective of an artist who has participated in all three ArtPrize events and loved it. I have never ended up in the top ten myself so I take my hat off my bald head to each of the artists who’s work I will now evaluate.
“President Gerald Ford Visits ArtPrize” by Sunti Pichetchaiyakul is a clever idea. You have a sculpture looking at a sculpture and Gerry Ford no less. This is an artist who was here the year before and was able to evaluate what would put him in the running and he is. The piece is kinda of creepy to me because wax sculpture always feels corpse-like for some reason. It feels like a Believe It Or Not museum exhibit.
“Grizzlies on the Ford” by Llew Tilma, this piece is a cute feel good example of folk art which would look cool in front of a Michigan cottage somewhere. The problem I have with this piece is beyond the great location of the fountain, the animals don’t relate well to each other. They all feel like separate pieces. It is like some one blew a whistle and they are all at attention missing all the salmon going by.
“Ocean Exodus” by Paul Baliker is a lot like his piece last year in how he displays his impressive chops as a wood sculpture who likes animals more than most people. This piece just felt way too heavy handed and obvious to me almost like Cold War propaganda art from the USSR. At least he has a good cause. I am looking for art that leaves the viewer with more questions than answers but didn’t find that here.
“Under Construction” by Robert Shangle and friends, once you get past the initial gag there isn’t much left to think about. “Hey he just winked at me” This is perfect for the
“Mantis Dreaming” by Bill Secunda tells us in his artist statement that he has made this sculpture from an old railroad tanker which is cool to know, but it has nothing to do with the content of the piece which really doesn’t have any content that I could figure other than it is a well constructed very big bug. And why is that butterfly on its foot any way, is that what he is dreaming about?
“Crucifixion” by Mia Tavonatti looks like a masterpiece of mosaic work. We were looking at it while the sun moved in and out of the cloud cover and when the light poured through the windows of the DeVos Hall the colors on all those little pieces of glass really came alive. Unfortunately all that technical skill was not able to land a compelling portrait of Jesus for we are presented with the same sanitized suburban Jesus picture we have seen a million times before. No blood and bruises here thank God!
“Metaphorest” by Tracy VanDuinen is really stunning for the way the light sparkles off that giant head. There is a lot to look at here. It feels very “feel good school mural” complete with those words like visualize, input, process and create. It is hard when art is trying so hard to teach things, again like Mr Baliker’s drift wood animals, it ends up just trying too hard. I still like this piece though for how Tracy was able to somehow create a composition that could make all the stuff come together as well as he did.
“Rusty” by Ritch Branstrom was way more cool in real-life than the little picture I first saw of it. This piece has a very powerful presence, - the way he has combined natural elements (tree trunk legs) with old metal car, bicycle parts and old tire rubber. There are lots of rich worn surfaces here that betray a hard traveled history not unlike the artist himself. Everything on Branstroms giant dog has been fit together with the skill of an experienced surgeon or high end cabinet maker
“The Tempest II” by Laura Alexander is another piece that does not translate well by photography. Even though it is ArtPrize large, it is very subtle with only white and the soft grey of cast shadows. This piece is in a whole different league than the heavy handed carnival ride junk that is heaped up at the B.O.B. year after year. And for those who love craft, Ms Alexander spent 300 hours and 400 exacto blades making this magical piece.
“Rain” by Linda Cole is a very ethereal piece of kinetic sculpture made with countless little thin tiles of mylar leafed with silver and copper. It feels like a little rain shower straight from heaven and in spite of the crowds I could feel myself slipping into a state of meditation when I lingered with this amazing work of art.