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March 13, 2013

Artists create large and small work for new exhibit, ‘SIZE Matters’

By K. Michelle Moran
C & G Staff Writer

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In the new Grosse Pointe Art Center exhibit, “SIZE Matters,” J. Gleason, of Grosse Pointe Woods, took Best of Show honors for “Love Big,” a “Love” postage stamp in the middle of a large, cream-color painted canvas.

GROSSE POINTE CITY — In its last exhibit in its current home, the Grosse Pointe Art Center is going out with a big bang.

“SIZE Matters,” which opened with a public reception March 8, lives up to its title and theme by showcasing several large paintings and other pieces, as well as a number of tiny ceramic works, paintings and more. Juried by Craig Paul Nowak, of Detroit, the exhibit features 75 works by 51 artists, GPAC Director Amy DeBrunner said. It’s on display through April 6.

“The art is phenomenal,” DeBrunner said.

The GPAC is moving to a new location in the Village — across the street, next to CVS, at 17118 Kercheval — circa the first week in April, but its last exhibit at its current home takes advantage of the larger space at 17051 Kercheval to showcase a multitude of oversized pieces.

J. Gleason, of Grosse Pointe Woods, took Best of Show honors for “Love Big,” a “Love” postage stamp in the middle of a large, cream-color painted canvas that divided viewers and sparked discussion. She said the work is “an interpretation of ‘SIZE Matters.’” It speaks to the role that love plays in life, she said.

“I just really thought it fit the theme,” Gleason said.

Nowak agreed.

“Not only did it fit the size requirements, it also really fit the theme,” he told Gleason.

Many attendees were wowed by the photographic realism achieved by Michael Stapleton, of Grosse Pointe Woods, in his substantial painting of the Eiffel Tower, “Upward,” which earned second place. Stapleton is an industrial designer who co-owns Prop Art Studio, the Detroit-based firm that created the basic fish sculptures that artists decorated last year for the Grosse Pointe Chamber of Commerce project GP Fish. He said the detailed “Upward” took about 100 hours to create, and he based the painting on photographs and other Eiffel Tower reference materials because, as he joked, it wasn’t close enough for him to observe personally.

“Doing the paintings are something I start and finish between the slow times (at Prop Art),” Stapleton said.

He said this is the first time he’s exhibited work as a fine artist. He used several different types of paint — including oil, acrylic, gouache and common house paint — in “Upward.”

“I have an art studio and I have a lot (of different paints) available, so I go with” whatever combination will create the perfect color, Stapleton explained of his technique, which involves mixing different but compatible forms of paint.

Taking third place was the witty sculpture “Saving Jonah,” made out of found objects by Darren Dundee, of Clinton Township, and featuring a flag-waving Biblical Jonah peeking out from between the jaws of a whale.

There were also four honorable-mention winners: Gregory Campbell, of Grosse Pointe Farms; Jamie Pangborn, of Grosse Pointe Woods; Senghor Reid, of Bloomfield Hills; and Jim Williams, of Highland.

Campbell was recognized for his large photograph, “Disembodied,” which is a shot of a woman’s head only, wrapped almost entirely in a striped scarf. He said his subject was shy, but he wanted to at least be able to see her eyes in the photo.

“To me, women’s heads have been separated from their bodies in art for a long time,” Campbell said. “I just liked the symmetry of the way her head was shaped under the scarf.”

The image can be interpreted in different ways.

“There’s a lot behind it,” Campbell said. “We all hide behind our own masks.”

Four of Pangborn’s works were chosen for “SIZE Matters,” but the one that earned an award is “Mindful Reflections,” a large, colorful abstract acrylic painting whose two sides seem to almost mirror each other.

“It’s sort of an exploration in psychology,” said Pangborn, who has been teaching art in the Utica Community Schools for the past 15 years. “It’s also taking simple childhood techniques and bringing them up to an adult level.”

This marked Pangborn’s GPAC debut. It was also the gallery debut for Irwin Watts, of Harper Woods, who has two very different pieces in the show — a completely handmade model ship with a lighted interior entitled “Hospital Ship,” and a small clay sculpture, “Ballerina 1.”

The ship, which took him almost two years to complete, has special significance for Watts, whose model ship-building was inspired by his mother’s arrival in the United States at 18 from Yugoslavia aboard the Titanic’s sister ship. After seeing the 1997 movie and realizing what a long and arduous journey his young mother endured, Watts decided to craft his own replica of the Titanic, which ended up being 5.5-feet long and taking 14 years to do. Since then, he’s created more than two dozen additional ship models, turning his basement into something of a museum.

The juror’s vision for “SIZE Matters” extended beyond selecting the art. DeBrunner called working with Nowak “the best process” she’s ever experienced with a juror, and said the artist even stayed to help hang the show — something that doesn’t usually happen.

“It’s the only way I would do it,” Nowak said. “When you choose the artworks, you know (in your mind) where you want them to go. … Everything has to work together in the show.”

He said some pieces that didn’t make the cut initially got added into the show during installation because they worked with other pieces.

GPAC visitors will get to see several of Nowak’s own oversized paintings — some of which are in the front windows, which the Detroit artist playfully embellished with painted flowers. His paintings, some of which have a socio-political message, are also peppered with pop culture figures, including My Little Pony, Bart and Homer Simpson and characters from the Angry Birds game.

“I’m a big kid who likes cartoons,” Nowak said of his paintings, which reflect the artist’s varied sensibilities.

Also at the GPAC this month is an exhibit of black and white sketches by aspiring artist Dezjuan Smith, 16, of Detroit, who’s currently interning at the art center. Smith came up with idea to create portraits of African Americans who inspire him during Black History Month, and his works include images of President Barack Obama, director Spike Lee, late rapper Biggie Smalls, rapper and entrepreneur Jay-Z and activist Malcolm X.

The GPAC is currently located at 17051 Kercheval in the Village. Winter hours are noon-6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. For more information, call (313) 881-3454, email gpaa@grossepointeartcenter.org or visit www.grossepointeartcenter.org.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer K. Michelle Moran at kmoran@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1047.