Cranbrook digs deep into art with winter lecture series

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published January 29, 2014

BLOOMFIELD HILLS — Let’s face it: With the bitter cold weather we’ve had, an outing to go play at your neighborhood park probably isn’t in the cards anytime soon. So if you’re looking to spend some quality time with the family, or maybe even treat yourself to a refreshing bit of culture, head over to Cranbrook Art Museum to check out the many events going on this winter in conjunction with their current exhibitions: “My Brain Is in My Inkstand: Drawing as Thinking and Process,” “The Islands of Benoît Mandelbrot: Fractals, Chaos, and the Materiality of Thinking” and “Waylande Gregory: Art Deco Ceramics and the Atomic Impulse.” The events have been specially prepared to highlight particular elements of the exhibitions. Experts will dissect theories behind the featured artists’ work and bring new life to their art pieces — and for younger guests, it will bring the chance to create their own works of art, inspired by the exhibits. Laura Mott, curator of contemporary art and design at Cranbrook Art Museum, helped to coordinate the impressive list of activities that began last week and span through the end of March. She said she’s especially excited for guests to come and experience the unique art experience the museum offers. “The wonderful thing about art and design is that it can be interpreted by the public audience,” said Mott. “Really, these public programs are a way to really engage in a kind of inclusive conversation that’s really about addressing a wider audience from a variety of different standpoints.” Last week, Mott presented her own special lecture at the museum, speaking on her curatorial methodology and current research. And she’s just one highlight on the list of art experts. On Feb. 16, Josephine Shea and Shoshana Resnikoff will present a program examining the work of sculptor Waylande Gregory. As the first resident ceramic sculptor to call Cranbrook home, there’s much to say about Gregory and his contribution to 20th century American ceramics, according to Resnikoff. “He really sort of spearheaded monumental sculpture,” said Resnikoff, a collections fellow with Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research. “But he was also known for small production lines. We really want to tell the story of ceramics in the 20th century through the lens of Waylande Gregory.” And there’s more where that came from. Mott said this lineup of events is just the beginning of what she expects will be a very active year for the Cranbrook community. With even more exhibits — including a display going on now featuring the history and automotive designs of James Scripps Booth, the son of Cranbrook founders George and Ellen Booth — there should be plenty to do at the museum in 2014. She added that the whole campus should be alive with activity this year, with more social events to be held at the house and gardens. It’s all an effort to further engage the surrounding communities, particularly Birmingham families, in the educational gem that’s right in their own backyard. “Birmingham is a city that has young professionals and young families, and it’s a great constituency that has a longtime relationship with Cranbrook,” said Mott. “That’s one of the audiences we’d really like to engage, moving forward.” The next lecture event, titled “From Lascaux to AutoCAD: A Brief History of Drawing,” will be held at 2 p.m. Feb. 9 with guest speaker Brett Littman, executive director of The Drawing Center in New York. For more information, including a full list of special events and exhibitions, visit