Leading painters chosen by Taurus Burns for ‘Stroke’ exhibition

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published May 21, 2013

 Grosse Pointe Art Center Director Amy DeBrunner and artist Taurus Burns, who curated the “Stroke” exhibition, stand in front of a mixed media painting by Jeanette Strezinski, “See.” The painting features four panels.

Grosse Pointe Art Center Director Amy DeBrunner and artist Taurus Burns, who curated the “Stroke” exhibition, stand in front of a mixed media painting by Jeanette Strezinski, “See.” The painting features four panels.

Photo by K. Michelle Moran

GROSSE POINTE CITY — He could have celebrated the occasion at a restaurant or with a party, but instead, Taurus Burns marked his birthday — May 17 — at an art opening.

And the artist wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Burns was chosen to assemble artists for the Grosse Pointe Art Center’s first curated show, and that show — “Stroke” — had its opening reception the evening of May 17. The seven artists he selected are all painters, and most of the works now on display are large-scale pieces, but all are quite distinct from one another.

Artists in “Stroke” are Joel Dugan, of Kansas; M. Saffell Gardner, of Detroit; Stephanie Henderson, of Commerce Township; Michael Ross, of Pleasant Ridge; Robert Sestok, of Detroit; Jacob Steenholdt, of Harrison Township; and Jeanette Strezinski, who recently moved from metro Detroit to Washington, D.C. The exhibit will be on display through June 1.

“I’m really excited to give these artists a chance to show their work,” Burns said.

Henderson, who teaches at the College for Creative Studies, has three works in the show — two oils on linen and one oil on canvas. Linen “is a lot smoother” than canvas, she said, but it’s also considerably more expensive. Playful pop cultural images like Barbie and cartoon icons are incorporated into her works, which she said feature “culture jamming (and) a mash-up of high and low” culture. Some images and patterns repeat, as well, in these pieces.

“I’m interested in metaphysical concepts, time and space. … (And) I’m very interested in shape and formal elements of design,” Henderson said.

Also exploring patterns — albeit in a much different way — is Ross, who has two oil paintings on wood in “Stroke.” Bold black lines and patterns stand out against a sea of color in both, and the large swirl of black lines of differing thickness that dominates “Everything That Rises Must Converge” radiates visually against its backdrop.

Ross said he’s interested in “the idea of repetition, and the way repetition changes over time.” It’s a notion both paintings convey.

“Patterns are our way of understanding our environment and what’s around us,” Ross said.

Sestok has two works in the show, both acrylics that are part of a series he created in his basement in 2011.

“They’re pretty typical of my work,” Sestok said of the paintings, which feature outlines of faces against colorful, rather abstract backdrops. “These have color. Lately, I’ve been painting in black and white, so that’s kind of different.”

Burns was born in Kalamazoo but has lived in the Detroit area since 1998. The College for Creative Studies graduate currently resides in Ferndale. Dugan is another CCS grad, Burns said. He said his vision for the show changed a couple of times before he settled on the concept for “Stroke,” which refers to the brushstrokes painters use but is also “very open, ambiguous,” he said.

“I started exploring the city, checking out different buildings with artist studios” to see what different artists in the city were doing, Burns said. “There were certain artists that stood out to me. What they were doing with their work was really intriguing.”

Burns is a painter, himself, but he said he didn’t plan on focusing on other painters when he started his selection process.

“I didn’t set out to have a show with just painters, but that’s just how it worked,” he said. “Of course, I love painting and I love painters. (But) all of these painters are so different from me.”

Artist Linda Allen, of Grosse Pointe City, who sits on the GPAC’s Exhibition Committee, selected Burns to curate this exhibit.

“I really like his work, and I know he knows a lot of exciting, emerging young artists,” said Allen, who regularly attends art openings throughout metro Detroit. “I thought he would be a good candidate to curate a show.”

And Allen wasn’t disappointed, saying that Burns made good choices.

“I’m just really pleased,” Allen said.

She said this type of exhibit is a good way to draw newcomers to the GPAC.

“It’s nice to have new people find us,” Allen said.

GPAC Director Amy DeBrunner said one of the GPAC’s board members, Jack Summers, suggested having a curated show. It’s different from the typical exhibition at the center, in which any interested artists can submit works based on the show’s theme, and the juror selects his or her favorites from that batch to be displayed. In a curated show, the curator chooses the artists, as well as the works.

DeBrunner said the GPAC was “thrilled” with the selection of Burns — himself an acclaimed local artist — to helm this show.

“I’m very pleased with the artists he selected,” she said. “The show still flows very nicely, even though the pieces are very different (from each other).”

The GPAC is now located at 17118 Kercheval in the Village. Gallery hours are noon-6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For more information, call (313) 881-3454, email gpaa@grossepointeartcenter.org or visit www.grossepointeartcenter.org.