A collection of Big Heads from the Parade Company — the kind featured in Detroit’s annual Thanksgiving Day parade — will be on display at the upcoming “PaperWorks” exhibit, which will debut alongside the “Climb” exhibit in the Janice Charach Gallery in West Bloomfield Oct. 27.

A collection of Big Heads from the Parade Company — the kind featured in Detroit’s annual Thanksgiving Day parade — will be on display at the upcoming “PaperWorks” exhibit, which will debut alongside the “Climb” exhibit in the Janice Charach Gallery in West Bloomfield Oct. 27.

Photo provided by Linda Ashley

Art exhibit to showcase versatility of paper

By: Andy Kozlowski, Tiffany Esshaki | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published October 18, 2019


WEST BLOOMFIELD — In this digital era, ink and paper have fallen out of vogue, replaced by pixels and glowing screens.

Or so it would seem — but two upcoming exhibits aim to dispel the notion that paper has gone obsolete, demonstrating its many applications in art.

The exhibits, titled “PaperWorks” and “Climb,” will open Sunday, Oct. 27, in the two-story, 5,000-square-foot Janice Charach Gallery at the Jewish Community Center of Metropolitan Detroit, 6600 W. Maple Road in West Bloomfield. The opening will run 1-4 p.m. The exhibits will remain on display through Dec. 5, free for the public to attend.

Eight artists will be featured with works ranging from collages and hanging installations to the giant heads from the Parade Company, as seen in Detroit’s America’s Thanksgiving Parade. What they all have in common is that they’re made of paper.

The seven artists in the “PaperWorks” exhibit are Lynne Avadenka, Coco Bruner, Sue Carman Vian, John Hegarty, Armin Mersmann, Jiangmei Wu and Elizabeth Youngblood.

“PaperWorks” is on the first floor, curated by abstract artist Meighen Jackson. The Big Heads are in this section, constructed from papier-mache. Past Big Heads have depicted such notable figures as George Bush, Barack Obama and Aretha Franklin.

“I wanted to do something for a long time to focus on paper as a major medium,” Jackson said of curating the collection. “In my generation, everyone worked on paper in some fashion or another. That was the case for thousands of years. Lately, paper is more of a preliminary medium. Artists will sketch something out on paper and go and put it on canvas or whatever. Paper as a final medium has never achieved the prominence that painting or sculpture or fresco work has.”

Jackson’s own work, involving paper collages and ink, will be upstairs in the solo exhibition “Climb,” where she will also bring a special fabricated giant installation that hangs from the ceiling between two skylights. The “Climb” installation includes three-dimensional figures made entirely from multiple layers of paper. There are seven figures in all — the largest stands 8 feet tall — and all are extremely lightweight, their bodies meticulously rendered with shapes, folds and color.

Kelly Kaatz, the director of the Janice Charach Gallery, said in an email that she is especially impressed by the intricate, large-scale origami sculptures featured in the show and by the 5-foot-tall canvasses constructed with paper cutouts in a style reminiscent of French artist Henri Matisse.

The conversation for the exhibits started about two years ago, when Jackson approached Kaatz with an idea to create a whole new body of work along with an installation, pairing it with another show that Jackson would curate to continue the theme of paper use in artwork.

“Both exhibitions are visually stimulating,” Kaatz said. “Most of the artists in the ‘PaperWorks’ have never shown with us before. The work is impeccable and a must-see in person.

“The installation in the center is a new addition for the gallery,” she added. “We have never done anything like that, and it creates an exciting element hanging in between the skylights, about 30 feet flowing between both floors of the gallery.”

Linda Ashley, the event spokesperson, said the artists make a powerful point about the enduring appeal of paper.

“All of these artists have used paper as the base of their medium over long and prominent art careers, so of course they challenge the modern belief that paper is obsolete,” Ashley said. “For them, paper is the basis of art, imagination, modernism and creativity.”

That is not more apparent than for John Hegarty, 81, of Clinton Township, who’s had a renowned career as an artist and teacher.

Drawing has been part of his daily routine since the second grade, when he created his first ever oil painting. Hagerty’s career training began as an abstract impressionist, even though his knowledge of human anatomy was essentially nonexistent. After reading about anatomy and the human figure, he devoted his skills exclusively toward figure work.

In 1966, he started an approximate 42-year career as a life drawing teacher at Wayne State University. Meanwhile, he commuted back and forth between New York City and Detroit, spending time in the thriving “capital of the art world” in SoHo, Manhattan. He was a fixture there in the 1970s and 1980s.

“I always considered myself an artist before I was a teacher,” Hegarty said. “I felt it was the duty of an artist to have skill and know some things before they teach, that they could pass on.”

The body of his work involves the use of human models as portraits. In 1966 he met a woman named Pat Duff, who he remains close with today. She still models for him.

“She’s a remarkable woman, but we’re good friends,” he said. “Usually what I draw, or paint, are friends.”

He has created “thousands and thousands” of pieces. Today, he still puts in many hours’ worth of work, six days per week on average, in his studio downtown. It’s his sanctuary — a haven for the “isolated” artist.

“I do this on my own, and for the glory of God,” he said. “If people like my work, I like that. But I’m not just interested in being some big name. If that happens, it happens. But I don’t pursue it.”

Staff Writer Nick Mordowanec contributed to this story.

For more information about “PaperWorks” and “Climb,” call (248) 432-5579 or visit www.charachgallery.org.