Artists embrace ‘Anything Goes’ with broad range of works

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published May 20, 2015

 A Chicago snowstorm inspired WanChuan Kesler’s painting “2 p.m. Storm,” which earned Best of Show in the Grosse Pointe Art Center show “Anything Goes.”

A Chicago snowstorm inspired WanChuan Kesler’s painting “2 p.m. Storm,” which earned Best of Show in the Grosse Pointe Art Center show “Anything Goes.”

Photo by K. Michelle Moran

GROSSE POINTE CITY — Maybe if comic book superheroes and monsters had populated their textbooks, some art history students would have paid closer attention during class.


Jack Summers certainly takes a playful, pop culture-infused stab at art history in his latest work. In the mixed-media piece “Jack and Jack,” the Detroit artist uses Photoshop to insert characters like the Incredible Hulk and Frankenstein — and even the artist himself — into classical artworks, resulting in what Summers rebranded as a textbook called “A Trashed Basic History of Western Art,” complete with a Sigmund Freud bookplate. “Jack and Jack” even has its own ornate stand, created by Summers for this piece, which also has a mash-up of classical art and pop cultural iconography.

“Obviously, I had a lot of fun with it,” Summers said of “Jack and Jack,” for which he earned second place in “Anything Goes” at the Grosse Pointe Art Center. The exhibit opened May 15 and will remain on display through June 6. “I like to mix the sacred and the profane. … (There’s) a lot of selfies in here.”


Summers’ gleeful remake of a textbook is one example of the surprises in store for visitors to “Anything Goes,” which lives up to its name by featuring a wide array of art from serious to silly.


GPAC Board President Wendy Schmidt said the volunteers involved in hanging the show “did an excellent job” by putting works that enhanced each other together.


“Without a common theme (for the exhibition), that makes it even more challenging,” she continued.


Juror Bruce Giffin “was tough,” selecting only 48 of the 131 pieces submitted for consideration, GPAC Executive Director Coleen Downey said. Of the 65 artists who entered work, only pieces by 35 artists were chosen.


Best of Show winner WanChuan Kesler, of Salem, said a trip to Chicago inspired her oil painting, “2 p.m. Storm,” which features a man hurrying past a store window display as a powerful snow squall grips the city. Kesler’s painting evokes the movement and speed of the snow as vividly as a video.


“It was a huge storm — it was so sudden and so heavy,” said Kesler. “Doing snow (in a painting) is difficult, but it’s very rewarding.”


The artist said she’d been shopping and was emerging from a store when the storm began.


“I really wanted to capture that franticness of people running in the storm,” Kesler said. “And then I saw this wonderful window display (of a mannequin in a dress), and I thought it was the perfect complement (to the scene outside).”


Robert Stewart, of Detroit, received an honorable mention for his digital illustration, “Caged,” which shows a cloud trapped inside a birdcage. Stewart said he learned recently from someone who speaks Russian that the symbol on the antique cage’s door is a Russian pattern and an “acronym in Russian for ‘freedom.’”


“I’m doing a series on clouds in trouble,” Stewart explained. “The cloud (here) is a metaphor for our spirit, and the cage is either the internal or external forces that try to limit how far you can go in life.”


Lindsay McCosh, of Grosse Pointe City, a metro Detroit native who moved back to the area from Brooklyn last December, received an honorable mention for one of the two steel etchings she has in the show, “Gowanus Houses.” Both etchings are images of buildings in Brooklyn, she said.


“I have a love for materials,” McCosh said. “I identify with the textures of the steel.”


Another honorable mention winner, Patricia Nemitz, of St. Clair Shores, said her winning watercolor, “Dangerous Outcome,” started out as a torn section from a previous painting that she started but didn’t like. After deciding that the orange and gray section resembled a fire with billowing smoke, she added bright flowers to the foreground.


Other award winners included Kathleen McNamee, of Grosse Pointe Farms, who received a third-place honor for the watercolor “Pier 3,” and Brenda Shackleford, of Roseville, who received an honorable mention for the small mixed-media bound book “Spread Your Wings.”


“Anything Goes” is smaller than many other exhibitions at the GPAC because Giffin didn’t choose as many works.


“This is a wonderful show,” Downey said. “We’re very pleased with it.”


Because it was smaller, the GPAC was able to collaborate with the Michigan Opera Theatre to showcase a dramatic series of paintings by Nora Chapa Mendoza, of West Bloomfield, inspired by the opera “Faust,” which was just featured at the Detroit Opera House. Mendoza said she originally created these paintings for MOT in 1983, and they’ve been featured at a few other venues since then, most recently in Battle Creek a couple of years ago.


“We’re trying to be more collaborative with the community,” said Schmidt of the joint effort between the GPAC and MOT. “We want to be an inclusive art center for everything creative.”


The GPAC is located at 17118 Kercheval Ave. in the Village. Hours are noon-6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. For more information, call (313) 881-3454 or visit www.grossepointeartcenter.org.