Valerie Mann shows ‘Good Grief’ at BBAC

By: Mary Genson | Birmingham-Bloomfield Eagle | Published May 24, 2023

 Valerie Mann’s “Good Grief” exhibit includes a series of pieces using mostly repurposed materials, including “Lamentations.”

Valerie Mann’s “Good Grief” exhibit includes a series of pieces using mostly repurposed materials, including “Lamentations.”

Photo provided by the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center

BIRMINGHAM — Valerie Mann’s “Good Grief” exhibit will be featured at the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center through June 1.

Mann, an artist from Saline, has a background in sculpture in painting, so many of her pieces consist of sculptural work that hangs on walls.

“Because I have this 2D and 3D background, I feel like I’m always working at that place where they meet,” Mann said. “I try to make work that is somewhat delicate when you first come upon it, but then it elicits some strong feelings or strong reactions in terms of curiosity.”

Mann has had pieces in the Michigan Fine Arts Competition several times.

“I thought she would be a really great fit for a one-person show so we could really immerse ourselves in her installations,” Annie VanGelderen, the president and CEO of the BBAC, said.

VanGelderen said she could get lost in so many of Mann’s pieces. One of her favorites is titled “Lamentations.”

“Not only are you intrigued by how it is put together in almost a quilt-like fashion, but also the shadows that play on the wall,” VanGelderen said.

Shadows are an important element of Mann’s work.

“They are like ephemeral drawings on the wall — additional lines that my pieces draw on the walls,” Mann said. ‘They create a relationship between the sculptures and the wall.”

The first piece Mann made for “Good Grief” was started in the beginning of the pandemic and is titled “Safety Net.”

“I was sort of capitalizing on the word safety net that were being thrown around a lot,” Mann said. “The safety net for people in our American society, but also around the world, was really being put to the test.”

The rest of her pieces in the exhibit were built on the idea that during the pandemic, the word grief became unavoidable as people were experiencing it in many different ways and all of the time.

One of the most recent pieces is titled “Correspondence.” This piece uses materials that are repurposed, as do most of her pieces.

“For me, as the maker, it’s been really important that it is repurposed, because I don’t want to have any harder of a footprint on the earth than I’m already gonna have as a human,” Mann said.

In “Correspondence,” Mann repurposes old electrical cords to create a piece that is reminiscent of the loops in cursive handwriting.

Mann said this piece is a dedication to her late grandmother, who she had a 10-year correspondence with from the time Mann left her parents house until her grandmother passed.

“I saved every single one of those, because she was this person in my life who just made me feel like I was the most important thing to her every time I saw her. It always makes me think that I hope everyone has someone in their life that makes them feel so celebrated,” Mann said.

In addition to that significant correspondence, Mann said she and her aunt have also written every other week for 35 years since she left college. Mann reflects on the impact this kind of longstanding correspondence can have on a connection.

To see Mann’s work in person, visit the BBAC during gallery hours.