Variety of artwork displayed in ‘Under Construction’

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published May 14, 2019

GROSSE POINTE FARMS — Artists are always honing their skills and trying to become better at their craft, so “Under Construction: Artists at Work” seems like a fitting title for the latest exhibition at Grosse Pointe Congregational Church in Grosse Pointe Farms.

But it’s also appropriate because the church itself is undergoing renovations to install an elevator and improve accessibility.

On display and open to the public until May 26, “Under Construction” features 20 works by 17 artists from the Grosse Pointes and metro Detroit. It was juried by Pamela DeLaura, of Grosse Pointe Farms, an artist and Wayne State University art professor.

“There is no theme,” said Lori Zurvalec, of Grosse Pointe City, chair of GPCC’s Arts Ministry Committee. “It’s an open-call, juried (exhibition). The (title) is a reference to the fact that the church is under construction, but art is still happening here.”

In addition to exhibitions, the church also hosts art classes.

Nobuko Yamasaki, of Grosse Pointe Shores, was awarded best in show for “Shift,” a woodblock print. She also has a collage, “Colorful Steps,” in the exhibition.

“I have a beautiful magnolia tree (in my yard),” Yamasaki said. “Now it’s blooming.”

A couple of years ago, Yamasaki said a different magnolia tree had to be cut down. She used slices of tree trunk to create “Shift,” which reflects the rings inside the trunk.

Zurvalec said “Under Construction” is “very colorful” and diverse.

Like Yamasaki, Zurvalec also has two works that were selected for this show, one of which — “Mercy in a Hard World No. 2,” an acrylic, watercolor, oil-based pen and graphite work with collage — received an honorable mention.

“I think of it as a drawing,” Zurvalec said. “I put a watercolor wash (on it), but I kept drawing over it.”

There’s one spot of color — an abstract yellow squiggle — in the midst of black and white.

“I think of it as a positive shape. … There’s always some positive in our lives, no matter how hard it gets,” Zurvalec said.

Cynthia Sommerville, of Grosse Pointe Park, the only other artist with two works chosen for “Under Construction,” is the second honorable mention recipient, for her Japanese woodblock print, “Going in Circles #2.” She said this is one in a series of three prints. She chose the board on which she made the print specifically for its grain and applied paint delicately so that the grain remains visible in spots.

“I was playing with color and printed a set of boards three different ways,” Sommerville said. “I was going for a more natural (look), even though (the image) is more contemporary. I wanted to show that it was a true woodblock.”

While exhibitions often call for work that has been created within the last year or two, Zurvalec said “Under Construction” imposed no such time limit. As a result, Deborah Maiale, of Grosse Pointe Woods, was able to submit “Progression,” a serigraph she created around the time she was completing her bachelor’s degree. “Progression” won first place in the fine arts division of the Michigan State Fair in 1971.

“I played with intensity and lights and darks because I had been studying color theory,” Maiale said. “It was a form of experimental composition.”

The work, which features seemingly simple blocks of color opposite one another, was freshly matted and framed for this show.

“While this was an older piece of Deb’s, it’s an outstanding piece,” Zurvalec said. “We just wanted really good work.”

Tudi Harwood, of Grosse Pointe Farms, one of several artists in the show who has studied Japanese woodblock printmaking at GPCC with Yamasaki, has a Japanese woodblock print, “King’s Park Botanic Gardens, Perth, Australia,” in “Under Construction.” Harwood has a background in oil and watercolor painting, so she said she tends to approach woodblock printing “in a painterly way.”

She said King’s Park “has the most majestic approach to it, lined with gum trees. I wanted to depict not only the interesting trees, but the skyline of Perth, the time of day (and) the people. Australia was, in many ways, so exotic … so this was a challenge for me.”

The print involved carving multiple boards to incorporate the different shapes, colors and shades in the final artwork.

“My approach to art is taking risks, having a vision, being very brave,” Harwood explained. “It’s a risk to put yourself out there. Anything I do, I want it to be worthwhile, to be engaging, to tell a story.”

Other artists whose work is featured include Frank Bissig, Kathleen McNamee, Chad Ososki and Jackie Rybinski, of Grosse Pointe Farms; Michael Florian, Julie Strabel and Tamara Whitty, of Grosse Pointe Park; Bette Prudden, of Grosse Pointe Woods; Laura Whitesides Host, of Birmingham; Rosemary Lee, of Howell; Joyce Manke, of Troy; and Joan Smykowski, of Livonia.

Grosse Pointe Congregational Church is located at 240 Chalfonte Ave. The exhibition is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sundays or by appointment. For more information or to make an appointment to see the exhibition, call (313) 884-3075 or visit www.gpcong.org.