Yearlong ‘Not Grandma’s Glass’ exhibit celebrates unique pieces

March features ‘My Hero’ collaboration

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published March 23, 2021

 Artists Michael Janis, of Washington, D.C., and Tony Porto, of Chicago, teamed up to create “Call Bruce Wayne” among a “My Hero” series for Royal Oak-based Habatat Galleries.

Artists Michael Janis, of Washington, D.C., and Tony Porto, of Chicago, teamed up to create “Call Bruce Wayne” among a “My Hero” series for Royal Oak-based Habatat Galleries.

Photo provided by Linda Ashley

 Artists Michael Janis, of Washington, D.C., and Tony Porto, of Chicago, created “Say Your Prayers and Eat Your Vitamins” among their “My Hero” series for Royal Oak-based Habatat Galleries.

Artists Michael Janis, of Washington, D.C., and Tony Porto, of Chicago, created “Say Your Prayers and Eat Your Vitamins” among their “My Hero” series for Royal Oak-based Habatat Galleries.

Photo provided by Linda Ashley

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ROYAL OAK — Habatat Galleries, a Royal Oak gallery founded in 1971 that specializes in glass, took a virtual approach to 2021 with 12 special exhibits — one per month — that showcase unique approaches to the art of glass under the title of “Not Grandma’s Glass.”

Director Aaron Schey said he came up with the idea of visually exploring artwork from home during the pandemic, and he especially wanted to highlight new approaches to glass art that challenge age-old accepted norms.

“It gave birth to this idea tied into the terminology of ‘Not Grandma’s Glass’ to show how the art world is changing and younger people are collecting differently from their parents or grandparents,” Schey said. “These artists are pushing the medium.”

He said he chose a dozen artists and let them pick the month they wished to exhibit in 2021. The exhibit also functions as a competition. Schey said a panel of judges will select four artists to return and join eight new artists next year.

So far, featured artists have included Seattle-based Morgan Peterson in January and Pittsburgh-based Matt Eskuche in February.

The current exhibit for the month of March features multiple pieces in a collaborative series titled “My Hero” by Michael Janis, of Washington, D.C., and Tony Porto, of Chicago. The two met as roommates at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago.

The pair worked together despite living 700 miles apart by sending samples and components back and forth through the mail.

While Janis identifies as a glass artist, Porto classifies himself as more of a visual designer with a penchant for assimilating action figures, sounds, lights and kinetic movement into his art.

Their collaboration centers on a nostalgic approach that borders on the line between serious and irreverent to explore pop iconography and incorporate action figures, including superheroes, “Star Wars,” My Little Pony, wrestlers and more.

In one piece, as individuals approach, a pulsing red light activates in a landline phone as Batman action figures emerge from both ends of the phone and dial against a colorful backdrop of Andy Warhol-like Batman tiles.

In another, the world of wrestling is forged in a glass championship belt, a chrome-colored action figure and bottles of Testo Booster.

The duo filmed each installation against an audio backdrop of epic music.

“They are not flat pieces by any means,” Porto said.

Future contributors to the “Not Grandma’s Glass” exhibit include John Moran, of Ghent, Belgium; Jon Boley, of Oregon; Chad Fanfara, of Omaha, Nebraska; Petra Herbacjova, of Prague, Czech Republic; Caterina Urrata-Weintraub, of Boston; Joseph Ivacic, of Chicago; Dean Allison, of Pittsburgh; Anthony Amoako Attah, of Sunderland, England and Ghana; and Krista Israel, of the Netherlands.

To view the exhibition, including artist talks and more, visit notgrandmasglass.com.

While Habitat Galleries is currently closed to the public, it is open for private tours. To schedule a tour or for more information, call (248) 554-0590.

The gallery is located at 4400 Fernlee Ave., near West 14 Mile Road and Coolidge Highway.

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