Papermill DNA

This pop-up exhibition is the result of my participation in the Prairie Ronde Artist Residency series here in Vicksburg, MI. The programme was established as part of the Papermill renovation project.  The drawings were carried out both onsite at the mill, and in the Hills Pharmacy as the idea for the show was developed.

expo complete view

It was fascinating to finally visit a papermill building, I had already seen many in the area. In Parchment, Kalamazoo there is a huge abandoned factory that I was very curious about when I first saw it, but was warned it was difficult to get into and dangerous. Having been such an important industry in the region I was sure there must be an opportunity somewhere. So, on reading about this residency programme I could hardly contain my enthusiasm, and it was very rewarding to be admitted.

My initial reaction on visiting the mill was admiration for the early industrial architecture, as in the specialised designs for the work spaces required at the beginning of the last century, with so many windows to make the most of natural light.  The beautiful wooden beam structure of the top floor of the East wing, which allows overhead light in through the roof with north facing windows, would make the perfect studio for any artist.  And it goes to show the attention to detail for producing a high quality product, since it was here that the cotton rags were first sorted before washing and beating into pulp. Continue reading “Papermill DNA”

Prairie Ronde residency

This week I was so happy to begin drawing at an old paper mill in Vicksburg, a thirty minute drive from Kalamazoo. This is part of the Prairie Ronde residency programme which has been ongoing while the renovation of the mill is in the planning stages. Paper mills are dotted along the rivers all around these towns, it was a big part of Michigan history at the beginning of the last century. Getting to find out more about that history through the buildings themselves and the communities that grew up around them has been fascinating.

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Vintage Kalamazoo 3: hats

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I can’t keep my eyes off these wonderful hats from the 40’s at JBird Vintage, so what else to do but….start painting them! Apparently it was the one thing that people were still creative with during the wartime since clothes were kept very simple and functional.    Also a couple more houses from the historic Stuart district and Michigan Avenue downtown.

 

 

And back to Kalamazoo: Wall St

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On arriving I was lucky enough to take over a vegetable plot in the Wall St Community Garden. At two blocks from where I’m living it’s near enough to feel like a back garden to get out to when you’ve been at the screen all day and I inherited sage, kale and raspberries. Starting in July was a bit late to do much planting, but it feels like I just got to do the nice bit which was the picking and eating.

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Murals in the Market: Detroit

Last but not least a few images from the Murals in the Market event last Friday in Detroit, an event that has grown exponentially in the last two years. The amount of people there was incredible and the murals impressive, although we come from a place where graffiti is a bit old hat having been co-opted for a political cause. Financing the medium encouraged exploration and Venezuelan tags and murals are much more creative than many I’ve seen abroad, but this is definitely more ambitious in scale and scope and not obliged to serve as propaganda. In fact the murals really make the most of what could be a devastated urban landscape and convert it into an open air museum.

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MOCAD Detroit

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So we finally made our way down Woodward Avenue past the motorways and construction sites to the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit. The main show by a Detroit artist called Sanford Biggers was Subjective Cosmology, described as an “unseen world made visible”. At first glimpse it could be the parallel worlds that people of different colour and ethnicity seem to inhabit here, as someone observed, it’s a room full of corpses, and as a comment all too pertinent in the exhibition text with the “continued killings of unarmed black civilians by the police”.

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Downtown Detroit

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Turning the corner on our way downtown from the Heidelberg project was this beauty of a building all boarded up and awaiting rescue. The mix of styles from Art Deco to Neogothic is almost whimsical in many buildings dotted around and a testament to the tremendous energy and creative freedom that must have existed in the city’s heyday. And so very different in feel from Europe, I was particularly struck by a church that seemed to use gothic and islamic in one go and was Pentecostal in denomination. Downtown we caught a quick glimpse of wonderful stone carved skyscrapers while looking for galleries that were shut and decided to make our way up to MOCAD. Even though a light rail is just being installed (we saw a train speeding by but were told later it must have been a trial run) it’s not particularly friendly to pedestrians as we found wandering down Woodward Avenue. Maybe too much to ask of a city which was (is?) the epitome of the automobile culture, and still has a way to go reinventing itself in that sense. Definitely a long way before I’d be comfortable cycling around the expansive motorways. There are civic minded details that we appreciated though like the outdoor reading room at the library…

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