ArtPrize can often seem overwhelming, with 170 venues and almost 1,500 entries, sometimes it seems as though viewers can only run a quick hand over individual works as so many more beckon during the three-week run.
But the Frederik Meijer Garden & Sculpture Park’s always unique, often astounding, contribution to Grand Rapids’ annual explosion of art is not only a “must see” venue of the event, but it also has a longevity not offered by many of the venues – the show will continue through the end of the year, making it a “must see again, at leisure” opportunity.
Meijer Gardens’ exhibition, “Almost Home: Grand Rapids in Focus,” continues free to the public through the run of ArtPrize 8, Sunday, Oct. 9. It will then continue on display through Dec. 31, available with admission.
In recent years, the Gardens have offered an international snapshot of the modern art world brought home to Grand Rapids. This year’s exhibit still offers a closely curated spectrum – 13 artists and artistic visions – but there is a consistent theme of homemade, homegrown familiarity in the milieu.
“Each artist has a special connection to the city and has offered an original reflection on it,” Joseph Becherer, chief curator and vice president of exhibitions and collections, said in supplied material. “All sculptures and installations were created specifically for this exhibition, reflecting the social and historical, industries and enterprises, the natural and the creative forces that helped shape Grand Rapids.”
The artists in the exhibit include married couples, fathers and sons, longtime local artistic forces and relatively newcomers to Grand Rapids’ artistic home front.
Two that attracted my attention in my first – all too rushed – sweep through the gallery were Nathan Lareau’s simple yet exquisitely complex “Ditch Lily Drawing” and Anna Campbell’s complex yet exquisitely simple “Chosen Family, Chosen Name, Separatist, Safe Space, Ex-Pat, Invert, Homophile, Homestead”.
For “Ditch Lily Drawing,” Lareau uses the clean, simple lines of dried daylily stalks in all-white mosaic that, when carefully illuminated by shadow-inducing spotlights, ceases to be individual objects from nature and becomes a single, textured objets d’art which somehow reminds one of both Michigan’s cornfields in winter and some distant, cold, almost barren, otherworld.
Lareau, born and raised in rural Michigan where the lifecycle of daylilies are familiar, studied and now teaches at Aquinas College. In his artist’s statement he says: “My background in percussion has cultivated a fascination for rhythm and pattern and leads me to seek out examples of such in the physical world. The daylily possesses these elements not only through its time-measuring name, but also the visual rhythm of its growth.”
Campbell’s mixed media installation “Chosen Family, Chosen Name, Separatist, Safe Space, Ex-Pat, Invert, Homophile, Homestead,” in contrast, uses a variety of seemingly incongruent if not conflicting objects – a polished tabletop with a seemingly random spread of small glasses, a piece of children’s clothing hanging lifeless, roped gateways usually associated with entry or rejection at a nightclub.
Campbell, who is new to Grand Rapids and teaches art and design at Grand Valley State University, says in her artist’s statement that “this work is an assemblage of diverse strategies and terms that LGBT and other marginalized people have used over generations to mark the labor of making and naming home.”
My first impression, at first glance, sees the focal point as the glasses: most are grouped together or at least in some pattern (a family, or group, at home?), while several are separate, either seeking entry to the whole or willingly accepting a different path.
I look forward to spending more time with the work, at leisure, after ArtPrize’s run and finding other nuances.
— K.D. Norris
Artist in Conversation talks on Tuesday, Oct. 11, at 6 p.m. with Ron Pederson and Campbell; Sunday, Oct. 23, at 2 p.m. with Darlene Kaczmarczyk and Lareau; and Sunday, Oct. 30 at p.m. with Norwood Viviano and Joyce Recker. There will be a gallery walk and talk Nov. 1 at 7 p.m. with Becherer.