By Patsy Isenberg
It was a perfect late spring day for the June Art Walk, and hundreds of visitors took advantage of the weather, walking up and down Saginaw Street in downtown Flint. It was not raining for one thing and the temperature was in the mid-70s. It was a little breezy, causing outdoor vendors to weight down the paper on their tables or in the case of Jeff and Darlene Carey who were selling and signing Jeff’s books, to keep a close eye on the prints of the artwork in his books.
But another remarkable thing about that night was the impressive artwork on display. I started at the UM-Flint Pavilion heading south down the west side of Saginaw, stopping at Churchill’s first.
Several representatives from Soul Flow 360 (in partnership with The Howell Nature Center) gave out information on the sidewalk about their immersive weekend nature retreat. But the huge drum next to their table couldn’t be missed. The drum maker said it can used by up to ten people at a time and is made from rhinoceros skin. The different sounds emitted from tapping on it are supposed to aid in meditation, he said. Inside Churchill’s was lots of art such as paintings by Zeb Molina, a frequent muralist around town.
Further south and turning west on Second Street is the new location of Buckham Gallery where three artists were showing their work.
Popular Flint painter Pauly M Everett, featured here in EVM last year, had several new paintings on display. He says in his recent artist statement that he’s “smashing up multiple side projects, murals and gallery exhibits.” He’s focussing on things that inspire him “while working with the word ‘culture’ which has been a reoccurring theme.”
Another of the three, Céline Browning, was not at Buckham that night. Executive Director Lynn Penning said Browning is from Grand Rapids. Browning is displaying several thought-provoking installation pieces.
One is an old-fashioned dial phone on a “phone stand” (circa 1950s) but with the receiver being a gun. Another piece is a child’s school backpack with a gun clearly visible inside. A blood-red hand grenade fashioned into a heart with arteries protrudes from it along with the grenade’s striker pin which would set it off.
Browning says in her artist statement that in these pieces she attempts to “deconstruct, combine, and repurpose familiar functional objects, creating an uncanny visual language that reimagines what these objects signify.” She also writes that social justice plays an important role in her work and that she aims to show “the insidious ways that the threat of violence impacts American domestic life.”
The third artist showing work at Buckham is Samah Kthar, displaying several beautiful and unusual acrylic abstracts on canvas. She said her paintings are “unplanned from beginning to completion.” Kthar explained that what she is experiencing at the time of painting the work is what she uses to motivate how the painting will progress “relative to mood, time of day/year, and inspiration of creation.”
She said she is never quite sure what the preferred orientation of a piece will be and that she uses her whole body in the process of applying the paint, often rotating the canvas as she goes. Kthar said she has been painting for only three years and was motivated to start making art as the result of a personal tragedy.
Check out these three artists work at Buckham through July 6.
Further down Saginaw, harpist Doris Williams was seated on a bench playing and singing to the delight of young Ilah Underwood who was asked to sing along. Williams said she has an upcoming interview at the Flint Institute of Music for a job after her recent move to Flint from California. Ilah seemed mesmerized while her adult friends looked on and also lent their voices.
Several artists showing and selling their work along the sidewalks of downtown, but Greater Flint Arts Council (GFAC) was the next gallery, where at least 50 people milled around the artwork, drinking wine and conversing, eating snacks or listening to a trio of musicians, and several art lovers stood around outside talking and taking in the pleasant early evening weather.
A standout display at GFAC was a series of landscape oil paintings by Kevin Burdick of Fenton, most featuring water and sky. Burdick is an extremely skilled painter. The colors are unusually vibrant and the contrasting motion between the water and sky is done wonderfully.
Then just across the street is the current Mott Warsh (MW Gallery) collection, “African Art Now!” One piece getting a lot of attention is the mixed media sculpture “Magic Ladder Kid VI” by Yinka Shonibare MBE.
The piece was commissioned by Mott Warsh in 2018 to commemorate women from or associated with Flint through the city’s history. Shonibare is a British artist of Nigerian descent. The work is a library ladder with a life-sized child mannequin in ”elaborately patterned textiles popular in Africa.” The mannequin is given a globe for a head to symbolize a child’s curiosity. Each of the ten women commemorated in this work has her name on the spine of a book placed on rungs of the ladder. Among those included are Dolores Ennis, Boxer Clarissa Shields and water crisis heroine Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha.
Also at MW Gallery are a series of photographs by Omar Victor Diop. Colorful and often using eye-catching patterns that surround the subject, he’s depicted paradoxes shared by both the style of baroque art from earlier times with modern day images of people of African descent. The collection at MW Gallery is called “El Moro (from Project Diaspora series).”
Also currently on display at MW Gallery is an assemblage that resembles a tapestry made from discarded liquor bottle caps. El Anatsui is the artist. In his “Still More Came Back” piece Anatsui, experimented with “cutting, flattening, twisting and stitching them together with copper wire.” He created this amazing piece that was also displayed at The Flint Public Library for a time but now hangs in the MW Gallery as part of its “African Art Now!” exhibit. This metal sculpture came to resemble a “soft, pliable, almost sensuous material.”
There’s plenty more “African Art Now!” to see at MW Gallery through July 27.
It was hard to see all that Art Walk has to offer on one beautiful spring night, and many people stopped along the way to relax at outdoor tables along Saginaw Street’s several cafes. It was a great night downtown. The work can still be seen at most locations.
Banner photo sunset by Kevin Burdick (Photo by Patsy Isenberg).
EVM staff writer Patsy Isenberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.