Artist Spotlight: Rachel M. Parker — The Heidelberg Gallery’s Current Emerging Artist

Artist Spotlight of The Heidelberg Gallery’s Current Emerging Artist, Rachel M. Parker

Starting this Saturday, September 22nd (6 through 8 pm), The Heidelberg Project Gallery presents its latest  Emerging Artist, Rachel M. Parker.   Rachel’s show premiers during the celebrated Detroit Design Festival.  Rachel is deeply committed to Detroit, and her colorful aesthetic can be seen throughout various city beautification projects.  She explains that “Color is vast … it flows through our lives and brings depth, character, and individualism to everything we see.  It can influence the thought process and bring life to emotion.”  Rachel’s paintings show an artist determined to explore the power of color (through abstract and representational forms) to guide her to the next stage of her career.


Below is my interview of Rachel, which delves into her thoughts at this important stage in her challenging and worthy journey as an artist.

Rachel’s show is titled, “Medley of Unorganized Beauty,” and it opens with an all-ages reception from 6 through 8 p.m. on Saturday, September 22, at The Heidelberg Project Gallery, 42 Watson Street, Detroit, MI 48201.   The show is on display until October 19, 2012, and the Gallery is open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. through 5 p.m.  For more information, you can visit its website here or contact Amanda Sansoterra at (313) 974-6894 or

Colin Darke: What is your background?

Rachel M. Parker: I’m a native Detroiter. I’ve always loved art and working with my hands. It’s always been a part of my life…whether it’s with me being a nail manicurist or freelance artist….artistry has always been inside me.

What or who inspires you?

Nature is a big inspiration in work. Color is the most inspiring….it is everywhere and every shade tells a story

What are your thoughts about Tyree Guyton and the Heidelberg Project?

I can remember my parents taking me to see Tyree’s art on Heidelberg Street….and seeing it grow over the years is amazing. Some saw it as unattractive and blight but did not understand the message in his work….but now I believe people see it as Art, which it has always been. Heidelberg helps define Detroit.

Any thoughts on DC3′s Detroit Design Festival?

I’m proud that Detroit can hold events like the Detroit Design Festival to showcase the talented artists we have … and have discussion about art …. We have been defining ourselves in the art word….and events like this help get the word out.

How has your experience as a Heidelberg Project Emerging Artist been?

It has been an eye opener. It has given me a chance to come out of my artistic shell. Being able to showcase my work for people to see is a blessing and a dream.

Do you have any mentors?

God is my mentor, he gave me the talent and his creations that we see every day drive me. Also, my family is usually the first to see my pieces so I value their opinions.

Where do you see Detroit in 10 years?

In 10 years I see Detroit thriving again. There are people that care and that will overcome all adversities. I also think Detroit will be the “it” city for newness and innovation in art and design. Everyone’s going to want to get a piece of what we have to offer.

Does beauty play a role in your art?

Yes, seeing colors and how they merge is beautiful to me.

What’s next?

Being prepared for upcoming opportunities

Fire Over Water at the Public Pool

An interview with George Rahme about his latest show, Fire Over Water, at Public Pool in Hamtramck, Michigan

This past Friday, I drove to Hamtramck, Michigan. Hamtramck is a culturally diverse home to a lot of musicians and fine artists, and it is almost completely surrounded by Detroit. I drove down Caniff Street, and this drive reminded me of why I love this community. An old “Welcome to Hamtramck” sign guides you in, and then you drive by old shops and new endeavors. I was welcomed by a slew of great street art. I then drove by the celebrated Planet Ant Theatre (a theater company, improve colony, and record label, housed in a purple three-story tenement). And then I was at my destination: Public Pool.

Photo of exterior of Public Pool gallery, courtesy of artist George Rahme

Even though people have bombarded me with news of the great things Public Pool has been doing, this was the first time I stopped by this new gallery space (opened in 2010). In a postcard moment, as I walked toward the gallery the current artist-in-residence, George Rahme, was outside talking to a mother and child about the art space. This space is the essence of community and open discourse.

George welcomed me in to tale about his latest work. For his show, Fire Over Water, he creates his collage work in the gallery prior to his opening on September 15. He has three huge pieces (in various states of completion) that cover the walls of the gallery.

As of late, I have come across a lot of contemporary collagists. It seems a natural response to this dizzying information age—a way to take in and digest the layers and layers of imagery and color thrown at us on a daily basis. Some collage artists do not have the artistic eye to know when to stop or the discipline to make a compelling well thought-out piece. Other artists, like George, approach this medium with a true artistic eye, and they create pieces that are structurally sound, and they create pieces that tell complex and engrossing stories. George noted that he does not believe he is making collage per say, “it’s more like painting, or manual Photoshop.”

I agree. George’s first piece that I saw when I entered the gallery echoed more of the style and genius of Julie Mehretu’s paintings than any of the collage art I have seen. I am extremely glad that I decided to drive down Caniff this past Friday, and I encourage you to do the same. This is a perfect venue to experience a truly creative soul hard at work—open doors and open conversations. Below is my full interview with George.

Colin: First, what or who inspires you?

George: I can’t put my finger on one thing in particular; there are no hierarchies in my head. Yet there is something to see in all things, and there is always something to learn–especially from your surroundings, and culture. I find that the way in which things function between micro and macro scales inspiring. Nature, and also the friction and tension that exists within culture, and how it is something to move through.

Colin: How has your experience at Public Pool been?

George: Amazing. I have found enormous inspiration from this experience and I am gracious for the opportunity. Also, I’ve really enjoyed working with Steve Hughes and hope to do more collaboration.

Colin: Have you learned anything from having your studio in a gallery – working in front of the public?

George: I’ve learned more about how downtown Hamtramck functions. Living on only the second street from Caniff I am amazed as to how dramatic the change has been and how Hamtramck is the center of the metro area, as well as the nuts and bolts of diversity in Southeast Michigan. This opportunity has allowed me to see my new work with fresh eyes, considering most people who wander in are not familiar with art, and sometimes beautifully naive. For me, experiencing the people is like experiencing something completely new to myself.

Becoming punctual with how my time is spent, although it can become too routine, could be its downfall.

Colin: What are the good and bad things about working in Detroit as compared to the other places you have worked and shown (New York in particular)?

George: like I said, there are no hierarchies. Everything is relative, just some things I choose to do. I feel being here I can make a stronger impact on the community and not jumping into the spotlight. Working away from commerce and the influence of mainstream New York is important to me. NY is not what it once was, and I and probably many other artists find comfort in raw gems like Detroit.

It’s important to know what is going on in the world; we are all living on the crossroads. To have a global representation in art is important. To make work that speaks to everyone no matter where they live. This is what I believe, and that is why I am represented by Fred Torres.

Colin: How has your art career changed over the past five years?

George: My network has expanded, allowing me the opportunity to exhibit globally and include my work in collections outside the U.S.

Colin: Do you have any mentors?

George: Yes. Paul Nilsson, Jim Ferguson, Chido Johnson, Gilda Snowdan

Colin: What current artists inspire you?

George: El Anatsui, although I have not seen his work in person yet. The 2011 Venice Biennale. Christina Galasso and many other people who are close in my life. But I am also inspired by anyone, even if they are not an artist. I enjoy diverse perspectives. Mostly I am inspired by those who are excited and inspired themselves. Meeting my new friend today Thomas Gerald.

Colin: Where do you see Detroit in 10 years?

George: The city is going in good directions and possibly some bad directions. The farming and adding more green space is essential. Yet we still need to get rid of the incinerator which is crazy to have in the center of the city. Not to mention the corruption (at all levels) this tends to plague this place, which needs a cure not a Band-Aid.

You used to be able to counter the corruption with the amazing underground parties that sparked the world. Unfortunately the parties are no longer here, but the slum lords still own the buildings, well most of em.

All the newly restored skyscrapers downtown once were venues for all night parties. I had much more fun in Detroit before it started to hit the mainstream. I am beginning to embrace this however and somehow do good things with the newly flourishing art happenings.

I don’t feel like I can compare this city to any other. It’s totally unique, but may have some similar qualities to other places on Earth. It’s always been about the future here. I believe we are in the forefront of America.

Colin: What’s next?

George: As of now, I am hoping to work with the city of Hamtramck in creating pop-up studios. In effort to highlight Hamtramck’s great spaces which are available, and with all hopes to interest people, artist, and businesses. I also plan on visiting my buddy, Trent Abbe to work on some printing which will be used in my next piece. And in the mean time I look forward to preparing for a couple shows west of the Mississippi, one in Montana, and another in San Francisco.

Public Pool  is located at 3309 Caniff, Hamtramck, MI 48212. George Rahme’s Fire Over Water runs from now through October 27. The gallery is open daily, and you can stop by and meet the artists. There is an opening reception on September 15, 7 pm to 11 pm (refreshments courtesy of Traffic Jam).

Topher Crowder: My Life Splayed Open

Inside the mind of artist Topher Crowder

As an artist, the most frequent question asked of me is “So do you do art fairs?”. Up until this summer I had always avoided what I believed to be the lowest form of art; the summer art fair.

I know I probably sound like a snob, an art snob. But, there is an unwritten code among artists that once you delve into the gutter of the summer art fair, there is no return. You are stained for life with the fecal smell of pandering to the lowest of the low.

Ok, it may not be a ‘real’ code and there really is no smell of poo. But in the art circles I frequent, there are certain categories that art may reside and these categories rarely intersect.

At the highest echelon of public display of art resides the ‘By Appointment Only’ for profit gallery. These galleries are the pick of litter and cater to the wealthiest of the wealthy. They are an artist’s wet dream and well above my stage of art expertise. Unfortunately at my age, I doubt I will ever see any of my artwork displayed in a gallery that is only open by appointment only. Nope, keep dreaming fucktard.

Slightly below the ‘By Appointment Only’ galleries are the ‘Open During The Weekend Only’ galleries. These galleries are for profit and only open during the weekend because they MAKE SO MUCH FUCKING MONEY!! I know, it’s crazy that an art gallery could make so much money that they would not need to stay open during normal business hours. But that’s how they roll. Now, I have been in shows in galleries that were only open on the weekend. But, they were different. The galleries that I have shown in that only open during the weekend, were only open during the weekend because they were going out of business and had to make pizzas during the rest of the week. They are two different things and as before, I doubt I will ever see my work displayed in a (very profitable) gallery that is open only during the weekend. It won’t happen.

Lower down the ladder are regular ‘for profit’ galleries. These places are open  during normal business hours  Wednesday though Sunday. These places bust ass to make a dollar and are probably as high as I will ever go when it comes to displaying my art. I have had a number of shows in these types of institutions and I am very grateful for every minute my work was on their walls.

But, these shows are few and far between and will never pay daddy’s rent.

From here, we delve into the ‘Non Profit’ arena.

Non-profit galleries are a very wide ranging group of categories. The highest of these are run by city art commissions and promote the idea of bring art to the masses. These tax exempt venues serve a very noble cause and I have been honored to have been asked to take part in a few of their showings. In one such show, I made a huge sale of two of my best pieces and when asked, I always say “YES, I WOULD BE HAPPY TO TAKE PART”.

Dropping down a notch are the tax exempt galleries that work very hard to bring art to regional urban centers. Run by Board Members and high profile donors, these galleries play a valuable part in bringing an affordable art experience to the great unwashed masses while at the same time bringing a small amount of much needed cash to a few unwashed local artists. These venues have been the most profitable for me and where I have had the most public showings of my work. Most every show I have been asked to take part of in these types of venues has been a fantastic experience. Almost each show has been a collection of great artists and great works. Ok, I’m brown nosing it a little. Ok, alot. Fuck you, I need the money and if I burn the bridges this low, I may never get any higher. So, if brown nosing gets me shows, then I will wear a badge of shit for my entire life.

A few more rungs down the art ladder is the tax exempt, non profit, some dude has a dream gallery. These are the lowest of the legitimate galleries. Usually in an abandoned urban space or in some city owned building bought at auction and usually without heat, insurance, or full time staff. These venues offer little in the way of sales or marketing. Never expect a sale at one of these galleries and if you do get a sale, many do not ‘do the whole bank thing’ and may only offer cash or postal money order as way of compensation for sold art. But, rule of thumb, don’t expect to sell work here. Many of my first shows were at places like these. I have fond memories of artwork hung in cold poorly lit rooms and miss-spelled labels. Good times.

Slightly below the realm of ‘some dude running an art gallery in the basement of an abandoned church’, we have that local bar or restaurant that believes that they could be a serious gallery too. If they didn’t serve food and booze. These places are the true wild west of public art venues. Art becomes secondary to the Reuben on rye with fries instead of chips. Personally, I have been proud to have always drawn the line in the sand at this spot when it came to displaying my work publicly. It’s not bad, it’s just different. Fried food and my art do not mix. ’nuff said.

Wait, somewhere just above the dude who runs a restaurant that has art on it’s walls is the MFA studio show. Public confession, I have taken part in one of these things. A Mongolian Cluster Fuck has better planning than the single MFA studio show I took part of and it is not my fondest memory of grad school. The minute I was asked by a fellow student, “Could you move your work? It’s making mine look too orange”, I knew I was truly in hell. Look, I still have problems speaking of it today without losing control of my faculties. The entire night was not ranked among my proudest moments and let us leave it at that and move on.

Well below the art gallery wanna-be restaurants and the MFA studio shows are the Summer Art Fairs. I feel bad about ranking them here because the average art fair artist busts ass to make every buck. I just wish they would bust ass to make every work of art. That being said, this summer I came to the conclusion that dish washing at Hooter’s, part time teaching at my local community college and selling my shrinking toy collection on E-bay was not going to pay my rent. I needed more money. What if I could bring a real art experience to your average summer art fair? What if I could do all that AND make a huge amount of fucking money? Well, this is the summer I tried make some real scratch.

Outside Inspiration: Noah Becker

Canada and New York City try to house Noah Becker’s enormous creative spirit

For this  ”Outside Inspiration” installment, I looked to our friendly neighbor: Canada. Because Canada houses Noah Becker’s enormous creative spirit (Well, to be more accurate, Canada and New York City try to house Noah Becker’s enormous creative spirit — he goes between the two often, and is currently in New York). Noah is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Whitehot Magazine–A brilliant magazine that covers contemporary arts on an international level. And Noah is a visual artist, whose lush paintings of individuals with striking manes provide viewers with an unexpected appreciation of the beauty and allure of hair. And Noah  is an accomplished Jazz musician.  And, here is some more information about this outside inspiration:

Colin: What or who inspires you?

Noah:  A lot of different people– usually people like Charlie Parker and Velasquez, Rimbaud and my mother.

Colin: What is your process?

Noah:  The great works of the past are always humbling – Goya, Velasquez, Rubens. I look at a lot of great art as part of my process.

Colin:How has your art career changed over the past five years?

Noah:  I’ve found a way to show internationally on a regular basis. Also I am friends with a few celebrities now, art stars mostly.

Colin: What is Whitehot Magazine?

Noah:  Whitehot Magazine is an internationally based magazine dedicated to contemporary art.

Colin: Why did you start it?

Noah:  My needs were not being met online for art criticism, so I filled this gap with over 3,000,000 words – we are nearing the 3,000th article now.

Colin: Are there any similarities between your art practice and your publishing practice?

Noah:  That’s a very tough question, I get asked to compare art, music and writing all the time. It’s not really up to me.

Colin: How do you juggle being an artist, jazz musician, writer, and publisher?

Noah:  I have lots of people working with me now, some great people. Also we made a feature film this year which is a new thing for me, film is exciting. I don’t sleep very much, I go to bed at 5am most times.

Colin: What do you look for when viewing new artwork?

Noah:  I think some people look at how it’s made not what it is. I think about how different people might perceive things instead of having a fixed perspective.

Colin: Do you have any mentors?

Noah:  My mentor died a few years ago his name is Glenn Edward Howarth a Canadian painter.

Colin: How do you define success?

Noah:  Success is being yourself.

Colin:How can Detroit attract artists/musicians/writers/publishers like you?

Noah:  Detroit has been coming up a lot recently, my friend the New York collage artist Michael Anderson has been doing some interesting things there. It looks like a lot of great things are happening in Detroit so I would just “keep on keepin’ on” so to speak.

Do critics count? Artist Spotlight: Conor Foy (ArtPrize 2-D Shortlist)

An interview with Conor Foy about his experience in this year’s ArtPrize

Do critics count? Teddy Roosevelt has a great quote about critics that boils down to: critics do not count, but the person who is actually in the arena (“whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again ….”) that counts. In the Internet age, everyone is a critic – often an unhinged critic who hides in the “comment” sections of an article. With fine art, it is easy to say that art critics do not count for much, because fine art is subjective by its nature, so the only opinion that really counts is your own.

Because this is the Internet age and because everyone is a critic, I believe art critics do count—not for everything, but they count as informed filters for the rest of us. The at-large public critic who comes across an article or a painting and gives his or her two second “subjective” assessment does not count. However, the critic who comes across an article or a painting and gives his or her reasoned and well-informed assessment does count, and he or she counts more than ever as a valuable intermediary between the general public and specialized fields. While fine art is subjective, it is also a specialized field. Viewers should not discount their initial, subjective responses to a piece, but viewers should be receptive to the opinions of an art critic who day in and day out views and thinks about art.

Why? Because your opinion may change as you view art more critically, and an art critic may point you in a direction that you would not consider on your own, yet that direction opens your eyes to a whole new world of inspiration.

More proof that critics count: Conor Foy.  Conor Foy is an important artist, he is in the arena creating great work, and without the critics at ArtPrize his work could have merely sat quiet at a local bar in Grand Rapids, Michigan. ArtPrize critics shortlisted Conor’s piece, East View 1.  With this piece, he shows that he is able to capture immense emotion through delicate figurative work. He creates a quiet narrative that does not lecture to the viewer, but it compels the viewer to consider the figure’s tragic story.

Michigan’s ArtPrize 2012 recently came to an end. ArtPrize is the world’s largest art competition (it awards $560,000 in total prizes). Throughout its life, ArtPrize has expanded its scope. It is primarily a contest decided by public vote, but ArtPrize’s organizers have listened to the “art world” criticisms and expanded ArtPrize’s scope to include the opinion of art experts. ArtPrize is an amazing event, which has—in my opinion—educated a large population to critically think about fine art. In years past, artists were able to fair well through gimmicks, but as the competition has progressed, those gimmicks no longer hold the attention of the general public.  By introducing lectures and juried awards, ArtPrize provides a happy marriage between a general public and an exclusive art world event.

I sat down with Conor to learn more about his backgroundand to learn about his thoughts on ArtPrize.  Conor lives in Brooklyn, New York (he has lived in New York for the past 17 years and prior to that he lived in London for 5 years), and he received his undergraduate degree from the National College of Art and Design in Dublin Ireland and he received an MFA from Columbia.

Colin Darke: Can you describe your piece in ArtPrize?

Conor Foy: Small piece, 14inches x 12. Oil on board. Primed with underbody sanded to a smooth finish, a lot of which shows through on the finished piece. It’s clean, sparse, minimal. Works with abstraction and figuration. Meaning open to interpretation, not event specific but there is a particular source.

Is this in line with your other work?

Yes. Most of the work is based on news, documentative source material. Working with the same open meaning to create a meditative space, driving a dialogue between the work and the viewer.

What are your overall thoughts about ArtPrize?

I think the contrast of juried prizes and public vote is going to be ArtPrize’s strongest feature going forward. The strength of the juried shortlist will attract artist in the future, who previously might not have seen ArtPrize as worthwhile in the past, for whatever reason.

What is your process?

Start with images from documentary/ news footage. Usually the pieces are completed over three or four sittings (standings). I always work with music. I find the distraction stops me over thinking the action of painting. It allows the subconscious to engage

Does beauty play a role in your work?

Oh yeah. It is the great enticer. It draws the viewer in then, gradually, the harsher aspects will reveal themselves.

What do you look for when viewing new artwork?

Usually I’m looking at work related to my own. It’s an extension of the conversation I’m having with myself and stops that conversation from becoming too reflexive, it poses questions highlights areas I may not have considered without the outside influence. I don’t purposefully avoid other work, that’s just what I gravitate towards. Having said that I got a great kick out of the work at Site Lab at Art Prize this year.

How do you define success?

Working exclusively in the studio, which means it’s funding itself. And driving a spankin new series 5 Beamer would be a nice outward show of my recognised genius.

How can Detroit attract artists like you?

Like ArtPrize has done, with well known critics, collectors. Attract them you’ll have artists swarming the city. How do you attract the critics and collectors before the actual artists? Cash, good spaces and a discerning eye for the work that’s presented. Be brave; put your foot down, no schlock.

What’s next?

I’m off to the studio. A steady development of the work, more showing, more nominations (next time the cash would be nice)

Detroit: Artistic Beacon

An interview with Paris-based artist Evan Roth about his career and his piece in Detroit’s light festival DLECTRICITY

Light is magic.  It disperses shadows, and it can transfix people.  It is a proper symbol for hope and new beginnings.  In the evening of October 5 (from 7 p.m. to 12 a.m.) and the evening of October 6 (from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m.), Detroit will host a new contemporary light art festival called DLECTRICITY.  There will be over 35 projects ranging from interactive light design to 3D video mapping.  At the same time, Kunsthalle Detroit Museum of Multimedia and Light-Based Art opens its Luminale Detroit Light Festival, which brings together 24 international multimedia artists.  Kunsthalle’s light festival will run through December 5th.  Through this embrace of light, Detroit is an arts beacon.

Evan Roth is one of the artists participating in DLECTRICITY.  Evan is the essence of creativity.  He excels at finding a worthy marriage between technology and fine art.  He has received praise for his use of technology and a street art aesthetic, and for DLECTRICITY Evan combines his love of hip hop, Detroit, and innovative fine art to pay tribute to J Dilla.  His piece, titled “A Legacy Lives On,” will be shown on the facade of the Museum of African American History, starting October 5 at 7 p.m.

Evan is from Michigan, but his art practice took him to New York to Hong Kong and eventually to Paris—where he now lives.  He has work in the Museum of Modern Art NYC’s permanent collection, and he was recently awarded the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award.

I sat down with Evan to talk about DLECTRICITY and his art career.


Colin Darke: What is your background?

Evan:  I grew up skateboarding and listening to rap music in rural mid-Michigan (Okemos to be exact). I received my undergraduate degree at the University of Maryland in Architecture. After working in architecture for two years in Washington DC and another year in Los Angeles I moved to New York City to pursue an MFA in design and technology at Parsons (New School University). Since graduating I’ve been doing art full time, spending two years as a fellow at Eyebeam, two years living in Hong Kong and now living for the last two years in Paris.

What or who inspires you?

I’m inspired by people that are able to make small alterations to larger systems. Alterations that repurpose the originally intended use and turn it into something new and unexpected. Often times these people self-identify as “hackers”, but I also find these characteristics in graffiti writers, street artists, net artists, skateboarders and rappers.

Can you describe your piece for DLECTRICITY?

The piece I’m creating for DLECTRICITY is primarily a memorial to legendary hip-hop producer and former Detroit native James Dewitt Yancey (more commonly known as J. Dilla) who passed away in 2006. His work has had a big influence on me, and I think anyone that loves rap music. The title, “A Legacy Lives On”, comes from a quotation found on his grave marker. The piece is a tribute both to him and the kind of music that he made, which was based on sampling and re-use. For two nights I will be projecting a large countdown timer on the facade of the Museum of African American History, that will count down from 70 years after his death, until the point when his music is free of copyright and enters the public domain. This temporary installation at DLECTRICITY is hopefully the first step in finding a home for a permanent version of the memorial somewhere in Detroit.



The Legacy Lives On - courtesy of the artist, Evan Roth

Is this in line with your other work?

I am very interested in copyright, free culture, free software and hip-hop, so in that sense it is very much in line with themes that I have been addressing in my work for several years. In terms of projection, however, it’s somewhat of a shift. I no longer do some of the more performative projection based pieces that I have done in the past (such as Laser Tag and Graffiti Analysis).

What is your process?

I have an email account where I email myself ideas for art pieces when inspiration hits. From time to time I go through that account and if I’m still excited about a piece 6 months later I tend to make it. I maintain a studio in Montreuil (just east of Paris), and work together with my wife who handles much of the non-art-making related tasks.

How has your art career changed over the past five years?

The core influences and values are the same, but I hope that my work has evolved over the years. I think that it has. I’m increasingly more interested in the relationship society and individuals have with technology, and less interested in the technology itself. I’ve been focused on dealing with the function of art in culture, and intentionally exploring that space in a more concentrated way. I’m also allowing myself more room to work on solo projects. My natural instinct is to crew up on projects immediately, and I sometimes forget that there are benefits to working alone as well.

How did you end up in Paris? Can you compare your opportunities in Paris to those in Detroit?

The short version of why I ended up in Paris is that I was looking for a centrally located hub in Europe for my art practice. I was previously living in New York and Hong Kong and finding myself on more long flights to Europe than I was comfortable with. Moving to Paris was an effort to maximise my time in the studio making art, and minimizing my time flying from point to point.

In many ways Paris is the exact opposite of Detroit. In Paris you have high rents, a beautiful and functioning infrastructure (including health care), people accustomed to a high quality of life, it’s safe, and has an art scene that is at times aloof and exclusionary. Detroit, on the other hand, has low rent, a crumbling infrastructure, it’s dangerous and has an art scene that is very united and community based. These are of course gross oversimplifications of two very complicated cities, but the differences are severe. I really love both cities, but for very different reasons.

How often do you get back to Michigan?

Normally I get back at least once a year to see family. In April of this year I was invited to Eastern Michigan University for a solo exhibition and to teach a course, and that was the first time I’ve ever been in Michigan professionally. It’s a great feeling coming home to make art, and this was a theme that ran through my Welcome To Detroit exhibition. I hope that this is the start of a long lasting relationship with the city and I will be able to come back on a regular and more frequent basis.

What do you look for when viewing new artwork?

When I’m viewing (and making) art I’m looking for work that allows me to see something common in a totally new way. I remember having this feeling when I first started skateboarding when I was younger. Skateboarding allows you to see the city in a completely new way. Stairs, handrails, curbs, ledges; things that would have normally gone unnoticed take on entirely new purposes. Good art can have this same effect on people. When I find myself thinking, “wow, I will never look at ____ the same again”, or “Fuck, I should have thought of that!”, it is usually a sign that I’ve stumbled into something exciting.

Do you have any mentors?

Jonah Peretti (founder of the Huffington Post, Buzzfeed and the Eyebeam OpenLab) remains a big influence in my thinking about the Internet, free culture and popular culture. Zach Lieberman has been an influential teacher and mentor, especially surrounding code and interactivity. Artistically I have learned a lot (and been inspired by) Cory Arcangel. I’m also mildly obsessed with Jay-Z.

How do you define success?

Professionally I define success as the freedom to make the art I want to make when I want to make it. When I find myself getting stressed out with the ins and outs of existing as an artist I try to remind myself of this.

Artistically I define success as work that communicates meaningful content to an audience that includes the arts, but extends further into popular culture and non-art circles.

How can Detroit attract artists like you?

Email people. A lot of artists (especially in France), are fascinated with what they’ve heard is going on in Detroit. Since space is in abundance, I would think that there are lot of artists that would be happy to come for residencies that didn’t include much more than a place to stay, and perhaps access to tools and space to make work. It sounds simple, but I would think that due to this curiosity a lot more people would say ‘yes’ to invitations to Detroit than many other cities. Artist fees and free airfare never hurt either.

What’s next?

On Oct. 18th I will be showing a new piece at 319 Scholes in NYC as part of Domenico Quaranta’s exhibition ‘Collect the WWWorld: The Artist as Archivist in the Internet Age’. I will be installing a 12′ x 9′ self portrait created from every image that passed through my Internet browser’s cache directory during a personally traumatic two week period in July 2012. More info on that exhibition can be found here.

Also, in November Lindsay Howard is curating 5 year retrospective of the F.A.T. Lab (a collective I co-founded in 2007) at Eyebeam in NYC.   More info on that will be posted on shortly.

Tyree’s Back! Musings from Detroit’s Tyree Guyton

xcerpt from Tyree’s Guyton’s From Basel to Detroit musings

This past January, Detroit’s Tyree Guyton traveled to Basel, Switzerland, and he came back to Detroit last month.  Below are his last two musings about his time in Basel.
I came home on the 25th  of September and I’m so glad to be back in the city. It’s hard to believe that I was gone for a year. I truly missed this city and the energy of all wonderful people here in the big – D. During my time abroad, I thought a lot about the city and the challenge to push myself to the outer limits of my imagination here in Basel. My work here at home has prepared me for the world and Switzerland helped me to see the greatness of Yahweh in nature.

I left on the18th of September for my opening in Bern Switzerland. The title of this exhibition is, Two Countries, Two Cities, One Spirit. Everything is connected to spirit Law from my estimation. Switzerland is a different country and the culture is what is so dissimilar but art is universal and so is God, if you believe.

As I leave, take care all you wild ass folks here in the – D. Stay in trouble please and let’s transform our City into a work of art that shows what we are made of here.

All week I’ve been running around like a chicken with no head because I’m getting ready to go home. Time went by so fast and it’s hard to believe that my residency is coming to an end. I came here afraid – nervous and not sure about any of it at first, but time settled me into place. I see the importance of me coming here now. I was reborn. This was a mental medicine and very therapeutic in terns of me being exposed to European artists and philosophers of the past.
Two weeks ago, Jenenne and I went to visit our friends in Stuttgart, Germany. Klaus and Cathrin live in themountains of Stuttgart where there are lots wine vineyards and it was like being on top of the world looking down at the city of Stuttgart. What a view! They fixed a birthday dinner for myself and Jenenne, who was also celebrating her birthday. We stayed the night there. I personally love the artwork that was in our bedroom, painted on the walls.

We turned in early because we had a big day planned for tomorrow plus a special surprise in store for us.
I rose early. I’m more or less an early bird. I like the morning sky. We had breakfast and then we were on our way headed for the autobahn. Klaus drove and I rode shotgun. On the way, to my “BIG” surprise, we made one stop, to check out a folk art museum. The work at the museum was great and it reminded me of grandpa Mackey’s artwork. My “BIG” surprise was having Klaus and Cathrin and a friend of theirs take Jenenne and myself to Heidelberg, Germany!

Heidelberg is a college town and students come from all over the world to attend school there. We had lunch
on one of the Heidelberg boats and after lunch we strolled up and down the city streets. The grand finale was taking the cable car to the top of the mountain. And there it was, the Heidelberg castle. Big, powerful, a fortress of the past. It was a city in itself.

The castle was built in 1271 and still stands today as a tourist attraction. It was damaged twice by lightening storms and partly destroyed during the France war. This was a wonderful birthday present, to go back in time and see this magnificent artwork on top of a hill over-looking the city. The Heidelberg castle lives on, on top of that mountain and the Heidelberg Project lives on and on, on Heidelberg street.

Inspired Baseball–Artist Spotlight: Christopher Gideon

On baseball and art — Artist interview of Christopher Gideon

A lot of different things inspire me.  Paintings inspire me, other artists inspire me, books inspire me, music inspires me, and sports’ teams inspire me  – Not all… but the Tigers, right now, inspire me. They are down, but they’ll come back.   The City needs this kind of inspiration — inspiration from winning.

As a marriage between two of my inspirations, I reached out to Christopher Gideon.  First, Christopher’s art deals with baseball.  He often re-purposes baseball cards in his work.  Second, Christopher’s work fascinates me, because he creates mesmerizing patterns of color and line through baseball cards.  He forces you to think of everyday items in a new and exciting and inspiring way.


Christopher is a trained architect.  He worked for several prestigious architectural firms in the area, yet he fell victim to the global slow-down.  So after almost  a decade of honing his craft in architecture, Christopher decided to turn the page and start a new chapter in his life.  So I wanted to share some of his work with you, and I wanted to introduce you to Christopher.

Colin Darke: First, are you a fan of the Tigers?

Chris: I’m a bit of a fair weather fan when it comes to sports, other than hockey (I’m a pretty die-hard Red Wings fan).  For some reason though, I got pretty into the last Giants-Cardinals series, so now I’m super excited for the World Series.  My sports-fan-poseur meter is redlining.

Tigers have this one in the bag.  We’ve been strong throughout the playoffs this year and I think not having to face the Cardinals is an added bonus.   GO TIGERS!!!

When did you start painting?
Technically, I began to explore painting around the time I started college, say, around 1996 or 1997. I had no idea what I was doing, whether it was using gouache on canvas or painting just the background before aborting the mission and moving onto something else. It was quite a bumpy start.Classifying my own work is tough. I do know that I always try to create imagery that is effective, graphically speaking.

You often use baseball cards in your work, did you collect cards as a kid?

Oh yeah, I still have thousands.  A bunch of them have been re-purposed into artwork.  I haven’t collected since I was like fourteen, but occasionally someone will pick up a pack from the dollar store and toss it into my lap as a joke.  By the way, what the hell happened to baseball cards?  They kinda’ suck now.

As an artist in Detroit, what are the positives and negatives about creating art in Detroit?

One big positive, I’d say, is the sense of being a relatively big-ish fish in a small-ish pond.  In most other major cities, the artist pool is considerably deeper.  I imagine it would be a lot easier to get lost in the shuffle.  I’ve only been in the Detroit art scene for a little over two years, but I already feel very connected with the local artist network.

On the flipside, the very thing that makes Detroit a great place to make art – its smaller cultural envelope – is also a detriment.  I find that the quantity of high quality venues accepting and promoting work from young and/or emerging artists is somewhat lacking compared to other big cities.  Recently, it seems I’ve been answering mostly out-of-state or out-of-country call for entries.


Where is your studio

My studio space is actually in my Dad’s old house.  When the economy tanked in 2008, a bunch of stuff happened.  I lost my job and my Dad had to take an early retirement after forty years with General Motors.  Still wanting to work, he took a job with NASCAR and moved to Charlotte, NC, but kept his house in Birmingham, MI.


My home was too cramped to get any work done and, since I couldn’t afford to rent studio space, I needed to come up with a plan.  Ultimately, I decided to convert my old bedroom (about 200 sf) in my Dad’s house into a studio.  Best. Decision. Ever.  It’s the shortest commute I’ve ever had to make (only five minutes from my house).  I even found that it had linoleum floors under the old carpeting.  Bonus.


What is your process?
Right now, I have two alter egos: the formulated and the spontaneous.  The illustrations and paintings are more carefully worked out. The idea starts with a sketch and gets refined, sometimes by mashing-up photographs with 3D models or other digital drawings. From there, it goes through a few other steps before it reaches the printer or the panel. I call this the “meat grinder process.”

The collages evolve in a more real-time way. For the smaller work, I usually grab a scalpel and dive right into slicing and dicing. The larger collages are assembled from pre-cut stock I have prepared in trays.