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[Published on InsouciantWriting.com August 5, 2014]


Guidelines for this year’s “If You Build It, They Will Come” exhibit at the Detroit Artists Market (DAM) entailed a simple framework: to create using wood. This loose but helpful restriction allowed community members and supporters of Detroit to contribute beautiful statements emphasizing texture, color and self-representation. Not only was the amount of submissions indicative of the energy bubbling in southeast Michigan, the sizable number of guests yielded stimulating conversations and a fabulous atmosphere.


After spotting Alvaro Jurado’s striking yellow sculpture (Yellow Dalia) and a gorgeous example of Reggie Singleton’s craftsmanship with shape and color (Ngoma Ond), the gallery’s atmosphere was waiting to be eaten. Encaustic wax collages by Bridget Franz spoke animated volumes through print, paint and a lovely gooey texture. These were completed with the aim of honoring timeless beauty and toying with consistency. What catapults Franz’s creative process into a realm of its own is her family’s history with the food industry, to which she pays homage by naming certain pieces (Red Sauce, Cake Frosting) after edible items she was reminded of while looking at her work.


One of the most arresting pieces on the gallery wall was Shore Line by Meighen Jackson. Although Jackson’s mixed media paintings and drawings are usually much larger than this year’s DAM submission, she admitted what was most important to her was trying something new. Her signature minimal elegance inevitably captured the imagination but newness for this artist was accomplished by using linen as the surface for her composition. As though she was communicating to viewers the importance of leaving nothing behind, Jackson even included all of the tools used to create her work as a sign of completion for her visual experiment.


From now until Friday, August 29, 2014, Detroit Artists Market doors are open to see what so many built and why so many came.

[Published on InsouciantWriting.com July 14, 2024]


After years of manipulating electricity, Robert Onnes has methodically honed his talent in giving life to cold and sharp surfaces, which yield powerfully animated figures of copper and plate steel. 2006 served as a launching point for Onnes who taught himself how to craft numerous representations of earth-bound kiwis with elevation drawings and plasma cutter. On one hand, the large variety was influenced by the pursuit of his artistic voice while a dream of emotionless transition and exploration fueled his motivation to interpret the pensive kiwis.


Skua (2014) is the most recent example of how two seabirds are effortlessly portrayed with a technical suavity. At a glance, one bird seems overpowering as it swoops and summons another but the longer one gazes, one cannot help but circle around the elegant sculpture to determine if the two are friends or foes. Close (2012) and Doubt Dogma (2011) are distinct examples of the artist’s evolving fascination with relationships between humans with an underlying contemplation of romance, belief systems and hierarchy. Helen & Hana (2010) is a towering reiteration of the dialogue taking place between two beings but this sculpture’s movement from one outdoor gallery space to another solidifies the significance of work by Onnes.


2013 proved to be a stimulating year of transition for Onnes with the acquisition of The Factory at 333 Midland in Highland Park, Michigan. This revitalization project affirmed the artist’s vision of independence and brilliance in the face of unique circumstances—a state of being he admires in and around the city of Detroit. In the midst of his American venture, Onnes created Bear (2013) to expound his admiration for the resolute energy of Detroit.


Seamless and careful uses of liver of sulfur and ferric nitrate, among other patina techniques, emphasize originality in work by Onnes while he interprets dynamics of nature and social engagement. From the gleaming textures of mussels and embossed butterflies to enormously sophisticated steel faces reaching for the heavens of the New Zealand sky, Onnes endlessly unites nature’s gracefulness with metal’s stability.


Click here to access the portfolio of Robert Onnes.

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