On a Quest with Sanda Cook

"Soul Retrieval" (2014) by Sanda Cook.

“Soul Retrieval” (2014) by Sanda Cook.

About an hour into the “Quest 4 Visions” opening, red dots sprinkled the collection of Sanda Cook at the Pittman-Puckett Gallery in Ferndale. “Starscape” grabbed my attention instantly on the eastern wall but I wanted to follow the hypnotic effect of her work in numerical order. I also didn’t want to interrupt her interview with Steve Lloyd so I started with the western wall.

Allusions to graffiti and collaging felt most prominent in “Protection” but light and layering bound together Cook’s engagement with experiences of emotional and astrological sorts. “Soul Retrieval” was a gripping example of how curiously she characterized her observations of people. Variations of human shapes and landscapes left little room to inaccurately predict the success of the Romanian artist’s exhibit.

"Galleon" (2014) by Sanda Cook.

“Galleon” (2014) by Sanda Cook.

The western wall hosted larger pieces of equally expressive magnitude. “Galleon” delivered solemn emotions where red slashes forged a macabre naval craft. “Love Letter” entertained issues of distraction and clarity when unveiling a message of value. Perhaps for this reason, it resembled the troublesome fuzziness of images of dated televisions when their antennas were improperly coordinated.

In the midst of observing “Cosmos” I met Skip Davis and photographer/potter Rose Lewandowski who appreciated a co-design I donned by Randal Jacobs. Before and after years of neglecting her imaginative self for the sake of motherhood, honing her craft in pottery and image making came with a natural purity. She met Cook at a show in March of 2014 and they have since fueled each other’s creative fervor. After flipping through a few pages of Lewandowski’s portfolio, Cook greeted me with jubilance and I held no restriction of praising her visual assortment but focused particular attention to “Starscape.”

"Starscape" (2014) by Sanda Cook.

“Starscape” (2014) by Sanda Cook.

The image was already sold by the time we stood in front of it but I learned the starry sky came to life with an unintended but perfect speckling of paint. As we moved to the smaller pieces on the western wall, she introduced me to painter Jon McCahill whose work I recognized from a summer show at Whitdel Arts. We spoke of academic and self-taught approaches in finding one’s voice then quickly realized similarities in our processes of making art.

Steve Lloyd interviewing Sanda Cook for her opening at Pittman-Puckett Gallery.

Steve Lloyd interviewing Sanda Cook for her opening at Pittman-Puckett Gallery.

As the night continued, a bit of dancing broke out before Linda and Don Mendelson arrived and Lewandowski returned to snapping photographs and sharing her portfolio. As we carried on, it was indisputable how Sanda Cook’s fascination with human contact and universal forces influenced immense livelihood. This was even more evident in her interactions with everyone whom she graciously thanked for basking in the ambience of her cosmic love.

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Dichotomies and Holidays

Lock by Jim Nawara for “Watercolor: Collective Visions” at Kayrod Gallery.

Sunlight lingered in the afternoon while icy winds blasted against my dusty knuckles en route to “Watercolor: Collective Visions” at the Ellen Kayrod Gallery. On the southern wall was a grand piece by James Nawara whose rocky entrance with trees reiterated his speculation of the effects human systems have on nature’s landscape. His work also fused distinct opposites with comparable elegance to Jay Knapp whose abstract strokes underscored the dichotomy of safety and atrocity and its impact on emotional conditions.

Coco Ka’an by Jay Knapp.

Velavexia by Jay Knapp.

Velavexia by Jay Knapp.

Both artists presented the peculiar interconnectedness and exclusivity of dependent and independent forces, which supported the theme of Passing Tribute by Linda Mendelson—artist, educator and curator for the Kayrod’s intergenerational show. Her watercolor conception revealed keen observations about ceremonial occasions with spirited appreciation of life’s trials and tribulations.

After meandering from piece to piece, it was still a bit early for the N’Namdi Gallery to open its doors for the openings of “Vicissitude” by Elizabeth Youngblood and “ELEMENTAL” by Neha Vedpathak. However, something told me to test my luck and check if the door was open to escape the freezing cold if only for a moment. I entered and two gracious staff members allowed me to observe the work on display as they completed final tasks prior to guests’ arrival.

Ceramic/wire sculpture by Elizabeth Youngblood.

In The Rose Gallery, Youngblood’s ceramic/wire sculptures emphasized cyclical patterns in which universal forces operate and mimicked the movement of her writing utensils on paper. By majestically incorporating her love of graphic arts, clay, design and fibers, the CCS Graphic Arts professor stimulated an inimitable dialogue on craft and art.

Within The Black Box Gallery, Vedpathak executed her stylistic fascination with the environment and its ingredients with “plucked” paper and miniature landscapes consisting of soil, water and turmeric. Whether space was occupied by her distinctive and delicate manipulation of paper or covered by unique representations of land, Vedpathak charmingly highlighted complex interactions between space and objects with minimal aesthetics.

Neha Vedpathak's signature "plucking" of paper at N'Namdi.

Neha Vedpathak’s signature “plucking” of paper at N’Namdi.

The space between my untimely entrance to N’Namdi and Socra Tea was not at all far but the frigid air influenced a detour to a stiff beverage at Seva. What intended to be an exploration of introversion quickly evolved into a conversation with one of the restaurant’s managers who also created out of a studio in Corktown. He shared enthusiasm for the entertainment and challenges of building an identity in Detroit and respect for the process of navigating through a vast city. More patrons flooded the dining area so I peeled myself from the bar and hurried to Socra Tea.

A tall bearded man with a kind face and a female with curly hair and lively demeanor constituted the small number of bodies in attendance while a quiet sales associate manned the register. Once I began my tour of the stationary and framed photography by Jason Wermager, I quickly learned the bewhiskered gentleman was in fact the artist. His work possessed a commercial blending of rural life, words and graphic arts. His editing gave some viewers the impression he had painted a cow and illustrated the scene of an isolated barn swathed in beams of sunlight. Even an image of an old Cadillac underwent an intense editing process to be rid of bothersome reflections but ultimately established Wermager’s eye for precision.

Jason Wermager's eye for precision and fondness of words.

Jason Wermager’s eye for precision and fondness of words.

The visual feast continued at the Detroit Artists Market where members intended to vend original items at Art for the Holidays. Sanda Cook had three identifiable framed pieces among the surplus of talent hanging and standing prominently in the market. It was here I complimented Linda Mendelson on her curatorial execution and painting of ceremonious yet personal experiences of transition. She accepted but immediately shed light on the magnitude of measurement restrictions while coordinating artwork in a gallery. When she segued to how she found talent, she conveyed the power of crossing paths, which was as magical as finding Jack Kenny and Charlene Uresy radiating the same warm energy of the holiday merriment in the market just as I was leaving.