Colectivo Cajeme at 555

Una Galaxia para Fatima by Graciela Galaz at 555 Gallery.
Una Galaxia para Fátima by Graciela Galáz at 555 Gallery.

When I was told about an iron pour at 555 Nonprofit Gallery and Studios, I didn’t realize the radiance of Colectivo Cajeme had begun showing two days earlier. Insightful Mr. P of 555 relayed helpful background information about the artists until I pointed in admiration to Una Galaxia para Fátima. Quickly he pointed to a woman sitting alone and preoccupied with her phone across the exhibition space and said, “You should tell her yourself. She’s sitting right there.”

It was Gabriela Galáz—the artist whose work I found thrilling. After nearly galloping to speak with her, I invaded her isolation by flooding her personal bubble with compliments. Unfortunately, my impulse incited a raised hand, slight tilt of the head and an unsettled, “I’m sorry, I only speak Spanish.”

Quick to excuse my poor Spanish diction, I well enough to continue the conversation. From our exchange, I learned Colectivo Cajeme began with artists in Sonora, Mexico and the municipal support was a tremendous advantage in garnering community recognition and in showing internationally—two members had already exhibited their work in France and Spain. Those who came to Detroit for the opening, created molds for the smoldering iron outside but would either continue traveling or return to Mexico.

Mictlán by Ebeth Roldán, Encuentro Estelar by Gabriela Galáz and Naranja Dulce by Salvador Escalante.
Mictlán by Ebeth Roldán, Encuentro Estelar by Gabriela Galáz and Naranja Dulce by Salvador Escalante.

As with any craft, age had little to do with the expanse of talent but was fascinating to take into consideration. A pause in conversation kept the eyes moving until Mictlán by Ebeth Roldán became central to the conversation of living twenty-six years and demonstrating a remarkable commitment to perception and reality. Roldán’s exquisite movement of subjects, tones, shadows and light were held in a single moment in unison with a viewer’s capacity to appreciate such boldness.

En Evolución and Florecer by Graciela Galáz at 555 Gallery.
En Evolución and Florecer by Graciela Galáz at 555 Gallery.

Before Galáz elaborated on Fátima, En Revolución and Florecer, each piece seemed motivated by a repertoire exposed as an intricate system of pulleys and weights pouring rich hues into the finest stencils, which were carefully placed over large wood and canvas surfaces. However, my fascination with creative output preceded me as she explained Fátima was an aunt whose perfectly coiffed hair had been the subject of Galáz’s admiration for years. Similar questions then circulated around En Revolución and Florecer but Galáz’s minimal responses led to expressions of gratitude, which I regarded as a signal to check out the iron pour where it was chilly but warm tea and vibrations of blaring music kept the festivities cozy.

Jamming at the Jubilee

Half-pipe in the Russell Industrial Center.
Half-pipe in the Russell Industrial Center.

The August air’s intensity was no match for the catalytic inauguration of Jam Art Jubilee spearheaded by art director John Sippel, marketing guru Ben Kramp and web designer Harry Masters of the Russell Industrial Center and Gallery 17. One attendee claimed with nostalgic gratitude she hadn’t hung out at the enormous grounds for shindigs since the eighties because of a lull in community engagement events celebrating creations of innovators near and far.

Logo of MBME Apparel.
Logo of MBME Apparel.

Before entering the vendors’ hangar, a glass blower crafted talons on toes of a curvaceously fierce dragon all behind a scrap metal creature. Aubry and Elena Smyth of Armageddon Beachparty Co. took a different approach of demanding attention with a jutting tent hosting a clever assortment of handmade products inspired by and made with found objects. MBME Apparel (whose acronym means Made By Mexican Entrepreneurs) utilized more of a color coordinated minimalist route, which amplified founder Vic Reyes’ vividly succinct graphics printed with thermal vinyl.

Random Picture Generator (RPG) of New Worlds.
Random Picture Generator (RPG) of New Worlds.

Further into the merchants’ den were sculptures of the same magnitude as the rabbit near the entrance: one was a sarcophagus while the other was a full representation of life’s obstacles as cocoons and their tendency toward being immovable forces of daily life. The latter was part of a collection by an Ann Arbor artist identified as Matt whose sculpting and photographic energies seemed stylishly harnessed. In the same vicinity, illustrations by Killmonkies and Michael and Daniel Chabot of New Worlds struck nerves of excitement with finely tuned details and unique deliveries to their audiences. The RPG (Random Picture Generator) took the reigns of attention from passersby when Michael Chabot explained the machine’s purpose (in which he situated himself) was to give everyone an opportunity to purchase art and be influenced only by the size of his/her contribution.

In the midst of assembling both veteran, early stage and experimental producers, Sippel and Kramp are set for continual support and love from the array of talent across southeast Michigan. The dynamic duo already has its eyes on attracting participation from galleries and an increased range in artists and activities. This leaves room for exponential growth to keep the sizzling momentum going for the annual Jam Arts Jubilee.

Part one of a live collaboration.
Part one of a live collaboration.
Part two of a live collaboration.
Part two of a live collaboration.

Magnetism of a Muse

Photo courtesy of Robert Sestok
Photo courtesy of Robert Sestok

In a portrait of Detroit muse Andrea Perez, Robert Sestok highlights a stoic poise with a method contrasting bold colors and textures across many submissions for the Big Paintings exhibit at The Factory of 333 Midland. Black lines amplify shadows, clothing, demeanor and tattoos but force speculation as to what inspired Sestok to create this enormous piece. The answer: body art.

When Andrea first decided to mark a revolution of body and mind, it was on a walk-in basis and she left after forty minutes with fresh ink and in a tizzy of her next tattoo. The process of conceptualizing and acquiring tattoos to cope with life’s chaos became an insatiable craving, which Andrea took great care to satisfy. Although the urge did not subside, she was keen on selecting creators based on merit, which guided her to a variety of talented individuals who have left their mark on the canvas of Andrea’s body.

Photo courtesy of Robert Sestok
Photo courtesy of Robert Sestok

Artist Alana Robbie—who relocated to Portland, Oregon—fashioned El Corazón in Chicago in honor of Andrea’s father and her Mexican heritage as the image mimicked a playing card of lotería, which is a popular game resembling bingo. Matt Lambdin was another image-maker who was fortunate to experience Andrea’s influence after studying art at College for Creative Studies. Creating a likeness of the Mexican painter was outside Lambdin’s comfort zone but after gaining Andrea’s trust with the direction of his three other tattoos, something about her tactics of eliciting exceptional work influenced an accurate yet distinct representation of Kahlo. In addition to the portrait of Kahlo, he also fashioned depictions of a pigeon, bee, and a rose compass.

Enchanting the minds of people who sharpen their inventive blades happens very naturally but the Ferndale resident’s professional life entails delving into her love of books—also illustrated on her body through effervescence of hardcovers—as a facilitator of library sciences in Westland. Although she was uncertain about posing as the subject of a grand painting, it wasn’t until after she accepted Sestok’s invitation when Andrea realized the significance of participating in Detroit’s art community—the same community in which Sestok has remained an admirable proponent.

Photo courtesy of Robert Sestok
Photo courtesy of Robert Sestok

As his time is not exhausted on working with his fascinating muse, Sestok has been developing City Sculpture, which will comprise a retrospective of his work on Alexandrine near the Lodge Freeway. When he spoke of his plans for the sculpture park, permanency resonated brilliantly and justifiably for an artist who has witnessed and participated in a broad scope of transitions in Detroit. During our conversation, the idea of a larger than life sculpture of Andrea arose, to which Sestok’s energy shifted with excitement beneath his opaque lenses. It completely verified Andrea’s power as a creative provocateur.

with a blindfold


While in a district court and on
my way to the second floor to
elucidate a foreseeable outcome,
my eyes were struck by a statue
named Lady Justice whose eyes
were covered by a blindfold
and whose hand contained a scale.
Witnessing the stone’s grey color
and precisely carved skin and cloth,
I smiled with curiosity as the question
passed of deeming a sense frivolous
when using judgement to determine
culpability. Objectivity may be
its purpose but when layers of
contradictions and reports are
used to give a ruling member of
the court an impression of one’s
history to determine a course of
action before a dismissal of a
person in question, it seems
strange to rely on this decision-
making system in the midst of
quite blinding chaos. Ah, decisions.
How they demand attention and are
responsible for changes of varying forms.

whose progress

What can be said about the Guantanamo hunger
if information is not being shared honestly
by those who can deem information appropriate
for public consumption? How surreal it must
be to live in a community in which top tiers
of a hierarchy can be occupied only through
hospitalization as a form of identity preservation. 
Are there more examples of working toward self-
hospitalization as we strive in the direction
of goals with fulfillment being the least
contemplated aspect of relevance?

A way to recover from the horrendous facts
of the prison’s deterioration is to celebrate our
purpose, determine how we can share our strengths
and dismantle the umbrellas of power, which create
and bombard chaos. A wave of hope enters the mind as
Mykki Blanco is elucidated as an entity known to
celebrate the self and declare eccentricities as a
culmination of a powerful character. Discussions
of progression with one’s identity, whether focusing
on educative or frivolous tangents, can reap innumerable
benefits for future generations in the realm of promoting
identity awareness and expression but who can think of
the self when prisoners with alleged criminal backgrounds
are treated so horribly as national leaders have yet
to address or implement viable solutions for the violent
treatment of individuals making claims of injustice
with the only tools of protest available, which are
losing stamina to strive as body mass shreds
as quickly as their dignity within Guantanamo?

Do diplomatic responses to troublesome matters
usually invoke questions of societal contribution
to the matter rather than speak directly to the
topic at hand with clear indications of a plan
to address abusive marginalization? Sluggish
resolution with immovable forces seems
strikingly similar, in the midst of conflict
regarding identity especially in terms of
restrictive energy and the absence of viable
alternatives for the security of prisoners, while
progressive efforts are made in expressing one’s
identity. These topics seem so prominent at
this hour, on this day, through these tinted
lenses which conceal a swollen eyelid but why?
Maybe Mr. Quattlebaum’s persona is an epithet
of overcoming trials and tribulations while securing
in space and time an opportunity to share with the
world ideas worth contemplating, much like prisoners
are fighting in space and time to uphold rights
and ethical codes in the face of undisclosed
withering operations whose progress is unknown.

with Ghesquière in mind

As a new month begins, making transitions
between cities, embarking on journeys of
professional and artistic endeavors, or
progression with relationships one has with
others, while finding centered moments and
learning to thrive with a third guiding force
of intuition on not only significant matters
but sustaining peace and helping others
achieve the same awareness, seems like
exceedingly practical goals to accomplish.
These days many people seem to be
overextending their skills because they can
identify elements in need of support while
accomplishing requirements of one’s position
but are unmet with support from superior
authorities of seemingly less creativity-inclined
mindsets. The interview with Nicolas Ghesquière
proved the vitality of recycling the feeling of
empowerment within a place of work.

What was clear was the disintegration of
language juxtaposing the eerie immediacy
of information, which one cannot refute
as a sort of ambiguity in establishing
how one can grow when the original
responsibilities of one’s occupation
no longer carry the same intensity while
moments of reflection demonstrate the
cloudiness masks an abusive demand for
one’s skills. Is this the plight of all
creative entities? Perhaps, however, as
aggressively as the wind pushes against
bare tree branches, it seems one must
navigate through cumbersome hierarchies
in pursuit of support for successful
achievement with exceptional stamina in
order to overcome rigidity of tradition.
I wonder how long it will take for Playboy
to move beyond the impediments posed in Goa.
If change incites skepticism from occupied
positions of power, how do creative gusts
of wind garner enough momentum to motivate
a wholesome and effervescent evolution?

with a deep sigh

T: I don’t like it when my apples turn brown.
Y: You don’t eat enough apples to dislike when that happens.
T: But I still don’t like when they turn brown, is that a justifiable statement to make?
Y: I don’t see why not.
T: Oh, hell, why am I even asking you?
Y: Because I’m a figure of your imagination that tells you when it’s okay to think things and when it’s okay to think some things that you would otherwise deem unnatural.
T pauses for a few seconds, stares at the carpet, then at the corner of the desk, then at the plant upon the coffee table.
T: Ya know. This plant is in a very inconvenient place in your office.
Y moves his eyes slowly toward the plant and then moves his eyes back to meet the eyes of his patient.
Y: Is that so?
T: Well, yes. (pauses) You don’t want to block the link between the doctor and his patient.
Y continues to stare blankly at T but T doesn’t notice the absence of interest in the new theory.
T: You see there’s simply far too much to consider while I sit here and think about as you sit across from me. The plant would be too much to handle in the processing of information on either one of our ends!
Y: (with a deep sigh) Ah, yes, well I must say I haven’t considered that before.
T: Why thank you.
Y: What do you mean, “Thank you?”
T: I feel like I just gave you a piece of invaluable knowledge that I should be given a reward for. A thank you will do just fine in this instance.
Y: Right, well, I must be heading out soon and you should do the same if you would not like to be billed for more than one appointment.
T: I see, well, yes, I’ll be off then too. Thank you so much for helping me this week.

A week passes and T sits in the same seat and looking exponentially more distraught than the last visit to the office of Y.
T: I don’t understand why the hell things haven’t been going my way. I’ve read a significant amount of literature about the planets’ movements, have yet to see any negative implications of the retrograde movement of Venus, yet I still face complications with my collection of fruit!
Y: Is this a peculiar habit of yours, depending on literature of planetary movements to address your culinary affairs?
T: Well, I don’t think so but I haven’t taken two steps from my home since I had my last visit with you.

[originally written October 7, 2010]

disheveled sanity

Lost, it’s lost
the words I last wrote
about the emotional rope
off of which I now fall,
they’ve vanished and I know not
where I placed the damn notecard.

So silly, so jovial, perhaps even witty
my flight of thought
seems to have taken me.

But, oh, the days I could linger
with sanity in the park
and upon my finger.
Now every moment feels as though
every carb I eat
consume this skin covered meat.

Sit still, I say in the dark
and smelly room, only to find
I am not so shrewd.

Simple instruction, and consumption in moderation,
those beliefs in temperance
seem to only madden
as I determine how best to use
my tools of satisfaction.

But that cannot be a sensation
worth the trouble of a roller coaster through emotions,
conversations with inner monsters,
and the passively strong forces
of an insignificant nature.

tis the season

A woman with dark luscious unwashed tendrils spewing from her scalp walks down the narrow aisle of dark wood tables with hooks on the sides, one of which is occupied by a voluptuous espresso satchel. She slides into a booth facing the rear of the kitchen, keeps her glasses on, then digs in her bag. After grabbing and placing a small black object in front of her on the table, she presses a few buttons and then speaks softly in one end.

“The climate is so strange in this Midwestern humidity. Rays of sun are constantly beaming upon human faces whose bodies have wrinkled as quickly as the leather bags who’ve aged as soon as they leave the department stores from whence they’ve departed in glossy shopping bags. Each day seems to repeat itself and the clouds’ movement never stays the same for more than one hour. I find myself dreaming old memories, which I thought faded into mental peripherals, but am now realizing are being brought to the forefront of my mind as concepts of desire impeding forward progression. Then there’s the issue of style– establishing and portraying a sense of self to the world regardless of the destination or climate. Why in the workplace does one’s style marry regulations of dress imposed by authorities who’ve seemingly not perused the contents of a trustworthy collection of knowledge regarding ideas, colors, fabrics, images, stories, individuality?”

Heavy breathing of the oncoming server comes closer to the woman’s table. “Hi, what can I get for you today.” After a brief pause, the woman continues speaking to the microphone in the same volume.

“As a member of a generation who has grown accustomed to depending on more technological sources of knowledge…”

The server shifts her weight and whispers, “I’ll give you a few more minutes.”

“I’ve found myself dumbfounded by determining my place in the workforce especially when there are influences of my behavior hindering the expression of my self I wish to achieve in a professional and creative manner in more settings than one. Given the vast disappointment in procuring employment with a substantial form of compensation for my time and skill level, I scratch my head in irritation because I know there is more for us in this universe and listen to stories in wonderment of those who simply asked the universe for achievements and happiness, who consequently created the masterpiece of their life’s actions with calling upon the forces of nature to bring favorable results in their directions. Sometimes the greed of it all seems too enticing to explore and discuss with the public but on the other hand, one cannot deny the fun life would be made. What other purpose do humans have except to enjoy the fruits of fervent labor?”

She stops and presses a button to end the recording and sits motionless. To the left of the woman are two young thirty-something year olds. The male speaks passionately as the female stirs her shake slowly. “I really feel like the cosmic forces are telling me to stop smoking. I mean, swiping the lighter was just a last straw kind of sign. If I can’t stop the impulse to retain someone’s lighter or remember money to bring for product I fully intend to purchase, I shouldn’t be allowed to smoke in the company of others or be trusted to handle money. Honestly though, tell me what you think.”

The woman takes a sip from the red striped straw, swallows delicately and exhales, “The last thing you want is to hear what I’ve got to say.”

He replies, “Please just skip the nonchalance with the dramatic sequence of events I’m sharing with you and tell me whether I’m placing too much value in omens or I’m fully capable of utilizing this medicine as a tool for all creative purposes.”

“I think you should focus on why you want to negotiate the possibility of investing time and money on a resource that doesn’t exist in a way that one would imagine…Whatever, the thing that’s on my mind is the way I was smoking a cigarette on my patio last night and heard footsteps nearby. I was too drunk to prop my head up and way too unprotected to combat an assault.”