After UMMA with Michelle Andonian

Everyday, thousands of students walk pass a familiar building, located on State Street. They all know what it is, but unfortunately, many of them have never set a foot inside this building. I am talking about UMMA, the art museum here at the University of Michigan. This past Friday, I was fortunate to have a “field trip” there, viewing the Detroit Revealed project. Our tour guide, Pam Reister, showed us various pictures of the city of Detroit, ranging from the automobile industry to the downtown theaters. These pictures definitely opened my eyes, since a “Jekyll” side of Detroit does exist.

As a non-Michigan native, my perception of Detroit was totally based off the media. As one would expect, images and videos of dilapidated factories, abandoned households, and the perpetual ineptitude of the Lions filled the  television waves the and magazine pages. With such descriptions thrust upon me, I was surprised that 800,000 people still call Detroit their home. Obviously, Detroit must had something, an ounce of goodness that the media never wants to portray. The jazz culture, the performances, the pride in the auto industry that the natives had — people are proud to be from Detroit. As one student in our class put it, Detroit is a “beautiful mess.” The picture below by Santa Fabio, is the perfect metaphor for this description.

backstage at the Fox Theater - Santa Fabio

Just like the tangled ropes in this picture, Detroit does have a lot of issues. However, behind all the negativity, culture and the arts thrive. Yes, one can simply look at the ropes and infer about the entire performance, but that is not the appropriate method of judgment. Similarly, citizens in our country should not base Detroit on they hear from others (ahem… the media),; but rather, they should the city for themselves and make their own impressions.

Since I was interested in Fabio’s picture above, I did some research and I viewed some pictures that Michelle Andonian took of Detroit

graffiti with the sound of music - Michelle Andonian

I love the contrasting themes Andonian places in these two photos. In the first photo, we see a cellist playing in front of graffiti walls. One of the major problems in Detroit is its presentation, since the government  does not  seem to do a adequate job in “cleaning up the streets.” However, in the foreground, we see a man who is playing music of the likes of Vivaldi, Bach, and Mozart. No one knows about it, but there is a significant music culture in Detroit. It’s nice that the cellist is the focal point of picture, as the viewer first appreciates the music, before looking at the incomprehensible graffiti behind him. The second picture is similar, in the fact that Andonian utilizes a saxophonist  to display the underlying importance of music in Detroit culture. Another problem in Detroit is the decreasing population — many abandoned houses and parks line the streets. As seen in the photograph, the saxophonist plays his jazzy tunes in solitude. However, if one really takes a close look at the city of Detroit, pockets of happiness, culture, and pride do exist.

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“Half-Light” and tomorrow’s UMMA visit

I enjoyed watching the  “Half-Light” vabout Michael Kenna’s work. His passion for photography is inspirational, and it shows in this video. The background music is definitely fitting when there is a montage of Kenna’s photos. Analogous to the guitar playing in background with only isngle chords,the photos are simple, yet they convey a dreamy emotion to the viewer. I totally agree with Anne Tucker when she analyzes that Kenna’s work makes the viewer imagine that she or he was experiencing that moment  when the photo is taken. When I first sawThe Rouge, I felt as if I was alone in the setting, dwarfed by the gargantuan smokestacks. It is very interesting how the photography of Kenna’s reflects his personality. As a solitary person, his photos never contain any humans. In addition, his relationship with nature is zen-like. In his work, nature, whether trees or rocks, are usually in the foreground, emphasizing the strength and permanence of nature. His “symbiotic relation” with nature is interesting. Nature opens up to him while he is taking photos of them.

 After having a preview of Kenna’s photoigraphy, I am looking forward to visit UMMA tomorrow. It is unfortuante that many students here don’t take advantage of the wonderful museums that surround them. I recently went to the Natural History Museum, and I had a fantastic time. Art museums, according to me, are best types. There is a reason why the clich “A picture is worth a thousand words” exists. Behind each image, painting, or sculpture, there is powerful message that the artist is trying to convey. Onesimply cannot take a cursory look at a peice, and find its meaning right away. Tomorrow, I look forward to be a sleuth, one that tries to find reasonable interpretations of the chef d’oeuvres surrounding me.

Michael Kenna: Nature vs Machinery

"The Rouge" by Michael Kenna. Dearborn, MI 1995

Like many other cities in the state of Michigan, Dearborn is known for its industrial environment. Michael Kenna captures this setting in his photo album, The Rouge. This picture interested me for a few reasons. The color saturation of the photo, black and white, creates a surreal tone. It’s as if I am is placed in a dream, where nothing is totally discernible, but I can still use my senses to comprehend the photographer’s motive. Dearborn, a city that is nowhere near to a jungle, is actually a jungle itself. Instead of the lush, emerald-colored trees that stretch high into the sky, it is the smokestacks of Dearborn that reach into the heavens. Just as in an Amazonian jungle, there seems to be no permanent human habitants in the factories and warehouses in Dearborn. Both jungles give back to living beings, as the “typical” jungle gives residence and protection to animals, while the industrial jungles of Dearborn provide jobs and a source of income. I also chose this picture because I love how Kenna subtly incorporates the issue of nature vs machinery. As aforementioned, the background of the photo contains smokestacks stemming out of factories. All nine of them are man-made, symmetrical, and perfectly in line — typical industrial architecture. However, the foreground contains rocks, straight from Mother Nature. The rocks in the foreground emphasizes that nature will always be more powerful than machinery. It has that omnipotent force. The rocks grow in no particular direction, just growing whereever natures wants them too. When comparing the lines of the rocks to those of the mundane smokestacks, it makes you appreciate the the wonderful randomness of nature and its shapes