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May 30, 2013

Detroit: The Geometry of Time, at MONA

Detroit: The Geometry of Time opened 18-May at the Museum of New Art (MONA) in Pontiac (7 N. Saginaw). The show presents work by Bruce Giffin, Bryant Tillman, and Jef Bourgeau.

In terms of volume, Bruce Giffin appears to lead the show with numerous photographs presented around two large rooms. Giffin shot nearly all of the photos in Detroit, where he roamed about in old truck with his dog. He took up photography in the late 1970’s, and worked as “staff photog at the Metro Times and as a well-loved photography instructor at Macomb Community College.” In 2011, he won a Kresge Artist Fellowship for portraits he shot of Detroit residents.

by Bruce Giffin

by Bruce Giffin

The curator, Jessica Hopkins, arranged the pictures by theme: industrial; neighborhoods/houses; interiors; and urban buildings. The shots of neighborhoods/houses, and industrial scenes Mr. Giffin printed mostly in color. I suspect he did so because they sport paint jobs, electric signs, and sweeping views that would lose their charm or dilute in black and white. The close-in shots of objects, a doorknob for example, or window curtains riding on a breeze, Mr. Giffin printed in more sensual, tactile black and white. All of the images share a deep-focus documentary feel. Looking at these pictures, you do not get the sense that Mr. Giffin goes for shots that make things appear other than what they are. He does not seem to play around with shallow depth of field to blur backgrounds (or foregrounds, for that matter), or tweak the contrast or grain much. I’m guessing the man who shot these images does not often refer to himself as an artist. (Although I think he knows better.)

by Bruce Giffin

by Bruce Giffin

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by Bruce Giffin

by Bruce Giffin

by Bruce Giffin

These pictures seem keen to show you the briefest moment in time with maximum detail. The thing is, Mr. Giffin’s pictures never seem cluttered with extraneous noise. Even though this photographer fills each frame with visual interest, you get the feeling that somehow your eye will be drawn to exactly the thing he wants you to see. Your eye lingers for a few moments, like a sniper’s eye on a target; on the single object that matters, and then your eye wanders, picking out other interesting facets of the scene. Each image can hold your attention for a long spell even though your brain tells you that you are looking at a relatively banal snapshot — it’s just a place or thing. But your heart knows you aren’t. That’s what Mr. Giffin’s well-schooled eye brings to these images: heart and soul amidst the banal. It’s always there; you just gotta find it, and Mr. Giffin does.

by Bruce Giffin

by Bruce Giffin

by Bruce Giffin

by Bruce Giffin

By comparison, Mr. Bourgeau does play clever tricks with his photographs, sometimes to the point where they cease to be photographs. Or at least photographs as we normally think of them. When Mr. Bourgeau snaps a photo, it seems he searches for anything but the banal. Images of geometrically perfect buildings appear tilted beyond the effects of perspective (or maybe that was my own eyes reading that into his images). Or, he amplifies the color and contrast to create a brushed, abstracted effect. And certainly, he plays with focus and depth of field, using them more like a painter than a photographic documentarian. All of this distances the viewer from that notion that a photo captures an instant in time. By manipulating his images, Mr. Bourgeau manipulates our perception of a scene, removes it from reality so instead of seeing recognizable forms, we feel the effects of color and light and contrast. He often omits temporal references, too. You look at his photos, with one specific exception in this show (a theatrically lit nighttime street scene with very apparent fashion and technological reference points), and you can not be sure if the scene shows you now, yesterday, a hundred years ago, or some time in the future.

by Jef Bourgeau

by Jef Bourgeau

by Jef Bourgeau

by Jef Bourgeau

Other pictures (digital prints, over-painted) abandon photography all together and show blocky, Constructivist-like profiles of buildings or in one case, “Guernica,” with profiles of fedora-topped men wielding clubs to bludgeon one another. Needless to say, this parodies Picasso’s “Guernica.” Instead of fascist oppression of hapless victims, the fascists beat themselves senseless. Which seems appropriate now that I think about. But now that I think about it more, interpreting Mr. Bourgeau’s pictures is very likely above my pay grade, so you should judge them for yourself, or not look at them, or seek guidance elsewhere (you can take a look at the User’s Manual for Jef Bourgeau).

by Jef Bourgeau

by Jef Bourgeau

But you can, and should look at Mr. Bourgeau’s pictures with your eye purely on the esthetics. This may confound his intentions a bit, but I think he might appreciate that. The works in this show span about twenty-two years and many were created with the now antique Commodore 64 computer. Most of his images are visually appealing: balanced, never overwrought; warm, but no melodramatic; executed with fine-tuned craft. Despite the media noise that envelops Mr. Bourgeau’s past like a cocoon, he brings impressive skill and insight to his art, and that results in work that stands up over time both physically and esthetically — he seems to have found the alchemic formula that makes his work timeless.

by Jef Bourgeau

by Jef Bourgeau

With a smaller contribution (in number, not effect) to Detroit: The Geometry of Time, Bryant Tillman, managing curator at 4731 Detroit, shows a half-dozen or so paintings done in an impressionistic style with bright colors and a consummate sense of light and shadow. His brushstrokes stand out prominently on close inspection, but step back and the images coalesce to present vivid scenes. That effect feels magical, and only talented painters can pull it off, which Mr. Bryant is and does. In an age of photography, video, and all the digital origami that go with them now, these pictures prove that painting will be around for a long time to come, provided painters take the time to master the essential skills. They’ve been at it for millennia, starting in caves, and I hope they continue.

Per the theme of the show, all these pictures depict Detroit scenes, but without leading the cheering section for the revival of the city, or veering towards the forlorn as so often happens with Detroit imagery (and writing). The scenes here do not seem to be introspective, or eager to depict a point of view, but instead seem to strive for pure representation without clinging to realism. Like Mr. Giffin’s photographs, Mr. Tillman shows things as they are, and leaves it to the viewer to make inferences. But with his virtuoso use of lighting and color, one inevitably sees a more vibrant, fecund reality than what might actually be out there. Or, maybe reality is that vibrant, but we too often see it through jaded eyes, and miss the verdant lushness of the universe that surrounds us.

by Bryant Tillman

by Bryant Tillman

by Bryant Tillman

by Bryant Tillman

 

by Bryant Tillman

by Bryant Tillman

by Bryant Tillman

by Bryant Tillman

by Bryant Tillman

by Bryant Tillman

If you have not done it yet, check out the MONA website, and all of the upcoming events and projects. The Museum of New Art offers a deep portfolio of opportunities for artists and fans.

Detroit: The Geometry of Time will be up through 22-June.

May 29, 2013

1° of Separation: A One Day Pop Up Show in Hamtramck

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Public Pool Art Space
3309 Caniff, Hamtramck

by Jim Welke

Walking into the 1° of Separation show, curated by Andy Thompson at Public Pool Artspace in Hamtramck, the sound of voices in the room was the first thing that struck me. Many voices, the voices of visitors clustered around pictures on the wall and a single sculpture that stood like a totem to ward off bad spirits. The show transpired as sort of an annex to the HPOP Pop Up Art Fest, which ran through Memorial Day weekend along Joseph Campau, south of Caniff in Hamtramck. The Puplic Pool Artspace graciously offered their gallery, as Mr. Thompson explained, as a substitute for a vacant shop that HPOP organizers had hoped would be made available by a property owner on Campau.

The one-day, pop up show came together with a mysterious harmony and grace you would think took months to coalesce. In fact, it took a day or two. When I met Mr. Thompson, he projected that sort of energy that makes me think if I called him tonight and said I needed to paint a fifty foot mural tomorrow or forfeit my rent money and end up on the street, he would show up at five in the morning with a brush in one hand and a can of paint in the other, with six more artists behind him, and by sunset the mural would not only be complete, but would be sumptuous and gorgeous and prized by the community that hosted it. It took that sort of prodigious energy to pull off this show, and if there are more out there like Mr. Thompson, 21st century art will rival that of any previous century (once all the haters get through pissing on it, of course). The life of an adjunct art professor, as described to me by Mr. Thompson, sounded a lot like the sort of peripatetic existence led by med school interns: long days, no sleep, not enough pay, with the constant demand for perfection. Good training, I guess for curating and putting up one-day art shows.

Several of the works in 1° of Separation came from artists who never did a show before. Not all were in their twenties either. A commercial photographer who never showed her work in a gallery presented one set of photographs. Together, they presented a study of texture, mostly fabric, one of pristine white tennis shows that took on an ethereal quality when shot close, another captured the shadow of a tree on fresh fallen snow, spattered with constellations of sparkling snowflakes through what appears to be a window screen. All were masterful compositions that spoke of long familiarity with the camera as portal to the unfamiliar details of everyday things.

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by Karen McLaren

Two photos by Michelle Lapanowski capture freeze time for a fraction of a second to show a view of the world that we never witness except maybe subliminally. No doubt technically challenging to create, one shows a die (as in singular of dice) dropping into what appears to be a drinking glass. It traces a graceful arc of air bubbles as it sinks, and make you wonder what event followed its descent. The second photo repeats sort of a classic image of high-speed photography, which for some reason they usually do with milk, perhaps because of its viscosity. But Ms. Lapanowski presented this image, of a droplet hitting a surface and splashing upwards, in an ethereal blue hue, and the splash forms kind of a distorted crown shape. Interestingly, taken together, the photo of the die, with its dark red hue feels sort of ominous, while the lighter splash conveys what feels like a cheerful moment. Weird, but interesting to contemplate.

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by Michelle Lapanowski

Another set of photos adjacent to these, shot in austere black and white captured moments: a man engrossed in a manuscript, disposable coffee cup and plastic water bottle near at hand; a woman unselfconsciously sucking the straw of a frozen drink as she gazes at a laptop screen; an ice-encrusted conservatory at Belle Isle; a park scene populated by long shadows. Two other shots are studies of form: female form in a cropped view, a seashell that provokes a cascade of mental associations. All carry you someplace new, yet familiar.

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by Anita Kakos

Justin Hein, a graduate of the University of Michigan, presented a series of drawings in ink that on the macro scale showed a human profile and two three-quarter views (I think they are called). The profile though, presents an x-ray or MRI view into the body of the subject. Inside the brain, numerous demonic visages peer out. In the straight on views, which I suspect are self-portraits, Mr. Hein drew the face with the architectural precision of ink laid down with a fine-tipped drafting pen. They demonstrate deep drawing craft. Surrounding the image of the man are more demonic creatures, as though clamoring for his attention; voices calling out to be presented to the world — the bane of an artist with so many ideas and so little time. The works are busy, but engaging, not overwhelming.

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ink drawing by Justin Hein

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ink drawing by Justin Hein

On another wall, placed between the photos, are two paintings by Angela Sanders. One, an abstract, reminds this viewer of either a scene of the macro universe or the micro universe. With organic greens and orange, it suggests the cellular structure of a being, or the glow of gassy interstellar space — both places of normally unseen wonder that govern and inform our existence. The other picture shows a pear, yellow on a green field depicted minimally, almost abstract, but mostly just simple, warm, inviting — maybe a bit enigmatic.

paintings by Angela Sanders

paintings by Angela Sanders

Another picture, shows an earth-toned pop art-ish, oversized D filled with cropped, overlaid city imagery with a contrast-y schematic appearance. Across the bottom in various cheerful fonts, an inscription reads: DETROIT FOREVER / AN UNCOMPROMISING VISION OF THE FUTURE / enjoy detroit. The image feels promotional at first, then you wonder about the irony, then you think, “Yeah. Edgy, like Detroit.” It makes you feel good about this place in the same strange way this place makes you feel good about this place.

painting by Rebecca Goldberg

painting by Rebecca Goldberg

Moving along the same wall, was a picture by Jackie Brown, a graduate of Oakland University, who Mr. Thompson told me moved away from the art world for a while but came back. He creates pictures with a pop art feel, a bit rough-hewn, but done with careful choice of color and layering of paint and twisting of perspective that turns a simple view of a turntable into an icon for an era (which seemed appropriate to show the same weekend that the Movement electronic music festival ran). Another picture by Mr. Brown shows what appears at first glance to be one of those cute presentations of neighborhood children caught off guard in a moment of rare repose. Then you appreciate that two of the children are colored in camouflage pattern and detonating bombs tumble past in the background. The narrow color spectrum, and the stenciled quality of the images suggests a fleeting impression, like those atomic bomb flash silhouettes found around Nagasaki and Hiroshima that froze that last instant before annihilation. These images will haunt you, and perhaps they should given the complicity all Americans share in the accidental but undeniable annihilation of children around the world.

painting by Jackie Brown

painting by Jackie Brown

paintings by Jackie Brown (top) & Rebecca Goldberg (bottom)

paintings by Jackie Brown (top) & Rebecca Goldberg (bottom)

On another wall are three landscape views (one close enough, blurred enough, to be an abstraction). All feature water, all capture that mysterious hypnotic effect water imposes on us. (Did you ever stare over the side of a boat and watch as the bow cuts and dips through the surface of the water; or stare close at a roiling stream for long time so your eyes drift out of focus?) These pictures remind us, as we drift further and further from our natural foundation, of the strange force that foundation still exerts on us. Or, maybe these are nice pictures, and should be valued simply for making us happy?

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by Crystal Baskin

Another series of images, digital prints by Anna Stasek, seem cut from a graphic novel. The first in the series shows mostly text, dated “10/23/2468,” which describes in first person the labors of a toxic waste hauler headed to the treatment plant, “the dirtiest, dangeriest route.” The final passage cries out for CHANGE, a change “other than the genocide of innocent creatures.” Well, amen. I hope we don’t wait until 2468 to heed these words.

digital prints by Anna Stasek

digital prints by Anna Stasek

These pictures depict a liquid-ey, tendril-ey, blue world infected with a creeping malaise. They evoke a science fiction feel that I think first evolved in the 1950’s when absolutely anything was possible. You travel through this series and it touches you with an ineffable melancholy.

A black and white lino cut print by Anna Stasek shows trees, clouds, rain, and water in that tendril-ey abstract way she uses in the previous series, but this is more austere, more simply evocative of a mournful, weeping place.

lino cut print by Anna Stasek

lino cut print by Anna Stasek

Two more pictures, small ones, by Rebecca Goldberg, hang capriciously beneath Mr. Brown’s picture of the apocalyptic children. These two images, one of a kitty with a pink ribbon on its ear, the other of a broken egg spilled into a primary red space. The egg hangs there, two-dimensional, but does it lie flat or float in ether? Your mind plays tricks on itself with images like this, trying to fit it into your recollections of your world. Either way, the bright yellow yolk looms there like a nucleus, pulling you in. The kitty just stares at you, kitty-like, contemplative, a bit provocative. These two pictures, light and un-fraught, leap out like the happy grin of a child as they hang there beneath Mr. Brown’s heavier work. They administer a shot of optimism, like a shot of vitamin B-12.

paintings by Rebecca Goldberg

paintings by Rebecca Goldberg

Out on the floor, in front of the gallery window, stood a sculpture by Anna Stasek (prolific, isn’t she?) composed of disparate found objects. As said earlier, it stood there like a totem. Its form suggested that of American Indian totems to me, but it could be from any culture really; any culture that wards off evil with scary objects — the kind of scary objects that children love, strangely. While I was there, I noticed several children sort of dance around this one. The sculpture presents a figure with wild, unkempt hair made of shredded trash bags punctuated by a deer antler, and a face made of what might be a rusted paint can lid, eerily devoid of features. The body, dressed in ragged mismatched clothes poses as though springing into motion. Furry paws torn from a stuffed animal project from the sleeves and pants. At the base, a crumpled license plate suggests a point of origin (Florida! Land of Mickey), while a twisted old-style metallic chrome auto bumper suggests a prior encounter with sinister and powerful forces. Encompassing the entire base, a torn off truck tire re-tread further suggests violent struggle. An odd creature, but despite its fantastic form, it projects an unmistakable sense of warmth or protectiveness, as perhaps a totem should.

sculpture by Anna Stasek

sculpture by Anna Stasek

All of the artists in this show are former students of Mr. Thompson, hence the name 1° of Separation.

 

Andy Thompson (center)

Andy Thompson (center)

May 27, 2013

HPOP Pops In Hamtramck

by Jim Welke

activities in the green space getting underway...

activities in the green space getting underway…

HPOP, a pop up art fest in downtown Hamtramck (south of Caniff on Joseph Campau) burst into existence Memorial Day weekend starting on Saturday afternoon and running through Monday evening. As described by the main sponsor, Interstate Arts:

HPOP activates Hamtramck’s main business corridor along Joseph Campau street with pop-up art galleries, events, activities and spectacle, drawing guests to explore all Hamtramck has to offer while inspiring locals to re-envision what is possible in our underutilized spaces.

Industrial Post and the City of Hamtramck also sponsored HPOP.

HPOP organizers include: Jason Friedmann, Christina Galasso, Sara Lapinski, George Rahme and Shoshanna Utchenik. But longtime resident, musician, and composer James Cornish, along with many others, contributed immeasurable time and energy.

Shoshanna Utchenik said the initial plan was to create gallery spaces inside vacant shops along Joseph Campau. She and others repeatedly met with property owners, but ultimately the owners resisted opening vacant spaces to streams of visitors due to liability and other concerns. In the end, HPOP organizers secured permission from property owners to install artworks in shop windows where passersby could view them. While this reduced the number of works to show, it did not dilute the goal of offering an expanded vision for underutilized space, and bringing art to Hamtramck residents and visitors in a venue more accessible than a traditional gallery or museum setting.

In addition to the visual art in shop windows, HPOP also offered live music and dance performances in the green space and the square across the street. One performance that I witnessed was danced by Kristi Faulkner and Oihana Elizalde of Kristi Faulkner Dance. Lamarre and Dancers also  performed earlier in the day.

I attended HPOP on Saturday, and I think the organizers exceeded their own expectations, whether they realize it or not. While it is easy to dismiss such efforts as quixotic, what I saw on Saturday countered any such notion. The streets of Hamtramck, a pedestrian friendly town with lots of small shops frequented by residents, bustled with parents leading kids by the hand, teenagers roaming around, and elderly men and women who move slowly, but show keen interest in goings on. All slowed and many stopped to ponder the paintings, photographs, fashion, sculpture, and crafts offered in the windows by HPOP. The hungry found great offerings from Native Kitchen’s health-conscious, “eclectic and alternative cuisine.”

I could be wrong but my guess is most of these pedestrians did not set out with the intention of seeing art. Surely they did not expect to witness it in vacant shop windows, and if they walked past a gallery on the way to the grocery store, most kept walking.

But on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday pedestrians brushed up against art they otherwise would never have seen. And the thing about art, especially art encountered unexpectedly and without preconceptions, is that you can not encounter it without incurring an impression. It’s sort of like two atoms ripping through the vacuum of space. They pass one another, they remain intact, but each is minutely altered by the exchange of energy that occurs. In the case of HPOP, the residents saw new art; their train of thought diverged from whatever they happened to be preoccupied with prior, and they saw new possibilities — for themselves and their families, for their town, for the whole planet.

That might sound like hyperbole, but consider the insidious effects of the perpetual media onslaught these pedestrians are subjected to daily. Often we absorb such background noise almost unconsciously, but I think no one would dispute how persuasive that noise can be: it alters buying habits, bends political views, and affects self-esteem by binding one’s position in the social fabric. Hence we have advertising and biased political coverage (propaganda to some) with proven and measurable efficacy.

In the case of art encountered on the street, the viewer does not raise the same defenses as they do to familiar and suspect media sources. Most approach art during these encounters with an open mind. If you think that might not be true, stand next to a public artwork and ask people what they think. Most will openly share their impression, perhaps a bit tentatively, even self-consciously, but they will give fair consideration to the object before them. And I think residents and visitors to the stretch of Joseph Campau brightened by HPOP over Memorial Day weekend did exactly that. Many times during my visit, I watched passersby slow, point to the pictures in the windows, musicians in the green space next to Lo and Behold Records, or dancers in the park, and then turn to their companions with a smile and a few words. Some lingered for a while, some moved on, but all took notice.

To me, to the organizers of HPOP, and especially to the artists — the other atom brushed by that collision — these moments mean that perceptions were altered and lives were changed. Cynics might dispute this, but I think if you ask people who actually saw the art and gave it at least a few seconds of open-minded, un-jaded consideration you will see that HPOP favorably modified the impromptu attendee’s perception of art, and most importantly, favorably modified their perception of the city where they encountered it.

With Detroit facing the possibility of artworks from its prize museum and cultural mainstay, the Detroit Institute of Arts, put up for auction, events such as HPOP generate optimism for a town’s future, which means residents will be less willing to part with key cultural assets to meet short term financial shortfalls. Public events like HPOP dampen despair along with willingness to countenance desperate and craven measures by politicians ready to throw residents’ interests under the bus (which will probably come late) in favor of influential creditors. At the same time as they boost optimism and civic self-esteem, events such as HPOP instill residents with the sense that artists create art for them, and that residents share with everyone the capacity to appreciate and benefit from art through an incrementally expanded view of the world and its inhabitants.

So, bravo for the organizers and artists (visual and performance) who made HPOP happen, and others who make events like HPOP happen elsewhere. And cheers for the folks passing by who take the time to appreciate the gifts laid before them.

The artists included:

James Cornish

Stephen Garrett Dewyer

Holliday Martindale

Rebekka Parker

Christopher Schneider

Andy Thompson

In parallel with HPOP, Andy Thompson, a local artist and art instructor at several universities and colleges (including College for Creative Studies, Oakland University, University of Michigan), curated 1° of Separation at Public Pool Artspace (3309 Caniff). The show featured work by numerous artists taught over the years by Mr. Thompson — hence the name. The show was engaging and diverse. See photos of that show on the artifizz facebook page here: http://www.facebook.com/artifizz

(Sorry for the un-attributed artworks in the photos — my bad — any help with the names will be much appreciated.)

inflatable sculpture in shop window (artist unknown)

inflatable sculpture in shop window Sean Hages and Chelsea Depner

fashion designs (artist unknown)

fashion design, LaTsyrc by CrystalNicole Purifoy

painting in shop window (artist unknown)

painting in shop window (artist unknown)

photo in a shop window by Chris Schneider

photo in a shop window by Chris Schneider

May 23, 2013

CUT: A One Night Motor City Brewing Pop Up Art Show

by Jim Welke
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CUT — a pop up art show — opened and closed tonight at the Motor City Brewing Works. Collage, as the title of the show implies, constituted the main attraction. The works were by Jef Bourgeau, co-director of the Museum of New Art (MONA), and Jessica Hopkins, chief curator at the museum. The gallery, not a white cube but more a plywood el, occupies around 120 square feet. Hung in neat rows on the plywood were thirty or so modest sized works, perfectly proportioned for the modest show space. And each work exuded its own private aura. Jessica Hopkins did not take the easy and obvious route for a show of many small works, which would be too choose a theme, and then make each piece a variation on that theme. That would be the easy route. The risk would be in choosing the theme, but then to produce the series she could duck into a mental routine oriented on her chosen direction and create minimally divergent, but still unique works.

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Instead, Ms. Hopkins created thirty or so pieces, each predicated on a notion different from all the others. All the works share the same proportions, but that’s about it. Each tells its own story, and depending on your state of mind when you approach one, you will overlay your own narrative too. They compel you to do that. They are all constructed from found images of mostly ordinary things (the t-rex not withstanding), but they are placed with perspective and proximity askew. For example, I bought one that depicts an easy chair in the immediate foreground set on an expanse of rolling hills with a background of open, clouded (Detroit-ish) sky. Scaled up relative to the hillsides, the chair appears the size of an apartment block. Just to the right and above, hovers an immense pumpkin orange pincushion (I think) with a proud blue jay perched on it. That is what “proximity askew” refers to here: an easy chair does not typically perch on a hillside, and blue jays do not typically perch on hovering pincushions. The picture presents a surreal landscape, and that gets your neurons firing in all sorts of crazy, trippy patterns. You become a stranger in a strange land where even ordinary things appear to have an aura of amplified intensity. That aspect makes collage fun. And art should be fun, at least sometimes… preferably often. These pieces created by Ms. Hopkins are delicious and delightful — see them if you get the chance.

Jef Bourgeau, Ms. Hopkins co-conspirator in the pop up show, generously forfeited his share of wall space, which left him with a mere tabletop to show his prints. The work Mr. Bourgeau presented appeared in two sleeve binders. Both merited a close look. The pieces contained therein spanned a broad range of time and sensibility. Some were photographs, some were digital images created with software. Some were made with brush and paint. Blurring diffuses the scenes captured in the photographs giving them a fleeting quality, like a distant memory. One, a headshot of a girl in bathtub, shows the girl with a vacant expression, her lips parted in absentminded preoccupation. Or is it concentration? Or is it raw, bone-crushing pain? You look, and you wonder — maybe even empathize.

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The digital images show a painterly use of color and form. Some show landscapes, some figures. They seem to evoke a post-impressionistic, perhaps neo-expressionistic style. Or, perhaps neither — Mr. Bourgeau seems to deliberately wander in and out of stylistic realms and does not likely cotton to narrow categories for his art. All the digital images are created by hand, though, not by the click of a button labeled “posterize.” One work, not digital, “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,” (1968, acrylic on canvas) references the book by James Joyce that “traces the intellectual and religio-philosophical awakening of young Stephen Dedalus as he begins to question and rebel against the Catholic and Irish conventions with which he has been raised. He finally leaves for abroad to pursue his ambitions as an artist.” (Wikipedia) This picture, and the reference contained within the title, seems to capture the spirit of Mr. Bourgeau. In a way, his career took him abroad to pursue his ambitions, not so much literally, but metaphorically. The man pictured stands with erect posture and straight on gaze, but beneath this conformist appearance one senses the intensity of a non-conformist. The eyes are blank circles of gray, clearly capable of penetrating the shallow facades of posturing, craven peers and critics. In his visual art as well as his writing, Mr. Bourgeau cuts through the comforting illusions we create by mutual assent and like an x-ray machine shows the haunting reality that lurks beneath. One suspects he would be the one amongst us to reveal the emperor has no clothes.

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As the one night show progressed, many visitors wandered in and out. Some came specifically for the show, and almost immediately decided to purchase a work or two, others were bar patrons and bar staff who took at least a moment or two to appreciate the gift of art laid before them. We all should do that more often.

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Many thanks to Motor City Brewing for their gracious hosting of these ongoing art shows. They donate time and space for local artists, and the value of that is not to be underestimated. Like fine, locally-crafted beer, locally-crafted art makes you feel good. Swing by Motor City Brewing for the next show (check their website — they post events on their home page), and show your support for local brews — art and beer.

(apologies for the poor image quality!)

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May 17, 2013

A Myriad of One :: Simone DeSousa

by Jim Welke
Re:View Contemporary

Enter Re:View Contemporary Gallery from the street and the low roar of Detroit fades to a whisper. After navigating the frayed streetscape of the city, the gallery promises shelter, and Simone DeSousa’s A Myriad of One feels like coming home. Evenly divided between two rooms (Re:View Contemporary exhibition gallery & See Art + Design gallery), the show presents eighteen works, all acrylic on wood, some with gentle flourishes of Indian (or India) ink.

Note, however, that the works in the Re:View gallery comprise “A Myriad of One” — the works in See Art + Design, Ms. DeSousa said, “provide context to those who are not that familiar with my work, to see how the works have transitioned from what I was doing before to the very tight family of works in the actual show.”

Ms. DeSousa starts a series of works by defining their shapes. She drafts the outlines and sends those plans off to a carpenter to form them into three-dimensional, laminated, paint-ready elements. Some are simple polygons; some are notched. Few are rectangles. All exhibit tangible, measurable depth.

Indivisible 3

detail: Indivisible 2 / 2013
Re:View Contemporary

Once the woodcutting, gluing, and shaping are done, Ms. DeSousa paints, or it appears, sketches. Most of the works show traces of fine, sketched Indian ink lines that seem to define the skeleton of an embryonic image. Broad bands of paint lay adjacent to the feathery ink strokes, some overlap, some slip beneath the ink. Richly applied paint echoes light gestures. Sometimes ink strokes sweep through broad arcs like vapor trails; sometimes they form short spikes. Geometric sections of unpainted wood interrupt broad expanses of paint. All of these forms coalesce into viable, luxuriant landscapes sustained by symbiosis. You could almost compare these works to the view one sees from an aircraft as it crosses over planted fields — colors intermingle, shapes vary, but the parts join to form an harmonious image. So it is in the works of Ms. DeSousa.

aerial crop image

Walk into the gallery, and you sense harmony. You sense the pieces fit together, your brain recognizes an inviting, generous landscape before the words to describe it pop into your mind. As you move closer to one of the works, the harmony scales. The forms maintain their own balance. Not only do the paintings themselves seem to fit together like crystals, notches meeting notches, the forms within the works maintain that sense of organic harmony as though built from the inside out like a living, breathing creature. The bands of paint merge and overlap, unpainted sections reveal knots in the wood around which the painted surface seems to have emanated — organically.

Zen garden

One might aptly compare Ms. DeSousa’s work to a Zen garden. She seeks to create works that invite the viewer to come close, to absorb the warmth they radiate. She invites one to feel generosity in her work. Empty spaces represent potential for abundance, not persistence of scarcity. They imbue the viewer with an ineffable sense of well-being. That, it seems, might be the greatest potential of abstract art — to not merely be all things to all people, but to convey positive (or negative) energy without resorting to discrete, recognizable signs and signals of culture that inevitably polarize. A realistic picture of a prosperous estate in the countryside would instill very different emotions in different people at different times. But an abstract image, carefully constructed, can instigate waves of pleasant (or harsh) emotion via proximate resonance without ever evoking any particular polarizing object.

Intervalo 4 Re:View Contemporary

Intervalo 4 / 2013
Re:View Contemporary

The surfaces of most of Ms. DeSousa’s works exhibit an undulating, sensuous texture, which adds to the warmth. None suggest a cold, mechanical topography. You want to touch them, but know you can not. They beckon like temptresses. The three-dimensionality adds to that sensation. The laminated, layered edges suggest growth rings in timber — time passes, layers accumulate during growth, growth implies continuity — organic continuity.

 

Rigorous and Poetic VII / 2010 See Art + Design

detail: Rigorous and Poetic VII / 2010
See Art + Design

Interspersed amongst larger, detailed pieces you will notice smaller, monochromatic (or nearly monochromatic), blocky pieces. These offer further balance to Ms. DeSousa’s Zen garden. Placed beside larger works, they provide counterpoise. With similar surface texture and color, they also suggest the earliest stages of the large works, as though seeds or kernels — a quintessence.

Indivisible 2 / 2013

Indivisible 2 / 2013
Re:View Contemporary

Ms. DeSousa attended university in Brasilia, a young city in a young country. Brasilia, from its beginning, embodied optimism and a spirit of persistent ambition. A planned city, designers created Brasilia before anyone ever lived there (similar in that respect to Washington DC).

The city’s design divides it into numbered blocks as well as sectors for specified activities, such as the Hotel Sector, the Banking Sector or the Embassy Sector. …

The city was planned and developed in 1956 with Lúcio Costa as the principal urban planner, Oscar Niemeyer as the principal architect and Roberto Burle Marx as the landscape designer. Brasília is in the Unesco’s World Heritage List due to its architecture. …

Viewed from above, the main portion of the city resembles an airplane or a butterfly.

(Wikipedia)

DeSousa’s experience there directed her ambition toward architecture, for which she received a degree but never practiced. A muse, it seems, got hold of her and re-directed her ambition. But you can sense elements of that never pursued profession in her work — the drafting of three-dimensional forms for construction; the straight-lined geometry of painted sections; the deep layering of pigments. (Like a multi-storied habitat?) Most of all, the rigorous discipline engendered by architecture appears in the overall cohesiveness of these works; the structural balance. You can see a bit of the planned city here: the optimism, and the conviction that humans can make the world a better place rather than despoiling it as we seem so apt to do (in the absence of rigorous discipline).

Indivisible 2 / 2013

Indivisible 2 / 2013
Re:View Contemporary

These works are all sisters. Don’t buy one… buy two… or more. It seems sad to split them up. In any case, they will surreptitiously sow the seeds of grace and harmony wherever they go.

Momentos 4 and 5 / 2013

Momentos 4 and 5 / 2013
Re:View Contemporary

 

Simone DeSousa is the founder and director of Re:View Contemporary, a gallery and art project in Cass Corridor in Midtown Detroit. She is also the proprietor of See Art + Design gallery, a shop adjacent to Re:View Contemporary.

 

Simone DeSousa :: A MYRIAD OF ONE

May 18 through June 29, 2013

Opening Reception: Saturday, May 18, 7 pm – 10 pm

Indefinable 5 / 2012

Indefinable 5 / 2012
Re:View Contemporary

detail: Indefinable 5 / 2012

detail: Indefinable 5 / 2012
See Art + Design

detail: Indefinable 2 / 2012

detail: Indefinable 2 / 2012
See Art + Design

design store / exhibitions

design store / exhibitions
See Art + Design

Re:View Contemporary

Re:View Contemporary

Re:View Contemporary

Re:View Contemporary

May 16, 2013

A Dirty River Runs Through It

We Make Mud -- Peter Markus

We Make Mud, a collection of prose pieces by Peter Markus, airlifts the reader into a mystical, timeless landscape populated with spirits who stand in for tangible, flesh and blood characters. On the cover of the book, the word “stories” appears, unobtrusive, discrete, shadowy amidst a watercolor landscape of cloud-covered river floodplain (painted by Astrid Cravens). The word stories should be spoken softly here; the stories of Mr. Markus are not of the form we are taught to associate with that word. The prescribed dramatic arc, like an idealized rainbow on an unobstructed landscape, never happens in these tales. The pieces defy linear narrative structure – beginning/middle/end. Catalyst, confrontation of obstacles, resolution — those tried and true conceits of literature and film — left the building when Mr. Markus put pen to paper. So the word “stories” hovers with tremulous conviction, out there in the clouds on the cover of We Make Mud.

Yet, where is it written that stories need follow a simplified Hollywood arc to capture the reader’s attention? Open Mr. Markus’s books, open your mind — no, unleash your mind — and ramble amidst the shimmering, pearly, iridescent string of moments Mr. Markus knits together. After all, life — despite the insistence of Hollywood to the contrary — progresses in spite of, not as a result of the beginnings, middles, and ends we fixate on like distant road signs. If the notion of non-linearity irks you, think of this prose as an exhilarating nighttime ride down a mountain road pretzeled into a sequence of blind curves. Sure, to the detached observer a beginning, middle, and end will be apparent, but as you round the next curve, clueless of what lies ahead, you exist in the moment. Only now matters. That’s really how we encounter life. Our brains order events, organize, linearize. Plans hold an important place in our achievements, yet it is worth remembering the past and future exist only in our imagination — what happens right now matters.

Up front, the author dedicates We Make Mud to a trinity of three named but otherwise unidentified entities: Helena, “who put the word brother under my tongue;” Sol, “the word brother made flesh;” and Beck, “who made all this mud possible.” As a humble, non-omniscient reader I should probably resist the temptation to consider mystical trinity in that dedication. The word brother, the brother made flesh, and the mud — are all one, yet distinct? Turn the page, though, and you discover a fourth dedication, “and in memory of / Bob.” So, if a theology underlies the dedication, it is Mr. Markus’s own. Or, not.

The fifty-three stories in We Make Mud often share common elements: brothers, a river, mud, a father, a mother, and fish. In a traditional story structure sense, the brothers, as one, play the protagonist. The river then, must be the antagonist. Or, the reader might view the stories as ensemble pieces, where the terms protagonist and antagonist need not apply. And then, moments arise when the brothers, the river, the mud, the father, the mother, the fish along with other transients like the moon, the stars, and Girl seem all one, seen variously from different angles; shaped into different forms. Yet compelling, engrossing, dramatic tension persists throughout the book.

We Make Mud opens with the following description:

The river was not far from the place we called town. It, our town, was a dirty river town with a dirty river running through it. Town, it was mostly just a two-way road cutting through the middle of the place where the all-by-itself traffic light was always blinking from two sides of it yellow and from the other two sides of it red. Our town, us brothers one day discovered, it was not the kind of a town where the cars not from our town liked to stop. Ours was a drive on through kind of a town, a pass-on-by-on-your-way-to-someplace-else kind of town.

As evidenced here, Mr. Markus’s prose offers more than a journalistic telling. This prose is poetic, musical. This prose is rhythmic, melodic. This prose is infectious. When you open this book you realize immediately this is no airport pulp. Events do not unfold in an orderly, this-then-this narrative but rather fade in and out of view, timelessly. Recurring events, or re-told events, are often preceded by the passage:

There was this look that us brothers, we sometimes liked to give each other this look. It was the kind of a look that actually hurt the eyes of the brother who was doing the looking. Imagine that look.

And then, repeatedly a scene recurs that involves the brothers’ hands, and nails, and a hammer. This you must discover on your own. It stuns.

A fish head covered telephone pole in the backyard features in many stories. In “The Sound the Hammer Makes,”

…a tree back there that does not have any branches…

But preceding this passage, in “The Hands that Hold the Hammer,”

…a telephone pole back there studded with the chopped off heads of fish. In the end there were exactly one hundred and fifty fish heads hammered and nailed into this pole’s fish-headed wood.

Later, in “What Our Father is Here to Tell Us,”

…our backyard’s fish-headed telephone pole, it is a lit-up lighthouse shining in the moon’s nighttime light. …

And so on, this pole variously described, occurs over and over. Why exactly 150 heads nailed to it one wonders, but Mr. Markus does not reveal. Perhaps one head for every day the flood engulfed Noah after the rain fell for forty days? Probably not. But one can’t help but speculate on what appears to be profuse symbolism in this book. That is part of the fun.

Aside from objects like the backyard pole, three entities stand central to the collection: the brothers, father, and mother.

Jimmy and John is my brother’s and my name. We call each other Brother. Our father, he calls us brothers son. When our father hollers to us brothers that word Son, the sound of it, that word, the way that it hangs in the air between us, it is a sound that we can’t help but turn our heads to. When we hear that sound, us brothers, we both of us brothers know that we are crossing that river together. Son we hear our father say to us now…

Both father and mother seem to manifest as apparitions, but probably more so the mother, whose introduction occurs blandly enough:

Maybe what our father figures is that our mother is out of the house shopping.

But then (Mr. Markus dispenses with quotations around dialog):

When he asks us brothers, Where is your mother, one of us brothers whispers, Fish, and the other one of us mutters, Moon. To this, these words, our father, he nods his head, then he heads back down to the river. And without so much as a word or a wave from his goodbye, we watch our father walk back across the river’s muddy water, back to the river’s other side: walking and walking and walking on, until he is nothing but a sound that the river sometimes makes when a stone is skipped across it.

Later:

But our mother, our mother, she isn’t our mother anymore. Our mother, asleep in bed, she is just this lump of a mother asleep in a bed with mud now dried in clumps upon its bedsheets. It, this bed, with this other mother asleep in it, it could be bed made out of mud for all this other mother knows. Mud has got a hold of this mother now. …

Clearly, these characters are more than two brothers living in a house by a river with their father and mother and a telephone pole in the backyard. The brothers refer to one another as Brother, and the father refers to them as Son, and the mother does not refer to them at all except in third person recollections. And the father walks on water, the brothers appear sometimes as a single actor, the mother turns to mud, the fish sing, and then there’s that thing with the hands, the nails, and the hammer.

Aside from the mystical component of We Make Mud, Mr. Markus also bring a childlike, wondrous view of the world. He captures a child’s sense of the world (the brothers’ point of view) and reproduces it with striking clarity. This passage exemplifies that childish, Huck-Finn-ish, breathless relationship to reality that Mr. Markus masters through poetic parsing of words, and meticulous punctuation:

We were down by the river, us brothers, fishing for fish, when Boy walked up to tell us what it was that he was dying to tell us: that he’d just seen himself a ghost. This ghost, Boy said it, it wasn’t just any ghost, this ghost that Boy said that he’d just seen. This ghost. Boy told us brothers, it was the ghost of a fish. A ghost fish? Brother asked this back, because he wanted to believe it.

The author intermixes violence, humor, and surrealism in these tales: father searches for boots already on his feet, the boys decapitate another boy (like they do their caught fish — more a symbolic gesture than literal), the boys create a girl from mud, and call her Girl and her heart shatters into a billion pieces and the pieces becomes stars. The boys walk out into the river, inhale water to breathe, and explore the bottom of the river. Fish heads nailed to a telephone pole sing to the brothers. And what all this mixed up action and imagery do, above all else, is render plot predictions pointless. And that leaves the reader suspended in a perpetual state of now, like Alice in Wonderland wondering at the ever changing landscape, but not forcing reason and logic on it — suspended disbelief, as they say in the movie business.

In addition to a prismatic version of reality, Mr. Markus also uses repetition to embed his riverine landscape in the reader’s consciousness. Like that passage quoted above about the brothers looking knowingly into each other’s eyes, or nailing a fish head to the pole, some events occur repeatedly, re-told identically or with slight variation. Repetition serves to reinforce the familiarity of an image, but also to alter the meaning of it — or to erase the prior meaning of it and allow it to take on new meaning (like a word repeated over and over until it no longer seems familiar).

I suppose the easiest way to characterize these stories would be to call them allegories or fables. But that misses the musicality of the repetition, the poetic cadence, the mystical aura, the magical realism. There is no understatement in saying Mr. Markus invented a form of literature that transcends all categorical boundaries.

Of course, any old hack could do that poorly. But Mr. Markus yanks us out of the familiar, drops us in a dreamscape, and enchants us. And we are rapt. The brothers here are sirens; they sing, the fish sing and we listen, spellbound.

In a way, Mr. Markus follows in the tradition of James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, William Faulkner, William S. Burroughs, Thomas Pynchon, or Anthony Burgess with invention of language and new ways to use it. But all of these writers, and others, re-invented language (and grammar, and punctuation) uniquely, and Mr. Markus does too. It would be useless to compare We Make Mud to the books of any of these authors, except to say they all employ unconventional language usage. All of these authors, including Mr. Markus, recognized the inadequacy of language to convey perceptions and tried to adapt it to express them better. They all took a huge, irreversible leap of faith when they struggled to cultivate not only a unique style, but a dialect (or idiolect).

And to the reader of We Make Mud, this use of unconventional language means they should jump into the flow of Mr. Markus’s river with both feet too. Pages go by quickly, but do not speed read this book. Focus instead on the journey, on the scenery rolling by. Read one or two or three stories a night until the book is done. To read more would be to invite fatigue and impatience. The style of writing employed here will become tedious and irritating if you try to force it to conform to conventional narrative expectations. So do not rush it. Instead, read a bit each night and let your subconscious digest the magical imagery Mr. Markus lays before you. You will find your own daytime perception of reality slightly altered too. You will see the world differently, you will expect more from your reality. And that’s the most we can ask of art.

 

Peter Markus is the author of the novel, Bob, or Man on Boat along with three books of short fiction, Good, BrotherThe Moon is a LighthouseThe Singing Fish and We Make Mud. His stories have appeared in a wide range of literary journals, including Denver Quarterly, Chicago Review, Massachusetts Review, Black Warrior Review, New Orleans Review, Quarterly West, Northwest Review, Third Coast, Willow Springs, Another Chicago Magazine, Seattle Review, 3rd Bed, Post Road, and Unsaid. His work has also appeared in anthologies brought out by HarperCollins, Norton, St. Martin’s Press, Bloomsbury. He has received grants from ArtServe Michigan, was for six years the writer-in-residence at the Interlochen Center for the Arts, and has been a writer with InsideOut since its inception in 1995.

Fish on!

Bob, or Man on Boat by Peter Markus

Bob, or Man on Boat by Peter Markus takes us down to the river again, but in the form of a novel. If you know Mr. Markus’s work, you might guess that this novel does not present a straightforward, linear-time narrative comprised of conventional prose. But that’s what makes Bob, or Man on Boat an exceptionally engaging read. If Mr. Markus had put down his story as a straightforward, linear-time narrative comprised of conventional prose it would still make an interesting tale. As such, you could say the novel is about a man alienated from a father, Bob, who left home in favor of subsisting alone on a small motorboat out on a river. That river runs past the now defunct steel mill that once employed his father, and when it went defunct, Bob’s father went defunct too, thus driving Bob perhaps a little nuts, but definitely away, out on the river. That would be the essence of the story, but what that synopsis leaves out are the myriad details of Bob’s existence, and his son’s quest to understand that existence.

The writing in Bob, or Man on Boat takes various forms, sometimes a series of short sentences each its own paragraph, sometimes longer paragraphs with comparatively generic, expository prose, other times one or more stanzas of poetry. But really, all of it is poetry in the sense of meter and musicality. It is clear after reading only a few pages that Mr. Markus chooses his words and forms his sentences very, very carefully, and I would guess, frequently revisits them for further revision and excision. I say excision because Mr. Markus appears to have mastered that pseudo-axiom of writing that demands everything non-essential to conveying the thought at hand must go. Proust did not subscribe to this axiom, but in his case, thankfully… sort of. But unless a writer intends to spend half his life completing a book, and expects to die doing it, brevity begets readability. In the words of the acerbic screenwriter William Goldman: “Kill your babies.” No matter how much you love a particular turn of phrase, if it does not help tell your story, out it goes. (William Goldman also said of Hollywood and its denizens’ capacity to judge creative work, “Nobody knows anything.”)

A perfectly good example of trimming the narrative down to essentials occurs on page 3:

Bob’s father was what we call, in our town, a hot metal man.

In our town there is a mill that used to make steel out of a stone we call ore.

But the mill, our mill, it is no longer a mill that makes steel.

The mill, it has been dark and quiet and with no fire burning inside it since Bob was a young man about ready to make steel alongside his father.

This excerpt also reveals, besides Mr. Markus’s careful excision of unnecessary detail, his sort of vernacular style, which affects the tone of a local working guy who speaks unselfconsciously without resorting to lofty, clever vocabulary and phrasing to position himself in a class hierarchy, as say, an academic might. The excerpt also reveals Mr. Markus’s selective repetition of key words: mill, steel, father. This sort of repetition occurs frequently throughout the book, and lends to the musicality and seeming spontaneity, even when a passage occurs as simple prose. The repetition, instead of being tedious, reinforces those details Mr. Markus seems to want to emphasize. Through repetition you absorb those essential details without ever stopping to think, “Hmmm, this must be important to the story, I better remember that.”

When Mr. Markus employs dialog, he omits quotations and selects moments of speech that capture the essence of the speaker. In fact in many cases, the “dialog” presents the voice of a single speaker:

Sometimes, Bob comes walking into town, lugging with him, hanging from his hands, two buckets filled with fish.

Fish, Bob’s lips whisper.

Fish.

It’s all Bob has to say.

It’s as simple as this.

Fish.

Bob does not have to say it any louder than this.

Fish.

From that short passage, a sense of Bob emerges that pure expository writing might have required several long paragraphs to convey. Another example of Mr. Markus’s spare exposition and dialog occurs after a man falls in the river and drowns (with a bit of Mr. Markus’s sly humor) while pissing off the side of his boat. The boat is recovered, and the narrator, seeking to emulate Bob, buys the boat from the man’s widow.

When I left with the dead man’s boat, I told her I was sorry.

For what? she said.

He’s the one, she said, who should be sorry.

She looked off towards the river.

All the time out on that river, she said.

All the time fishing for fish.

Do you fish? she asked me this.

No, I said.

What you want this boat for then? was what she wanted to be told.

I want to learn how, I told her.

I told her I want to fish.

If Jane Austen had written this passage, picture what it might have looked like. It would have taken pages to convey the same essential quanta of information that Mr. Markus gets done in eleven brief, well-crafted sentences. (For the record, this writer admires Jane Austen.)

As the novel progresses, we discover Bob’s relationship to nature: birds on the river, the moon, sun, and stars. He lives out on the river year round, and cuts holes in the ice in winter to get to the fish. We learn the fate of Bob’s father, and the names of the narrator’s son. We watch the narrator move closer and closer to Bob, possibly discovering, possibly engendering commonality between he and Bob. We learn of Bob’s visits with the townspeople who buy his fish and sell him gas, and his relationship to others in boats on the river. We learn that Bob had a dog once, but the dog was lured away under mysterious circumstances, leaving Bob alone on the river again.

Bob’s amusing perspective on other boats:

Summer days, Bob watches these boats and these people speed on by, going to where Bob doesn’t know.

Sometimes these boats, the people on these boats, when they motor on by Bob in his boat, they holler out to Bob for Bob to get out of their way.

Bob doesn’t holler anything back.

Bob doesn’t bother.

Bob isn’t bothered too much by these boats.

Bob knows that, in a couple of years, those boats won’t be out on the river getting in Bob’s way.

Those boats will be put up on trailers, they’ll be stored away in somebody’s backyard garage.

The people who own these stored-away boats, they’ll cover up these boats with tarps to keep them from getting dusty.

Bob knows what keeps a boat from getting dusty.

A boat is like a fish.

When you take a boat out of the river.

It is no longer a boat.

It becomes something else.

A boat is not a boat, Bob knows, unless it’s a boat floating out on the river.

In Bob, or Man on Boat, Mr. Markus brings us with him down to the river he knows so well. He presents Bob and his river with the lucid, logical, pragmatic clarity of a man who gained knowledge of this place through hard won experience. And that underlying knowledge, that experience, makes Bob, or Man on Boat a masterful representation of a singular place that could be no other place, and while you read this novel you will inhabit it alongside Bob and his singing fish. And you won’t feel out of place.

While this book reads fast — it’s double spaced and only 133 pages — read it slow, there’s poetry in there. Savor it, re-read the passages that grab you. Read some out loud to your dog or cat. You will be enchanted, and you’ll carry that enchantment with you even when you don’t have the book in hand. Make the most of it, places like this and characters like this seem to be fast vanishing from the landscape as sprawling homogenization erases local color. Thanks to writers like Mr. Markus, they will at least be preserved in fiction.

 

(For a journalistic view of lost American ways of life on the water, read Peter Matthiessen’s Men’s Lives: The Surfmen and Baymen of the South Fork [1986] — you’ll be astonished by how damn hard it is to make a living fishing on a small boat.)

 

Peter Markus is the author of the novel, Bob, or Man on Boat along with three books of short fiction, Good, BrotherThe Moon is a LighthouseThe Singing Fish and We Make Mud. His stories have appeared in a wide range of literary journals, including Denver Quarterly, Chicago Review, Massachusetts Review, Black Warrior Review, New Orleans Review, Quarterly West, Northwest Review, Third Coast, Willow Springs, Another Chicago Magazine, Seattle Review, 3rd Bed, Post Road, and Unsaid. His work has also appeared in anthologies brought out by HarperCollins, Norton, St. Martin’s Press, Bloomsbury. He has received grants from ArtServe Michigan, was for six years the writer-in-residence at the Interlochen Center for the Arts, and has been a writer with InsideOut since its inception in 1995.