A variety of art shows offer post-Christmas culture

Michael H. Hodges
Detroit News Fine Arts Writer

Christmas is great, of course, but the long weekend that follows can sometimes be anticlimactic. And really — how many new movies can you reasonably digest?

Happily, there are some great art shows around town that will supply both entertainment and cultural uplift for a wintry afternoon.

Start with the often-overlooked Scarab Club, a 107-year-old hangout for artists and art lovers behind the Detroit Institute of Arts. This eccentric, likable little organization mounts a surprising number of exhibitions worth going out of your way for, including their monthly "Emerging Artist Showcase" highlighting promising young talent.

But right now, the show to aim for is the Scarab Club's "101st Annual Gold Medal Exhibition" — organized by artist Mary Fortuna, until recently the force behind the outstanding shows mounted over the years at Rochester's Paint Creek Center for the Arts.

Of particular note in this members-only exhibition is "Storm over Sea #5" by Birmingham resident Edward Duff, a luminous, remarkably three-dimensional painting dominated by billowing clouds.

Duff, 36, says he worked mostly from photographs and his imagination, and was tweaking the canvas right to the last moment.

"Honestly, it was still drying on Nov. 22," he says, the day before the "Gold Medal Exhibition" opened.

Also worth noting is second-place winner Bill Murcko's striking female nude, "Black," and the impressive portrait, "Road Hog," by Frank Dulin. And while it didn't take a prize, don't miss Eugenia Hoag's beautifully rendered industrial landscape, "Coke Ovens."

If you're already at the Scarab Club, it's a short walk across John R to the DIA, where Corine Vermeulen's "Photographs from the Detroit Walk-In Portrait Studio" is up through May 17.

Vermeulen, a Cranbrook Academy of Art graduate, has an unerring, democratic eye that lends dignity to all her subjects. Struck by classic Depression-era photos by Walker Evans, Vermeulen in 2009 took over an abandoned cottage on Detroit's Klinger Street for five days, the first in a series of temporary studios across the city, inviting neighbors and passers-by to stop by, have their portraits taken, and talk about their lives.

The result is a parade of portraits in which subjects stare straight at the viewer, guileless and alternately tough or vulnerable. "As a photographer," Vermeuelen says, "I'm invested in that gaze. I like that they look back at you."

North of Eight Mile Road, the Cranbrook Art Museum just opened two shows of particular note — "The Cranbrook Hall of Wonders: Artworks, Objects, and Natural Curiosities" and "Iris Eichenberg: Bend."

Eichenberg — a jewelry maker and metalsmithing head at the Cranbrook Academy of Art — has stretched the meaning of both jewelry and metalworking across 25 years.

Eichenberg describes her approach to art as "drawing in materials," and indeed, what she manages to wrest from silver, steel, fiber and gold in this career retrospective is nothing short of remarkable.

Equally remarkable is the "Hall of Wonders," a show that relies on unexpected juxtaposition for its punch. Wildly disparate artifacts from fine art to craft and selections from the Cranbrook Institute of Science form surprising 3-D collages designed to provoke and amuse.


'101st Annual Gold Medal Member


Through Jan. 4

Scarab Club, 217 Farnsworth, Detroit

Noon - 5 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday


(313) 831-1250


'Photographs from the Detroit Walk-In Portrait Studio by Corine Vermeulen'

Through May 17

Detroit Institute of Arts

5200 Woodward, Detroit

9 a.m. - 4 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 9 a.m. - 10 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday

Free, Wayne, Oakland & Macomb county residents; Non-residents - $8, adults; $6, seniors; $5, college students with ID; $4, kids 6-17

(313) 833-7900


'The Cranbrook Hall of Wonders: Artworks, Objects, and Natural Curiosities' (Through March 22)

'Iris Eichenberg: Bend' (Through Jan. 25)

Cranbrook Art Museum, 39221 Woodward, Bloomfield Hills

10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday

$8, adults; $6, seniors; $3, students with ID; free, kids under 12

(248) 645-3323