Artists put nature’s inspirations on display at DAM

Michael H. Hodges
Detroit News Fine Arts Writer

To take nothing away from the art form, artist Jeff Cancelosi says his entire purpose in curating “Inspired by Nature,” at Detroit Artists Market through Feb. 11, was to steer clear of traditional landscapes.

“The whole point was not to do landscapes, but rather a show about people using nature in different ways in artistic practices,” he says.

In searching out work, Cancelosi started with the profoundly simple, Japanese-like twig sculptures that Ann Arbor artist Larry Cressman refers to as drawings.

“When I first saw his work,” Cancelosi says, “I couldn’t stop staring for it. It’s just sublime. The pieces are so simple, yet so sophisticated that they just blew me away.”

Take “Untitled (The Nature of Drawing X),” a screen of vertically arranged tiny sticks, delicately suspended an inch or so from the wall by pins ordinarily used to mount insects in collections.

It’s a design that is intricate and elegant all on its own, but thanks to the shadows the twigs cast, also acquires an unexpected depth and three-dimensionality.

Jasmine Murrell’s “The Living Dead” makes use of painted orange prison cloth and dirt.

If Cressman uses sticks to invoke nature, New York artist Jasmine Murrell employs dirt.

With “The Living Dead,” the native Detroiter paired a dirt installation on the floor with a painted canvas made from prison uniforms to create a two-part composition of considerable power.

Mounted on the wall, most of the prison cloth is painted a dull orange, with just a few scraps of the original blue-and-white stripes visible. Crudely painted black silhouette figures look to be climbing a stairway, approaching a radiant, Christ-like figure at the center.

The painting is striking enough on its own.

But it’s the other half of this installation, a pile of dirt on the floor, that pulls you up short.

Emerging from the pile are realistic, soil-encrusted feet, as if the dead had been inadequately buried or were resurrecting, soles first.

The other half of Jasmine Murrell’s “The Living Dead” features empty bottles and feet rising from the soil.

(Also check out Murrell’s “soil-on-paper” drawing “Bottle Tree 1,” which is lovely.)

“Inspired by Nature” also boasts several abstract paintings by Ray Township artist Mary Keithan, color studies that are all quite beautiful.

Dominating the center of the gallery is Todd Erickson’s sculpture of large, stained cedar branches, titled “Ziibi Gibigan.”

Erickson, who teaches sculpture at Detroit’s College for Creative Studies, has created a remarkable, arch-like installation of impressive size and grace.

Todd Erickson’s white-cedar construction, “Ziibi Gibigan,” dominates the main gallery at Detroit Artists Market.

Cancelosi says when he first contacted Erickson — who’s currently at work on a large bronze piece — the sculptor said he’d be delighted to be in the show, but that he wanted to have fun.

“When you work in bronze,” Cancelosi notes, “it can be very tedious. So for Todd, using leftover pieces of wood was his way of playing and blowing off a little steam.”

Other artists in the seven-person group show are Jacklyn Brickman, Denes Galfi and Armin Mersmann.

(313) 222-6021

Twitter: @mhodgesartguy

‘Inspired by Nature’

Through Feb. 11

Detroit Artists Market, 4719 Woodward, Detroit

11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tue.-Sat.

(313) 832-8540