Scarab Club honors late Gilda Snowden with punchy group show
If you’re around Detroit’s Scarab Club and have a spare 20 minutes, you owe it to yourself to duck in and walk through the first-ever “Snowden Exhibition” on the ground floor.
The show is up through March 31.
Named for the late, much-mourned artist and College for Creative Studies professor Gilda Snowden, the show, juried by local critic and Essay’d contributor Sarah Rose Sharp, has a gratifying number of high points.
First Place went to a complex installation by Traverse City artist Mary Fortuna called “Box for Papa Legba” that resembles a ruby-red altar studded with sacred artifacts.
“Papa Legba is one of the principal Haitian voodoo spirits or ‘loa,’ ” Fortuna explains, “the one you go to when you’re going to perform a ritual. You ask Papa Legba permission to access the spirit world. He’s the gatekeeper.”
Fortuna is perhaps best known in the art world for making odd and affecting dolls, which often seem more supernatural than anything a little girl would play with.
No dolls here. Instead we find a range of what Fortuna calls “amulets” that dot the altar as well as hang above it, and enshroud the composition with unexpected meaning and mystery.
Another installation worth seeking out is Ann Arborite Hannah Burr’s extraordinary “My Father’s Last Day,” which took an Honorable Mention. Wood squares, a bit like thin beige books, are arranged and piled in lop-sided rows, with green ribbons, squares of colored fabric, and bright-red and orange cloth flowers here and there in between the volumes.
Burr’s label explains that the green ribbons represent “tender moments” on her father’s last day, the many wood squares “labored breaths,” and the flower-like papers “physical contact with family.”
The few squares of persimmon fabric? They’re the dying man’s “lucid intervals.”
It is, in its way, a staggering conception that’s both disturbing and touching, and quite beautiful.
There’s also something disturbing, or rather odd, going on with “Gertie,” a moody color photograph by Janice Milhem, also of Ann Arbor.
A child who looks to be about three stands in a doorway next to a spray-painted figure on an exterior wall. The sober-faced little girl is interesting enough on her own merits, but the real kicker is the way her stance precisely mimics the painted figure next to her, which she cannot see.
“It was one of those moments in time,” Milhem said. “You only have a second to catch it.”
Through March 31
217 Farnsworth, Detroit
Noon-5 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday
‘Snowden Exhibiton’ winners
First Place: “Box for Papa Legba,” Mary Fortuna
Second Place: “Lahser,”
Third Place: “After a Thousand
Mornings,” Kathyrose Pizzo
“Egg Vessels,” Darice Cobb
“My Father’s Last Day,” Hannah Burr
“Drift,” Katrina Ruby
“Polymaths,” Christopher Schneider