Cranbrook Art Academy hosts Sunday open house

Michael H. Hodges
Detroit News Fine Arts Writer

Two of the pleasures of spring are the “Graduate Degree Exhibition” at the Cranbrook Art Museum and the Art Academy’s OPEN(STUDIOS) — the chance to chat with student-artists where they work.

From 1-5 p.m. Sunday, visitors can tour the museum, free for the day, and the adjacent art studios and chat with 70-plus second-year graduate students.

Even better, the Institute of Science and Cranbrook House will also be open and free Sunday. (The institute’s hours are noon to 5 p.m., while Cranbrook House is open 1-5 p.m. for walk-throughs. Visit the Cranbrook House website for a free admission ticket.)

But the spiritual heart of the day is still the graduate students and what they produce. The Detroit News spoke with three of them:

Ash Arder’s “Broadcast #3” is a mix of soil, plywood, copper tubing, stinging-nettle seeds and a sound system.

Ash Arder

What do you get when you combine soil, plywood, copper tubing, stinging-nettle seeds and a sound system?

You get fiber-artist Ash Arder’s “Broadcast No. 3,” a high-concept construct in which a soundtrack is used as a catalyst to spread seeds across several boxes of soil.

Sound waves cause nettle seeds to whoosh up and out of copper tubes that emerge from the center of dirt plots. What does a sound-based seed-spreader have to do with fiber art?

“As a fiber artist,” Arder said, “I use nettles to create fibrous material much like hemp.”

So “Broadcast No. 3,” if you like, connects the 30-year-old Flint native’s work to the genesis of material she depends on. Despite the agricultural focus, Arder says she’s not drawn to farming.

“I went to an alpaca ranch once to see if I was interested,” she said, “and I don’t think I am.”

Conrad Egyir’s “Yonder, ” left, is a portrait of three women who look alike, except one is black. Anna E. Young’s “The Bluetech Family Network” comes with a video.

Conrad Egyir

“Yonder” is a heroic portrait of three lookalike women — no surprise, since they’re all the same individual.

But Conrad Egyir, a painting student originally from Ghana, has given them each different complexions — only one figure is clearly black.

It touches, he said, on “the problematic social construct and politics of colorism and identity. For example,” Egyir asked, “I have a black lady who’s also posing as an albino. Would you refer to an African albino as white or black?”

Using multiple images of the same character amounts to “a little psychoanalysis,” he said, noting that as an African living in Michigan his feet in two different worlds.

“It comes from place of empathy,” Egyir said, “and wanting to understand.”

Anna Young with "The Bluetech Family Network " on display at the Cranbrook Art Museum.

Anna E. Young

Crossing artistic boundaries seems to be a staple these days. Consider photography student Anna E. Young’s project, “The Bluetech Family Network.” Two vertical glass cases display what look like death masks. Nicely illuminated, the lifelike silicon faces form quite a sight.

And this connects to Young’s photography interests ... how?

Well, there’s a short video accompanying the masks, which wraps the project up in a futuristic construct concerning an all-encompassing artificial-intelligence network.

“The silicon faces are stand-ins for data caches of personality traits that can be digitally uploaded into the network, where they’ll experience immortality and happiness for eternity,” said the 26-year-old Akron native.

Amusingly, the video features testimonials from “satisfied” customers who’ve been digitally uploaded — all delivered in flat, dirge-like voices.



Degree Exhibition’ & OPEN(STUDIOS)

Cranbrook Art Museum, 39221 Woodward, Bloomfield Hills

Sunday, 1-5 p.m.

Admission: Free

Also free and open ’till 5 p.m. Sunday: Cranbrook Institute of Science and Cranbrook House

(877) 462-7262