We’ve put two new pieces of art in our kitchen, and they are really brightening the room.
The piece above is some of Russell’s work. Entitled Turtle, it’s a minimalist depiction of three young women looking at something. We love the colors and the scene. I think the piece shows Russell’s special talent for capturing the human form in everyday settings.
The piece below is called Portrait of Rico by one of Russell’s fellow Cranbrook MFA graduates, a gifted artist and nice guy named Billy Kang. I saw it at the Cranbrook Open Studios event and bought it on the spot because the colors, and the placid expression on the subject’s face, just make me smile.
It’s serendipity that both pieces feature the same yellow hue, which we think looks terrific against the red brick walls of our kitchen.
This weekend it was back up to Cranbrook for the Open Studios event, where all of the artists open their studios to the public. It’s a great chance to see what the students are working on — and it’s also a reason for them to straighten up their cluttered spaces, too.
This is a very busy time for the Cranbrook kids, and particularly so for Russell and some of his fellow graduating students. They not only are showing their work at the Open Studios and in the Cranbrook Art Museum, but they’ve also decided to stage a group exhibition of their artwork in downtown Detroit. Called House-Warming Party, the exhibition features pieces from Russell and 11 other Cranbrook artists. The show, located at 2170 Mack Avenue in Detroit, is open on Saturday and Sundays from 1-6 p.m. and by appointment between now and May 10.
I know Russell has been burning the candle at both ends on this last big push before graduation, and I hope he gets a chance to rest a bit. But his artwork at Open Studios looked great and seemed to attract a very interested crowd. And I think the notion of Russell and some of his classmates venturing off the picturesque Cranbrook campus to stage an exhibition and engage with the artistic community in the city is very cool, indeed. The grit and grime and spunk and comeback spirit of Detroit clearly has influenced Russell’s art, and having a show is a good way to make a payback of sorts to the Motor City.
Kish and I will be seeing House-Warming Party when we go up for graduation. If you are in Detroit between now and May 10, I encourage you to visit the Cranbrook Museum and the House-Warming Party to see what some up-and-coming artists are doing. You can get more information about the latter at email@example.com.
Russell’s time in the master’s program at the Cranbrook Academy of Art is drawing to a close. In a few days some of his new work will be shown as part of the graduating students’ exhibition at the Cranbrook Museum, followed shortly thereafter by an open studios event and then by graduation in early May.
Cranbrook has also been, I think, a good fit for Russell. Returning to the Detroit area — Cranbrook is in Bloomfield Hills, a Motor City suburb — after living for several years in Brooklyn has allowed Russell to really reconnect with his Midwestern roots, in ways that have found expression in his artwork and artistic interests. Cranbrook’s multi-disciplinary approach, in which students in the painting program are interacting regularly with student metalworkers, ceramic artists, architects, sculptors, fiber artists, and photographers, has also allowed Russell to experience different perspectives on art and experiment with incorporating some aspects of those approaches into his own artwork.
It might just be the Dad in me talking, but I think Russell’s willingness to experiment and embrace and understand what other students are doing has been true to the vision of a different, open approach that led to Cranbrook’s founding in the first place. I think the people who started the Art Academy would be as proud of him as we are.
The geographic orbit of the Webner clan will tighten come January.
Richard told us yesterday that he will be working next semester at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The University of Missouri apparently requires students getting their Master’s degree in journalism to have a professional internship in the last semester of their second year, and Richard will be fulfilling that requirement at a fine newspaper in the Steel City. Russell, meanwhile, moved into his new lodgings in the Detroit area yesterday. He’ll be starting work toward his MFA at Cranbrook Academy of Art on Monday.
So, after years of Richard hundreds of miles to the west and Russell hundreds of miles to the east — each honoring the unwritten but apparently ironclad “no parents within 8 hours driving time” buffer zone — our family circle will shrink spatially. With Richard and Russell each in a neighboring state, we’re looking forward to seeing them more often, and the fact that they will be located in interesting places we haven’t had a chance to explore yet makes the prospect all the more enticing.
The world is a big place, and New Albany, Ohio is just one tiny spot on the globe. As parents, we want our children to dream big dreams and then try to make those dreams a reality. That means having the independence and self-assurance to go out on their own and move far away if necessary as they pursue their passions and interests and work to build careers and lives that make them happy.
We understand this, intellectually — but our hearts tug in the opposite direction. It will be wonderful to have the boys a bit closer to home for a few months.
Russell will be leaving Brooklyn and the New York City area in the few days; he’ll be heading to the Detroit area to begin the Master’s program at the Cranbrook Academy of Art.
Moving from the East Coast to the Midwest can be an adjustment. Kish and I had the same experience years ago, when we moved from Washington, D.C. to Columbus. On the East Coast, you travel by subway and walk a lot. In the Midwest, it’s a car culture. On the East Coast, you tend not to make eye contact with people on the street. In the Midwest, you’re likely to get a friendly greeting and a cheerful hello from a complete stranger you pass in the street. On the East Coast, the tempo is rapid. In the Midwest, the pace is slower. The cultural and social differences are many, and frequently you don’t fully appreciate them until you’ve moved and you’ve noticed the abrupt change.
Even when you were born and raised in one area, you adopt the rhythms and mores of your new home. Russell’s lived on the East Coast now for six years. We’ll be looking forward to welcoming him back to his roots and getting him back into that Midwest state of mind.
For the past few months Russell has been deciding where to go to get a Master’s in Fine Arts degree — and yesterday he decided.
This fall he’ll be going to the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. It’s an interesting place with an interesting history. The Academy is part of the 315-acre Cranbrook Educational Community that was founded by Detroit newspaper owner George Gough Booth and Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen. The Academy of Art has been home to many artists who have had a significant impact on modern art and culture.
Cranbrook’s mission statement says it offers “an intense studio-based experience where artists-in-residence mentor students in art, architecture and design to creatively influence contemporary culture.” The painting program “stresses self-exploration and independent work in an atmosphere of ongoing critical discussion involving social, political, and artistic concerns” and “is grounded in the assumption that each student arrives exceptionally motivated and committed to creating art.” In short: “The students themselves give form and vitality to the working environment through their energy, diversity, and interaction.”
Life always brings new challenges, and this fall Russell and his artistic vision will welcome the challenge of Cranbrook. Such new challenges are what make life interesting — and from the parental viewpoint, the fact that he’ll be much closer and we’ll have the chance to visit him on a campus that is a National Historic Landmark isn’t a bad thing, either.