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Posted on Tue, Mar 30, 2010 : 5:20 a.m.

Ann Arbor Women Artists Spring Exhibition showcases diversity at AADL

By John Carlos Cantu

The Ann Arbor Women Artists are turning the page on the decade with one of those expansive displays the group annually mounts at the Ann Arbor District Library.

2010’s edition of the AAWA “Spring Exhibit” is distinguished by the number of notable artists currently working at career peaks. And the artworks themselves (while perhaps not as unpredictable as we’ve seen in some years) are a quite good barometer of Ann Arbor’s current homegrown visual arts talent.

The emphasis this year is more solidly on expertise than experimentation.

Juror Brooks Harris Stevens, assistant professor of fibers at Eastern Michigan University, says she “looked for complexity of composition, line work, texture and how the medium was used” in the 55 artworks she selected for the display, located in the lower-level Multi-Purpose Conference Room, Third Floor Wall Gallery, and lower-level display cases of the downtown library.

“Each work has an individual voice that is informative to the viewer,” says Stevens in her juror’s statement, “and this ‘voice’ speaks strongly, referencing both traditional and non-traditional approaches to the art making process.”

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"Song of the Birds: Tennessee Warbler" by Carol Hanna

Sure enough; there’s certainly no question but that the artworks Stevens selected for distinction in this show all have unique voices. And this is especially true of her First Place award-winner: Carol Hanna’s airbrushed acrylic painting and audio accompaniment “Song of The Birds: Tennessee Warbler.”

Second Place went to Kath Frajbis’ etch/lino cut “Window to Another World III.” Third Place went to Judith Jacobs’ pigment ink/chine colle “Vect.” And Honorable Mentions went to Susan Finley’s altered photograph/pastel “I See You No. 1, The Goat”; Virginia F. Gutknecht’s watercolor painting “Aosta Valley”; Jean Lau’s pastel “Pacific Dunes”; and Joan Miller’s charcoal/acrylic “Hands III.”

Other local artists on display are Barbara S. Anderson, Nancy Arndt, Mary L. Bachman, Sisty Behmer, Marlene Blum, Rose Bradley, Wendy Chaiken, Laurie Clark, Jane Coates, Missy Cowan, Connie Cronenwett, Jane Darling, Nancy Fedlkamp, Doris E. Foss, Karen Gallup, Sandra Gittleson, Helga Haller, Katie Halton, Catherine Hightower, Kathleen Kelley, Janet Kohler, Edith Maynard, Sandi Miller, Carol Morris, Marge Pacer, Vickie Peterson Michalak, Dawn Sgriccia, Joan Shields, Jill Stefani Wagner, Terry Titus, Caron Valentine-Marsh, and Reka Zoltan.

Carol Hanna’s airbrushed acrylic painting and audio accompaniment “Song of The Birds: Tennessee Warbler” continues this artist’s ascent among active Michigan artists. In the last 3 years (above and beyond this exhibit), Hanna has won 2008 Best of Show at the Ann Art Center’s “86th Annual All Media Exhibition”; Second Place in the Ypsilanti Riverside Gallery’s “AAWA Summer Exhibit”; and the Gold Award at Birmingham’s Community House “Our Town Art Show.” Her personal artist’s statement says this series of acrylic paintings with audio accompaniment has been inspired by hearing a bird sing she once heard in a wooded area along the shore of Lake Michigan. “Since that defining moment,” says Hanna, “I have endeavored to transform the sound of birdsong to the two-dimensional surface. My desire is to interpret the song in color, rhythm, and the illusion of time.

“Within a species of bird, each has its’ own variation of color and each has its’ own variation of song,” continues Hanna. “No two birds sing exactly alike. I interpret each bird’s song while viewing (a) sonogram and simultaneously listening to a sound recording. The vibratory effect of the soft edged stripes through the use of the airbrush, correspond with the slurring of song notes. The color for each bird is researched at the Biology Department at the University of Michigan.”

This inspired post-painterly art (and sound) certainly fits juror Stevens’ definition of aesthetic “voice.” For this is indeed a dual-facet approach to art. Painting the bird’s song by interpreting the sound as a geometric abstraction via air-brushed acrylics on canvas involves two discernable leaps of imagination: First, patterning an approximation of the sound through color; and second, translating that pattern as a consistent visual language that runs across her series as an aesthetic signature.

The result of her effort is an abstract artwork that indeed hums visually and aurally on the AADL gallery wall. And Hanna’s “Tennessee Warbler” does just this without being overly hermetic—only supremely subtle. It’s a superb First Place prize-winner in an exhibit that has plenty of other superior works of art on display.


“Auue” by Judith Jacobs.

My favorite work in the exhibit is close to Stevens’ choice of Judith Jacobs as an Honorable Mention. Granted, the quality of these works is quite nearly the same—she selected the pigment ink/chine colle “Vect” while I favor the pigment ink print “Auue.”

Stevens, of course, has her reasons—mine is that “Auue” runs decidedly along the lines of Jacobs’ digital work through this last decade. Like many of the ink jet prints Jacob has crafted, “Auue” has a sort of visual panache that’s agreeably provocative.

Working from images generated from high resolution scans, where the intent is to attach diverse materials over a common surface to create a work of art, Jacobs adds graffiti to the composition making it appear halfway between a vivacious work of art and a thoroughly well-scuffed wall. Jacobs’ “Auue” dances serenely to its own street-smart rhythm.

“Ann Arbor Women Artists Annual Spring Show” will continue through April 14 at the Ann Arbor District Library, 343 S. Fifth Ave. Exhibit hours are 10 a.m. to 9 a.m., Monday; 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Tuesday-Friday; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday, and noon to 6 p.m., Sunday. For information, call 734-327-4200.