Organized Rambling: And All That Art

Organized Rambling

This month, I had the pleasure of enjoying four major
art experiences in my lovely state of Michigan:
one in Grand Rapids, one in Flint, and two in Detroit.
Here are my four reports.


Every fall, I attend ArtPrize in Grand Rapids with a couple of college pals. We started this tradition after having met at Grand Valley State University, and it’s been our fun excuse for getting together before the snow flies and driving from different corners of the state becomes hazardous.

Some years have been more exciting and inspiring than others when it comes to the showcased artwork–ebb and flow–but we realized this time that the point is to spend time together and traipse around downtown Grand Rapids, now with their spouses in tow too! It’s like a scavenger hunt, tracking down art; at other times, the art is quite apparent. Back in the day, it felt like a bigger, more widespread downtown event–before the B.O.B. sacrificed its huge parking lot for a beer garden and multi-use building that includes a small, swanky theater and performance space. And the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts has moved locations, and it was always chock full of ArtPrize submissions. I’m not saying I’m salty about the changes; I’m just pointing them out.

The best art of ArtPrize.

This year’s event was better than the past two, in my humbly artistic opinion, but still, it didn’t live up to the year with the fire-breathing scrap metal dragon that played Motown tunes. Honestly, though, can anything in life ever live up to that? I propose not, and I accept it. But, as always, and despite the on-off cold rain and strange spurt of sudden hot humidity, our troupe had fun exploring, discovering cute new shops, and eating delicious food at Stella’s (the sweet potato burrito is to die for).

But for me, ArtPrize wasn’t enough to satiate my autumnal avarice for art. I needed more! So, a few weeks later, I crammed three art experiences into one day trip, which is perhaps inadvisable, but whoever said I was sensible when it came to art? This last sentence being spoken mainly by my inner art historian.

Flint Institute of Arts

The day’s first stop was the Flint Institute of Arts to see Enchanted: A History of Fantasy Illustration.

Art exhibit at the Flint Institute of Arts.

I learned of this coming exhibit more than a year ago, so my anticipation and expectations had a lot of time to build. I was not disappointed. The variety of works on display was vast and the subject matter is right up my alley–fantasy, fairy tales, illustrations, good vs. evil, and visual storytelling.

Absolute favorite piece: Beauty And The Beast by Thomas Blackshear II.  

My favorite piece of art: "Beauty And The Beast."

Disney’s 1991 Beauty and the Beast is one of my all-time favorite animated films. As I’ve mentioned, I readily relate to bookworm Belle–and Blackshear’s piece reminds me of the Art Nouveau and Vienna Secession art movements of the late 19th century, to which my favorite artist–Gustav Klimt–belongs. And come to find out, for this piece, Klimt’s style and work influenced Blackshear.

The moment I laid eyes on this work of art, I was stunned by how I instantly connected to it and preferred it over the rest of the fantastic array of showcased art–when you know it’s the one you know. Had the piece been for sale, had I the disposable cash to buy it, had my vehicle been something larger than a 2014 Chevy Impala, I would’ve been tempted to bring Beauty And The Beast back north with me to my already over-arted apartment. But, alas, I will have to appease my heART with a print.

If illustration, fantastical works of art, or exhibitions are up your alley, I encourage you to walk through this temporary show in Flint–it’s on display through January 8, 2023.

Detroit Institute of Arts

Next up was the Detroit Institute of Arts.

So, you may or may not know that the Detroit Institute of Arts was the first public museum in the United States to purchase a painting by Vincent van Gogh–pretty cool, right? In 1922, the DIA bought Self-Portrait (1887), and 2022 marks the 100th anniversary of the acquisition. To mark the occasion, an exclusive-to-the-DIA exhibition of 74 original works by Van Gogh from collections around the world is on display now through January 22, 2023.

Now, back in 2014, you may recall the hubbub surrounding the potential selling of Self-Portrait to help Detroit out of dire financial straits. Blessedly, this sale did not occur, and Van Gogh in America was slated for 2020. Well, that didn’t happen for a reason we’re all well-versed in by now, but how much more meaningful is it that the exhibit is occurring during the 100th anniversary year? I don’t want to say it was meant to be, but it was meant to be..

And you may recall that I viewed the Van Gogh Immersive Experience–twice this year (but part of me is convinced the second was a knock-off…). It may be abundantly clear, but I’m quite a fan. Here are three of my favorite pieces from the DIA exhibit:

"A Pair of Boots" by Van Gogh was one of my favorite art pieces at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

A Pair of Boots, 1887

  • I love boots–I probably own too many pairs–Dr. Marten’s, Red Wings, Guess, and some fancy red, Dorothy-esque ones.
  • I once drew a blind contour rendition of my Chuck Taylors in a similar set-up, so this painting resonates.

Starry Night (Starry Night over the Rhone), 1888

  • The glow of the stars and their watery reflection are romantically mesmerizing.
  • This was a piece featured prominently in the Van Gogh Immersive Experience, and it brought me back to that day in Florida.

L’Arlesienne, 1888

  • The vibrant yellow background drew me in, as did the books (naturally).
  • I, too, contemplatively rest the side of my face on my hand whilst in far-off thoughts and daydreams.

Art aside, here’s a tip I would like to share: don’t visit the DIA on a Saturday afternoon during the height of a blockbuster exhibit–it’s long lines, congestion, and a lot of people who are oblivious and not considerate of others. Instead, I recommend a Tuesday morning.

A two-part request: 

1. Don’t bring children that can’t exercise a somewhat calm demeanor. One young child almost hit a Van Gogh with their exhibit catalog because his parents weren’t monitoring him.

2. Don’t drag boyfriends along who are going to make inappropriate jokes about the art and mental illness loudly and then proceed to congratulate drugs on winning the War on Drugs. It impacts other peoples’ experiences.

Gustav Klimt Immersive Experience–Lighthouse Art Space

The final stop of my Saturday art tour was the Gustav Klimt Immersive Experience at Lighthouse Art Space in downtown Detroit.

Lighthouse Art Space hosted the Gustav Klimt Immersive Experience.

The ticket for this show had a long list of sensor warnings, and honestly, I didn’t give them a second thought until the employee who greeted me made it clear not to overestimate the situation. She told me it was like being in a club–and she did not overstate herself.

Watching Klimt’s work come to life around me from my bench seat was surreal. Paintings I knew well and others I’d never come across in my studies populated the vast white walls of the space. Even the floor came to life with raindrops, vibrant colors, and flora components–I loved how the imagery expanded and crept up and down the walls and across the creaky wooden floorboards. The music was dramatic, soft, romantic, jarring euro club beats, plus a healthy dose of David Bowie–I don’t think I could’ve asked for more from this experience.

Brought to life by Massimiliano Siccardi, a renowned digital artist hailing from Italy and creator of the Van Gogh Immersive Experience, the Gustav Klimt show shared similarities with its predecessor but was uniquely its own.

A glorious quote of Klimt’s, “Truth is like fire; to tell the truth means to glow and burn,” encourages us to speak our truths, for honesty radiates from the soul, but we have to be prepared for the repercussions. So here’s my truth regarding the experience: I loved it and recommend people see it if they can (but not if you don’t favor Klimt’s style or have sensory sensitivities). However, I know my recommendation isn’t for everyone, and this experience won’t resonate the same or at all with others. My truth isn’t the same as someone else’s, but I think it’s worth taking the risk–in the name of art and its rebellious creators!

That’s probably enough rambling about art for a while, huh? I suppose I’ve refueled my art tank for the time being.

Coming up next:

Monday, October 31
A foray into Irving’s Ichabod


3 responses to “Organized Rambling: And All That Art”

  1. Look at you, getting out there and seeing ALL the artThe fantasy illustration exhibit looks absolutely beautiful. We are interested in the immersive Klimt exhibit as well.

    • “Enchanted” was exactly that–enchanting! 10/10 would recommend visiting the FIA. And the immersive Klimt experience was fantastic. I can’t wait to see what show’s I discover next!

  2. I’m so glad that you saw the Klimt Immersive Experience! I loved sharing the Van Gogh experience with you!

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