What’s in a shadow? What resides in that space between light and dark that eludes our understanding? Author William Sharpe notes that the nothingness of shadows arises because of our lack of ability to “grasp them in the practical sense:” “Unthinkingly we notice, evaluate and decipher the meaning of shadows” — unconsciously we use them, to locate, to detect motion, to sense danger. In art the cast shadow often becomes the metaphoric location of utterance, a silent place upon which meaning can reside, either plausible or imaginative, mythical or real (Sharpe 1). Sharpe asserts, “Shadows are a vital source of cognitive and aesthetic richness, one of the key ingredients in our perceptual, intellectual and emotional lives” (7).
This exhibition considers the shadow as a space of stillness and motion, silence and sound, a place where the invisible comes to light, where secrets dwell but also reveal themselves. Artists Renee Dooley, Mary Fortuna, Scott Northrup and Gary Schwartz each uniquely interpret the shadow theme: Fortuna’s Birch Bark figures call to mind shadow creatures who haunt the night like Goblins, Spooks and Will-o-the-Wisps; Dooley’s handmade dolls conjure those times when we catch something in our peripheral vision and the stories that hide in the movement there between dark and light. Northrup’s multi-media works regard our innermost selves, the place where memory, love, loss and desire secretly harbor; Schwartz’s animated film expresses the mystery and intrigue that lures us similarly into that shadowy world.
The dolls are an aspect of those times when we catch something just outside of of our direct vision, and the movement of light and darkness and the stories that we create to comfort ourselves with not knowing what our shadows hide.
Mary Fortuna moved from the Detroit area to Traverse City in 2016. She works in a wide range of media, including fabric and leather dolls and soft sculpture, found object assemblage and sculpture, collage, acrylic, and mixed media paintings, embroidery, applique, and needle work. She has a special interest in dolls and puppets of all kinds. She likes to hang things from the ceiling so they defy gravity and find their own movement. She will turn anything into a puppet.
These make me think of the kind of thing you would make at summer camp when you were a kid, using whatever you could find in the woods. Since I moved up north, I do feel as though my studio time is a lot like summer camp. These hanging figures are the physical manifestation of the invisible creatures that make the sounds that scare you in the dark night. Bogeymen. Goblins. Spooks. Will-o-the-Wisps. Boo-hags. Haints.
These shadow creatures are made of birch bark, twigs, pinecones, stones, and other materials gathered in the woods not far from where I live. There is a small amount of paint, and some stitching and winding with various fibers.
Scott Northrup is a Detroit-based interdisciplinary artist, writer, curator, and educator. He has exhibited with museums, galleries, film and design festivals, and alternative spaces in the US, Canada, and Finland. He holds an MA in Media Studies from The New School (’03) and a BFA in Fine Arts from College for Creative Studies (‘92), where he currently teaches filmmaking and multidisciplinary studios.
“I am most-interested in the feelings that we secretly harbor for one another, the ephemerality of love, lust, loss, and desire, and the artifacts that we pin them to. I make mixed- and multimedia works that sample popular culture and personal history, functioning as altars, character studies, love letters, self-portraits, and zines. The zine format might be the ideal vehicle for my work as they feel special, or at least intimate, while remaining common, cheap, vernacular.”
Gary Schwartz is an Academy Award nominated filmmaker, animator, director, artist & educator. He received an Academy Award nomination for ‘ANIMUS’ in 1983. He teaches intensive hands-on animation workshops throughout the world. With his company, Single Frame Films, Gary has produced, designed & directed animation for Disney, Sesame Street, MTV, Fox Television, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and others. He is currently lecturer at the University of Michigan School of Art & Design.