COVID 19 Message, Spring 2020:
Covid-19 continues to impact my community and the people I love. First, I want to wish my condolences to those friends who have lost people they hold most dear.
I appreciate our first responders and those on the ‘frontlines’ of the pandemic. Every time I pick up a device and log-in to anything, I seem to hear more devastating news. Still, I also get to see hope. People get better from Covid-19, too, and I’m grateful I also get to see that.
I have a few announcements coming soon. In the meantime, I am grateful that University of Michigan Library developed this online exhibit to present some of our work to our communities during the stay at home orders. Enjoy, and please send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I took the last 2 years following the onset of COVID-19 related precautions to earn my Master of Fine Art degree at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. I studied with Emmy Bright and Cooper Holoweski in the Print Media Department, and I elected with Dr. Gretchen Wilkins in the Architecture Department. My thesis is titled, “Palimpsest as a Pathway.” I began constructing large-scale drawings and used the computer’s predecessor, the jacquard loom, to develop my palimpsestic mind maps into large-scale weavings. Below is an example from my work at the Graduate Degree Exhibition at Cranbrook Art Museum. The GDE closed, last Sunday, May 15, 2022.
Drexciya Weaving I: Drexciya Veil Gallagher Ellen Biggers Sanford the Bronx Ocean Spray Embedded Code Switch Quilts Patterns Deep Sea Mermaids and Merbabies Others Black White Techno Maroon Disney History Aquatint Fuzz Mezzotint (Doubly Inverted Linocut) Stylee 2022 Kéré Diébédo Francis Water-Activated Serpentine Pritzker Prize Press Blanket, 2022
Errin and I began installing the Ancestor | Posterity Native Plant Butterfly Garden with community members.
I also began by 2nd Year in the Print Media Department at Cranbrook Academy of Art. I elected in the Architecture Department. Dr. Gretchen Wilkins invited me to house my 2nd Year studio in Architecture. I am continuing my research into the palimpsest as a pathway, mind maps, architecture, and contemporary art perspectives. The photos below are from a special workshop that brought together the Print Media Department and the 3D Department to learn from Ox Bow’s Shannon Stratton, September 2021.
Work continues with the University of Michigan Science Learning Center’s science community. Students and staff helped determine central images. We talked about re-designs in the space itself, and then we began painting 🙂
Errin and I joined so many wonderful conversations with community members at La Salle Gardens (Detroit), partners, and a wonderful team of horticulturists throughout Michigan and Connecticut as part of the Ancestor | Posterity Native Plant Butterfly Garden. Errin debuted his design for the first Ancestor | Posterity Chair at Irwin Gallery in Detroit. We also debuted the garden design that I painted, and collaborated with painter, Cydney Camp, to promote green work in Detroit.
I visited Anderson Ranch Arts Center to Snowmass, CO, a town outside of Aspen, on Crabrook Academy of Art’s behalf as my first residency. I studied with San Francisco-based Susan Belau, learning and practicing new etching techniques.
Much of my social practice is focused on reflecting sentiments from the communities I serve. Cranbrook Academy of Art offered me an in-person learning community during such a difficult time. CAA also provided me an opportunity to continue a monastic studio practice and to learn richer ways to apply myself to work that is personal to me in different, often less accessible ways than the majority of my public work.
New York City-based performance artist commissioned me to design and collaborate on Volume 3 of her JJ Sunrise Sunset series, on Cranbrook Academy of Art’s behalf with financial support by the Applebaum family.
As part of their Speculative Histories exhibit, Metals Department Artist-in-Residence, Iris Eichenberg, and Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research Curator, Kevin Adkisson, gave me the honor to install work at Eliel Saarinen’s desk. Jousten, Double-Consciousness, and the Veil placed W.E.B. DuBois’ The Souls of Black Folk in conversation with George G. Booth’s The Pleasures of Planting and Other Thoughts, a series of objects including drafting supplies and Eliel Saarinen’s silver Tea Urn prototype, and imagery that I created to conjure topics related to Finland. Eichenberg and Adkisson requested that the work remain installed at the Saarinen House a year and a half past when the overall exhibit came down.
Photo by Iris Eichenberg, 2020
4 days before the state-mandated quarantine, University of Michigan Science Learning Center, as a primary creative hub for the science community at the University of Michigan, commissioned a series of paintings that we expected might take 1 month to complete. We now plan for an August 2022 installation, following 29 months of wonderful, enriched work that I’ll explain later in greater detail.
Once the state-mandated took effect, projects throughout the country were canceled or indefinitely delayed.
2 months into the state-mandated quarantine, the City of Detroit and Design Core Detroit commissioned my first co-creative and prosocial public garden design. I partnered with Flint-based artist, Errin Whitaker, to conceptually introduce the Ancestor | Posterity Chair. Various cultures throughout the world install special seats/chairs in garden spaces as a physical, symbolic place for our ancestors to find a place to rest in a beautiful environment amongst us. Drawing influence from Wole Soyinka, Errin and I introduced the Ancestor | Posterity Chair as a physical, symbolic place for our ancestors and our posterity (those generations of people we will never meet) to find a place to rest in a beautiful environment amongst us. I began designing the garden heavily inspired and influenced by the New Perennial Movement and specifically, Piet Oudolf’s approach to landscape architecture. A major feature beyond co-creation became our ability to socially distance during installation. The project impacted the community in many ways, but I’m grateful that the project was flexible enough to allow outdoor community Discovery Sessions, Zoom community meetings, phone calls, and socially-distanced co-creation exercises that we could physically do together.
Serendipitously, there were 2 major public garden projects in Detroit, 2020-2022. 2021, Errin, the Virginia Park community, and I began the installation of the Ancestor | Posterity Native Plant Butterfly Garden just behind the 12th Street Memorial Pavilion Garden, between the Joseph Walker Williams Center and the Virginia Park Community Plaza Shopping Center, along Rosa Parks Boulevard, also more historically called 12th Street, just down Rosa Parks Boulevard/12th Street from Gordon Park in Detroit. Teams also began installing Piet Oudolf’s latest public garden on Belle Isle in Detroit.
2 days after the City of Detroit and Design Core Detroit commissioned the Ancestor | Posterity Native Plant Butterfly Garden, Cranbrook Academy of Art recruited me to attend. The Saarinen – Swanson family made me a Saarinen Family Scholar.
MIDDLE CHILD | ‘Visions of Detroit,’ with Detroit Fine Arts Breakfast Club | Currently on view at Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History:
‘We Hold the Community’s Lives in Our Hands Centennial Project’
Artist Statement: “As a freshman in college, Artist Doug Jones became very ill and had to spend one week in the Intensive Care unit at Allegiance Health, now Henry Ford Allegiance Health. That experience left a profound impression on him, he says, “I learned how quickly and painfully I could lose my life, even as a healthy 18 year old. I learned to trust the team working to save me, and I learned not to be afraid or anxious. My life was not in my hands.
The central pair of hands in this series of paintings symbolizes health care professionals privileged with caring for our patients with strength and grace. Water cupped in these hands represents The preciousness of life. The surrounding handprints, collected from community members of all ages, represent diversity, collaboration, and connection. The handprints reflect our tightly integrated community of patients and caregivers and are cast in the colors of water (life), and include Henry Ford Health System blues, Allegiance Health greens, and a Foote Hospital teal.
It is the artist’s hope that these pieces will bring patients and their families a greater sense of security and peace, and that staff will feel a renewed sense of commitment to the care of our patients.”
The first set of hands features Georgia Fojtasek. Her extraordinary vision makes this project, and most others at HFAH, possible.
This series includes many people: Hundreds of people representing people of all ages, primary languages, skill and experience levels, ages, and locations, Joey, Pete, Mike, CJ, Jazz, Lilly, Ryan, Chad, Ben, President Lassiter III, Barbara, Sigrid, my former colleague when I worked in clinical psychology, Dr. Abedi, Dr. Ambani, Dr. Dass, Theresa, and a number of other gracious models for these central images.
I was born at Foote Hospital. I spent a week in ICU there during my first year of college. Foote Hospital later became Allegiance Hospital and is now Henry Ford Allegiance Hospital after ultimately merging with Henry Ford Health System. The long-time CEO, Georgia Fojtasek, had an idea after a conversation she had with an administrator in Benton Harbor. It became clear to her that the hospital is vital to the community it serves and she kept coming back to the phrase, “We Hold the Community’s Lives in Our Hands.”
She asked if the phrase conjured any design ideas.
I can’t think of anything more seemingly and concurrently simple and complicated than a pair of hands working together to cup water. For the project, the hands represent collaboration and integration. The water represents life. Henry Ford Allegiance Hospital commissioned 17 large-scale works featuring similar central images. I worked with 2 dozen ethnically-diverse staff members to produce central images that symbolize Henry Ford Health System’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.
Throughout the year, I also worked with hundreds of local and regional community members to collect painted handprints in 4 branded colors reflecting the first 100 years of Henry Ford Allegiance Hospital (Foote Hospital teal, Allegiance light and dark greens, and Ford Motor Company’s Innovation Blue). I also developed a custom color for the project that I call, ‘Life Water Blue.’ The handprints symbolize our community, the health system’s background in humanization, and the immense responsibility of caregivers. As Henry Ford Health System President Dwight Lassiter explained to me when he laid his own handprints on the project (January 3, 2019), health care requires unparalleled integration and collaboration.
It became quite the blessing that my sister gave birth to my youngest nephew at that same hospital over the course of the project. My family gifted an additional large-scale work to Labor & Delivery featuring the hands of one of her nurses. There were 3 other unanticipated blessings along the way. My mom participated during one of her appointments at the hospital. Fojtasek’s oldest cat, Munchkin, laid his paw print shortly before he passed away. The Leadership Team surprised Fojtasek at her last Leadership Team meeting as CEO with a specially commissioned, smaller-scale work drawn from the same series.
The works are located at 19 locations:
Currently, I’m working on 19 works for Henry Ford Allegiance Health System and 10 works for University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. Our team also recently installed ‘Everyone Loves Somewhere’ at 4 locations as part of this year’s Detroit Design 139 Biennial. For more information on DD 139, click this link. Briefly, it is part of this year’s Detroit Month of Design (September 2019).
I’ll soon post more information about these projects on this page.
I’ll also tell you more about my community work and recent projects, including ‘14,000 dots,’ painted at 427 W. 7 Mile (East of Woodward) for ChaldeanTown/North Town (Detroit) and the PGA (Rocket Mortgage Classic).
Let’s start there.
14,000 dots (aka Detroit.Gradient/Detroit Dot Gradient)
The City of Detroit, State of Michigan, Quicken Loans Community Fund, Quicken Loans, the PGA, and Groundswell commissioned me to paint 14,000 dots.
Community members of all ages, backgrounds, primary languages, skill and experience levels used a special ‘take-away’ stencil I designed to help me paint 2 separate gradients (blue to yellow and yellow to red, the colors of the Detroit City Flag and the Chaldean Flag) in 14,000 dots (427 W. 7 Mile, Detroit).