Tuesday, January 28, 2014

HFCC debuts ‘Demented Detroit’ exhibit at Sisson gallery

Art from Sean Bieri on display.
DEARBORN -- With six different displays each year, the Sisson Art Gallery has had many displays throughout the years. However, never before has there been a display of comic book art.

That all changed Friday when "Demented Detroit” opened at the gallery.

“It’s the first display of its kind that I’ve ever heard of,” said Steve Glazer, a professor and the director of exhibitions at Henry Ford Community College. “I try to do some stuff that is community involved. We played with the idea of comic sequential art for several years. (Dan Merritt) from Green Brain Comics got me thinking a little bit wider.”

The display, which will be in the gallery through March 20, features several artists from the metro Detroit area including James Anderson, Suzanne Baumann, Sean Bieri, Matt Feazell, Victor Green, Kelly Guillory, Jane Irwin, Kelly Larson, Demetrius Marble, Crystal Mielcarek, Blaer Ransburg, Vicki Shepherd and Ted Woods.

Slideshow: Artists and some of their art from the display.

Art from Ted Woods on display.
The display, subtitled, “Contemporary Comics and Cartoons from the Motor City,” is described as an eclectic sampler of cartoon artwork including humor, horror, whimsy, adventure, social commentary and more.

Eclectic is the perfect word to describe the art adorning the walls at the gallery. Art ranges from pencil sketches to completed artwork, in every medium from ink to markers and paintings, from the printed image to web comic graphics and just about anything else a person could imagine.

Glazer said that because he isn’t “that involved” in the comic art industry, guest curator Sean Bieri picked all of the artists for the display — with the exception of Shepherd, who was added by Glazer himself. Shepherd is also a professor at the college.

Bieri, a cartoonist and graphic designer, is very tuned in to the local independent comic scene. He is an original member of the Hamtramck Arts Collective Hatch and the former coordinator of the Dr. Sketchy drawing program in Detroit. His art routinely appears in the “Metro Times,” and on the science fiction website, Tor.com.

According to Bieri, most of the artists were picked through his own contacts, with the help of Merritt providing a few new faces to him. While Bieri selected the artists, each artist was allowed to select their own work.

“I rounded them up and said ‘give me whatever you think is good,’” he said. “A lot of us have been in shows before and already had pieces framed up.”

Bieri started working in comics in his pre-teen years.

“I’ve always been drawing comics since I was a kid,” he said “In college (at Wayne State University) I got back into it. I had a roommate that was involved in the independent comic scene. I got sucked back in from there.”

Victor Green, who recently self-published a graphic novel, was introduced to Bieri through Merritt. He has five pieces on display at the show, and also serves as a mentor to Ransburg and Marble. That relationship started when he was teaching in Detroit and they were his students.

His book “Ace of P.A.I.N.,” is an acronym for augmented clinically enhanced officers facilitating personnel assassination, interrogation and nullification. He said that it’s a typical revenge story about a young man who grows up in inner-city Detroit and is picked up and “weaponized” by a company. The book is available exclusively at Green Brain until his website is finished later this year.

Marble also has a self-published comic book that was recently released, “Black Platinum Galaxy,” set in the future during a galactic war. According to Marble, the story is based on the people trying to save the world. Two volumes of the book have been released to date.

“The idea came from ‘Star Trek’ and ‘The Green Lantern,” he said. “That’s where the inspiration to do a sci-fi story came from.”

Bieri described Feazell as the “most famous stick figure artist” on the planet. Feazell, a Hamtramck resident, said that that wasn’t always the case. Feazell’s comic “The Amazing Cynicalman” runs weekly in the “Hamtramck Review,” in the monthly “Flint Comics Entertainment” and on Cynicalman.com. He was also a regular contributor to “Disney Adventures.”

“Growing up reading lots of comics,” he said, ”I read the newspaper comics. ‘Peanuts’ was the first comic strip I noticed that had actual characters with their own personality. I was a big superhero fan in high school and college.”

He headed off to college to learn how to draw comics “the Marvel way” — which never panned out for him.
“I was teaching myself anatomy and perspective,” he said. “Did that for most of my college career. Then about three years out of college I wasn’t getting any work that way, and most importantly I was wasn’t having any fun.”

That’s when he drew his first superhero stick figure.

“It was two dots and a line as a face in my sketchbook,” he said. “I made an eight-page mini comic out of it, printed out 20 copies of it and put them on the counter at a used record store I was working at. Eventually someone came up and asked how much for one. He gave me a quarter, the lights came up, the band played the theme to ‘2001: A Space Odyssey,’ and I decided that I was going to make superhero comics until the day I die.”

Feazell recently released his second book, “The Amazing Cynicalman Vol. 2,” which was printed in Saline.

During exhibition weeks, the gallery is open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Wednesday and from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday.

For more information on the show, or on future displays, contact the gallery at 1-313-845-6485

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