Washes, Wax, Wood & Wishes Opening Reception


Art Genre Finds Rejuvenation

Detroit is in the midst of a renewal.  The Motor City has come on the national front appearing in stories in such publications as The New York Times talking about its comeback.    Small new restaurants and art venues have been appearing all over the city, many in the form of “pop-ups,” there one day and gone the next.   This is unlike River’s Edge Gallery which has stayed fast showing Metro Detroit artists in virtually the same location for almost 40 years.  They did move down the street 14 years ago.   Despite this longevity,  they have remained a cutting edge art venue known not only locally but internationally.

Keeping with this tradition and fueled by the experiences of Gallery Director Jeremy Hansen’s recent travels through Europe and to international art trade shows (including a stop for his own exhibit in Munich, Germany) the idea for the first show of the year was formed.  Jeremy noticed the popularity of a more traditional art genre.  Jeremy, seeing a “bridge” of this genre with artists already represented by the gallery,  wanted to explore this more traditional art form and movement from folk art to baroque.  This genre traditionally deals with dimly lit religious subjects but is given a new/modern look in the latest show at River’s Edge Gallery in Wyandotte. On Friday, March 18th at 6-10 pm,  River’s Edge Gallery in downtown Wyandotte will premiere works by artist Laura Atkins, Robby Gall, Birgit Huttemann-Holz and Tim Péwé .    The show marks the beginning of the 2016 season for River’s Edge Gallery and is titled “Washes, Wax, Wood & Wishes”, a nod to the mediums used and almost whimsical subject matters painted in traditional style.

Meet the Artists

Laura Atkins uses a traditional style of painting technique as well as more classic compositions with contemporary elements.  “Laura brought in a piece to be framed to ship off to a buyer,” says Hansen. “And we fell in love with it!”  Atkins is mostly self-taught and works primarily in oils. Her style is Imaginative Realism.  This style uses classical figures pitted against surrealist landscapes and backgrounds. A seascape is juxtaposed against a woman in mid-century garb. Eighteenth century aristocrats are placed against a background with a water spout, a very unlikely pairing.

Robby Gall, without knowing Laura Atkins, submitted Baroque style paintings at the same time although his were playful and hers were more romantic. Gall’s paintings are finely painted but Gall did not begin his painting career in the visual arts but rather in the performing arts. Gall received his Masters of Music from Wayne State University in 2001. For his master’s thesis he proposed a ballet for marionettes. While looking for a venue to produce his show he discovered PuppetART Theater in Detroit. He was hired as a composer and also began making his own puppets. Several of these works became the subject of his future paintings. In 2010, having never picked up a paint brush, he took an oil painting class taught by Vianna Szabo. He fell in love with the medium and has been painting ever since. His works draw heavily on the Baroque period as evident through his use of light and shadow. They are often Caravaggist in nature. His subject matter ranges from self-portraits to portraits of puppets to more conceptual, classical inspired pieces. His work although influenced by Caravaggio has modern applications. For instance, historic 18th century figures are depicted in the modern day.

Birgit Huttemann-Holz is well known for her encaustic work. Encaustic is the ancient art of painting with hot liquid wax and pigments.  The most famous encaustic paintings are the Fayum portraits from Egypt, dating back to the 1st century BCE or the early 1rst century CE onwards. For the first time Huttemann-Holz will show her encaustic monotypes.  The Japanese paper is printed on both sides with wax on a hot aluminum plate. The printing process is challenging, because the wax continues to melt on the plate while printing. The paper gets translucent and saturated with the pigmented wax. The colors are uniquely brilliant and luminous and metal pigments sit as an embellishment on top of the paper. She will also show two paintings that are heavily influenced by Flemish baroque paintings of flowers, but are playfully reduced to patterns and are reminiscent of tapestries. Huttemann-Holz recently published a book in German on the subject of encaustics. It is one of the first German books on the subject and includes introductory techniques as well as reviews of contemporary encaustics.

Tim Péwé’s work is based on mythology,  folklorish styles of carving, and aboriginal influences. The combination of these creates timeless whimsical pieces. Though he has created works in stone and wood, he is best known for his larger than life carvings in wood. Visitors  to the gallery will recognize his iconic hand and head carvings as well as the Meditation Closet he installed on the second floor. His sculptures often incorporate moving parts so that the viewer becomes involved in the art. Some of his work is even wearable. “I’m interested in making objects that function in some way, but have no prosaic or practical purpose,” says Péwé. “In my work, I’m trying to practice some sort of ‘low  level alchemy,’ transforming reclaimed materials into something new, but nebulous at the same time.”