Tuesday, October 27, 2015

126-foot "Where We Live" painting depicts Saginaw's rich heritage

Andrew Rieder with just a portion of his "Where We Live" painting

Story and photos by Janet I. Martineau

A new art acquisition was unveiled tonight at the Saginaw Art Museum.

Titled "Where We Live,"  the vividly colorful oil painting mixed with spray paint measures a whopping 41 inches high by...126 feet long. Yes. 126 feet long.

Each of its 14 birch plywood panels is 8 feet long and 4 inches thick, and weighs an estimated 50 pounds, minimum.

"I like to do large-scale paintings,"  says its creator Andrew Rieder, an assistant professor of art at Delta College and a board member at the museum, 1126 N. Michigan.

"Some of my early influences were people like Diego Rivera. I hope what people take away from this piece is a sense of pride about where they live and a new recognition and  appreciation of who has come from the area. It was a challenging but rewarding process to create."

Destined to hang just below the ceiling in the Artisan Wing, the piece captures Rieder”s fascination with Saginaw's urban-to-rural quick-change (buildings mix with landscapes) along with superimposed arts, cultural and humanities notables (black photographers Goodridge Brothers, painter E. Irving Couse,  saxophonist Sonny Stitt, poet Theodore Roethke and five others).

The Goodridge Brothers, photographers
Rieder began teaching at Delta in 2010 and lives in Shields. He runs and bicycles on the nearby rail trail and says he is captivated by the diversity of a landscape he sees there as well as on his commute to work each day -- again citing how the downtown/industrial and natural/rural  transition occurs quickly.

Work on the piece began last December, and throughout the process two of his advanced independent studies students (Michelle McLean of Freeland and Tom Osborne of Auburn) at Delta have helped him create what he designed in Photoshop.

"They painted the landscape in oil and then I spray-painted on the stenciled figures and went back and harmonized the two. I added the layers, so to speak."

Rieder consulted with Thomas Trombley,  an historian and deputy director at the Castle Museum of Saginaw County History, and also did some online research to zero in on the humans depicted.

As for how the project came about, Rieder said he overheard museum executive director Stacey Gannon mentioning she wanted a "mural" in the Artisan Wing. He volunteered to build and paint it on his own, being reimbursed only for the cost of the materials.

Rieder hails from Raleigh, N, C., and in 2004 graduated from the Art Institute of Chicago. In 2010 he received his master's degree from Michigan State University in East Lansing. Delta College is his first teaching job and he joined the board at the art museum in 2013.

Gannon says she wanted to find a way to celebrate the rich history of culture and artistic talent  contributed by the community and could not be more pleased by Rieder's finished product.

"I want people, in general, to understand how blessed we are with artistic talent and cultural assets, and to understand the value of what those offer," says Gannon.  "Think about it…what other community of our population (50k in Saginaw, right?) has what we have? And the iconic artists who have risen from our backyard, our amazing architecture and historical significance, it is tremendous."

She lauds Rieder's generosity, commitment and time investment, and says when she first  saw the piece in its development stages it brought tears to her eyes.

"That he captured exactly what our advisory council was looking for is astounding. It celebrates our heritage, our people, our landmarks…our history as a diverse, talented, gritty and persevering community.  

"The colors, the way he blended landscapes, images of people, landmarks, is absolutely beautiful.  It is as if it is in motion almost, as you look at it.  Vibrant, active images of who we are, where we live.  I love it and couldn’t be more pleased."

Her intention is to use the mural as a teaching tool and create a curriculum of educational opportunities around the various images within it.  

Installation will begin this week, she said, and she anticipates it will be done by mid-November.

For more pictures:



Friday, October 2, 2015

"Hairspray" tears up the stage at Saginaw's Pit and Balcony

review and photographs by janet i martineau 

Perpetual, perpetual, perpetual MOTION.

That word sums up the Pit and Balcony Community Theatre production of the musical "Hairspray," opening tonight (Oct. 2).

That word and a whole lot many more words which will follow in this review. We had to go home after its last dress rehearsal and take a nap... there was so much energy exuded.

Recently we extolled the choreography in the Midland Center for the Arts production of "Mary Poppins." Well, "Hairspray" may have gone one better because the cast just never ever stops moving in this  show directed by Tommy Wedge with choreography by Wedge and Candy Kotze.

In fact the whole show never ever stops moving – it just flows seamlessly with set movement part of the action all through the first act and then all through the second act. Not a pause at all.

Stupendous and refreshing.

For those unfamiliar, "Hairspray" is based on the movie by the same name, which tells the fictional story of an chubby white girl breaking down the color barriers on a hit rock and roll television dance show, set in 1962 Baltimore. Her mama Edna Turnblad is traditionally played by a male. The lyrics are hilarious, often spoofing the whole era, risque here and there.

Along with that splendid choreography, Wedge has assembled and directed a cast delivering endless vocal, acting and/or dance highlights. Their facial expressions are as fluid as their dancing.

Among the highlights are Jenny Cohen as that tubby teenager, Chad William Baker as her big mama (played so spot on), Paul Lutenske as her papa, Janelle  Bublitz as her nerdy best friend, and Brennon Meinhold as her eventual kinda-daft boyfriend.

Across the racial divide check out the overall performances of Donte Ashton Green as Seaweed Stubbs and particularly Adia Jackson as the really expressive Little Inez; the  vocal powerhouse of Shirlene Brown as Motormouth  Maybelle, and the all-out dancing by Ryan King.

Watch Carly Peil throw an excellent triple curve, two of them as men.

And overall just watch that entire ensemble who are as one.

With 19 numbers on the playlist, two are standouts: “Momma, I’m a Big Girl Now” for its intricate movements and razor-sharp lighting demands. And “Timeless to Me” for its sweet and tender dance between overweight mama (Baker) and skinny dad (Lutenske).

Bravo also to the orchestra, directed by Sara Taylor. What a sound. . And the lighting, colorful costuming, props, scenic design and attention to detail are all incredible.

Can you tell we liked this show, we really really really like this show.

And it has a little Saginaw back history. Back in 2003 it won eight Broadway Tony Awards, one of them best musical and another for best director, to Saginaw native and Arthur Hill graduate Jack O’Brien.

For more photos;