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:



1 comment:

  1. We have been blessed with a rich cultural history!