20 Detroit Artists Who Are Catching National Attention

Image: "Science Lamonica" by Matt Gordon / Image via Matt Gordon

Who are the artists who are catching the attention of national observers? 

Jennifer M. Wood has a list of 20 truly creative types on the website Complex.

Wood, who writes about film and TV for Complex's pop culture channel, writes:

While the city’s 2013 bankruptcy filing has put the future of venerable organizations like the Detroit Institute of Arts into an uncertain place, neighborhoods like the Sugar Hill Historic District—home to the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, the N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art, and the artist residences at 71 Garfield—are keeping Detroit’s creative spirit alive.

Like New York City’s SoHo or Miami’s Wynwood, it’s Detroit’s ever-growing brigade of artists who are helping to maintain the city’s reputation as a hotbed of cultural activity. 

Among the Detroiters chosen by Wood are Noah Stephens:

Seven months before Brandon Stanton started Humans of New York, Detroit native Noah Stephens began documenting the people of Detroit, equipped with just his trusty DSLR camera and a desire to see the real face—and faces—of his city in a project entitled The People of Detroit. “My goal was to show the world a vibrant, attractive side of life in the city seldom examined in national or international media,” says Stephens of the impetus for the project. “On some level, it worked. In 2011, a creative director in China saw the project on Flickr and hired me to shoot an ad campaign for McDonald's in Shanghai. I've been working full-time as a photographer ever since.”

And Scott Hocking:

Forgotten places and objects are a long-running theme in the work of Scott Hocking, as evidenced in The Egg and Michigan Central Station, 2007-2013 (pictured), the recent photo series and site-specific installation that the Detroit native created in what he describes as one of the city’s “long abandoned, often photographed, symbol of ‘Detroitus’ decay, vacant train depot.” Continues Hocking: “Like most of my Detroit based projects, I try to use wasted materials and neglected spaces—which Detroit has had a ton of over the years—attempting to transform them into something new, with the hope that perceptions of these places/materials can be transformed, too. I've been here my whole life, so I like to think that I see the beauty below the surface. It’s a city in flux—always transitioning—and I think this kind of threshold energy inspires creative people.”

And Matt Gordon:

Named as part of Detroit’s “New Generation” of artists by Oakland University, it’s easy to get lost in one of Matt Gordon’s labyrinthine paintings (and occasional three-dimensional carved wood sculptures). There’s so much detail that you could look at one image hundreds of times and discover something new with each viewing. And it’s the always-changing landscape around him that makes this possible. “I've traveled all over the world but the Detroit metropolitan area (all of Michigan, really) is the only place that lets me to think and observe life the way my painted world needs me too,” says Gordon.

And Sarah Wagner:

Through her work, sculptor and installation artist Sarah Wagner observes, interprets, and re-creates the environment that surrounds her, turning the outside world into a one-of-a-kind, personal experience which she refers to as “a parallel reality called the ‘Invisible Healing World.’” For example, one of her most recent pieces, Yard/Zone (pictured), “is about my neighborhood,” Wagner explains of her silk organza piece. “Detroit's complexities are fascinating, and in this piece I built a copy of the neighborhood and inhabited it with a pheasant and a fox—two animals frequently seen in the city proper.”

Read more:  Complex

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