Photographing artists setting up their installations for the next Gallery Project show seemed like exactly the right thing to do, given that the exhibit is all about places where you can pose and be photographed. On Monday, Myra Klarman was the photographer and The Chronicle tagged along to hear a bit more about “Step Right Up!” – a fundraiser for the nonprofit gallery with an opening reception on Friday, Dec. 12.
Several artists were working in the gallery when The Chronicle arrived. One of them was Rick Ruiner – that’s the stage name for his band, The Ruiners. (He’s been known to set himself on fire – gallery co-director Gloria Pritschet was able to provide photographic evidence of this. Apparently those pyrotechnics make it difficult to book gigs in Ann Arbor.) His installation for this show doesn’t involve flames. It’s a steel-barred cage, roughly 3.5 feet square and maybe 8 feet high, painted red the previous night, with blue panels that have stars cut out evoking the American flag. The piece is called “Please Wake Me Up from the American Dream.”
While The Chronicle chatted with Ruiner and his band’s backup singer, Nina Friday, artist Vince Frappier showed Pritschet some images of his work on his digital camera. Frappier is a local painter, and for this show he’s done a replica of a detail from Michelangelo’s Da Vinci’s Sistine Chapel, the classic image of God reaching out to Adam – the one you studied in Art History 101, with the not-quite-touching fingers. But he’s cut out the faces of Adam, God and a couple of the angels in God’s posse – that’s where your own face goes. Photo opp!
This exhibition is meant to be both playful and provocative, and its 24 artists deliver on both counts. You’ll see a life-size Barbie cake, which made its first appearance at the Gallery Project’s 2006 Humor & Art show. This time artists Mike Sivak and Julie Renfro have built a companion cake layer for you to stand on next to Barbie and her frosting frock – fulfilling several male fantasies, perhaps? They even provide a frosting top hat for you to wear, if you’re so inclined.
There are other dress-up opportunities in the show as well. Jack Summers – whom Pritschet describes as a “delightful, intense, political, interesting man” – has made a couple dozen paper masks on wooden sticks: Obama, Rosie the Riveter, Santa, the Devil, various comic book heroes and villains. These masks hang on the wall just as you enter the gallery – you’re invited to play with them, as well as the costumes hanging nearby: a graduation robe, a grass skirt, and Joseph & Mary outfits that are probably most often used for live Nativity scenes. Summers hopes you’ll be frisky enough to take these props and pose with them in other installations as well.
The Gallery Project is using this exhibition to raise money several ways. Entry to Friday’s opening reception costs $10. For an additional $20, you can buy a “photo pass” which lets you come and take pictures at any time throughout the show’s six-week run. The gallery will also have Polaroid cameras on hand and they’ll take your photo for $5 a shot, or $10 for three.
Pritschet and Rocco Depietro founded The Gallery Project in 2005. It’s a collaborative for contemporary art, with the mission, Pritschet says, of having large, group-themed shows of art that’s “culturally aware, courageous, individualistic and thought-provoking.” And they clearly have a sense of humor, too.
The Gallery Project is located at 215 S. Fourth Ave. It’s open Tuesday-Thursday from noon to 6 p.m., Friday-Saturday from noon to 9 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. The Dec. 12 opening reception of “Step Right Up!” is from 6-9 p.m.