Photographer Hal Gould was walking down an East Lansing street “a long time ago” when he and a friend were stopped in their tracks by something happening ahead.
“My friend looked at me,” Gould recalled, “and I had this look on my face, one that said I was thinking about taking a picture. And he said to me, ‘You’re seeing rectangular, aren’t you?’”
The phrase stuck with Gould, and now it has become the name of his latest exhibition. “Seeing Rectangular” opens at Old Town’s MICA Gallery Friday as part of September’s Arts Night Out, a traveling monthly event where local businesses host local artists and performers. The exhibit kicks off with a reception Friday and will remain on display through Oct. 30.
This show is far from Gould’s first in Old Town. He started showing in local galleries in the ‘70s. After a ten-year stint in Tucson, he returned to Lansing in 1990 and found Old Town on the cusp of a renaissance.
“At the time, (Turner Street) was broken down and falling apart,” said Gould. “It was cheap, and that’s where the artists went.”
Gould made friends with Barb Morris and Robert Busby, perhaps the two most important figures in the neighborhood’s transformation. A portrait of Morris that appears in the exhibit is available for purchase for $500, with the proceeds going to help Morris pay for medical expenses caused by a recent stroke. (Donations to Morris’ recovery fund can also be made via a GoFundMe campaign at gofundme.com/22ge74es.)
Gould’s photography includes images from Michigan and the Southwest, including shots of prisoners from Florence State Prison in Arizona and of senior home residents in Northville.
“He tells the story of people that may otherwise be overlooked,” said Katrina Daniels, MICA Gallery program director. “He asks the viewer to stop and look at people who they might not know much about.”
The common theme of these photos is portraiture.
“The face is endlessly fascinating to me,” Gould said. “It has so much to say. Even a flat, two-dimensional photo of someone’s eyes can connect with the viewer.”
Some of the most compelling portrait subjects, for Gould, are musicians, and many legends have sat in front of his camera. Photos of Willie Dixon, Bonnie Raitt, Arlo Guthrie and more appear in “Seeing Rectangular.”
An important aspect of Gould’s work is preservation. He uses archival materials and other techniques to ensure that his photos survive for future generations. His works are cyanotypes and platinum-palladium prints, which are estimated to survive for thousands of years.
That desire for longevity stems from his time working for newspapers.
“Newsprint deteriorates,” Gould said. “A lot of my process is a reaction to that lack of permanence.”
Gould’s reception is just one part of Arts Night Out, which will feature a variety of artistic experiences at over 15 Old Town locations. Other offerings include a show of nature-inspired work by printmaker Ruth Egnater at the Arts Council of Greater Lansing and a performance by the Springtails and Hatchet Man & Frog (aka Dave Matchette and Steve “Frog” Forgey) at Elderly Instruments.
Old Town functions as a home base for the monthly event. The event rotates to feature different Greater Lansing neighborhoods, but returns to Old Town every other month.
“Old Town has the perfect atmosphere and layout,” said Arts Night Out coordinator Taylor Rupp. “With a lot of shops that are locally owned, it is very easy to get businesses excited and participating.”
In November, Arts Night Out heads to Downtown Lansing for the first time.
“It will definitely be more spread out,” Rupp said. “I think that’s a great thing because of the other events that are going on that weekend. Everywhere you walk, there will be something to check out. The more things happening, the more people will come — and perhaps stay for a drink or to grab a bite to eat.”
“Seeing Rectangular” Opening Reception
Photography by Hal Gould
5-8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 2
MICA Gallery 1210 Turner St., Lansing
(517) 371-4600, micagallery.org
Arts Night Out
5-8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 2
Old Town, Lansing