Wednesday, Oct. 3 — At this year’s ArtPrize event in Grand Rapids, there are 1,517 entries spread out across 161 venues. Seems like too much art to fit in one place, right? At least that’s what one Lansing-based artist contestant thought, so he looked in a new direction to stand out.
“My idea was to really try to surprise people,” said Henry Brimmer, a professor at Michigan State University. “It’s not like they see sculptures hanging from cable every day. It’s unpredictable.”
You read that right — his piece, aptly named “Gravity Matters Little,” is an 8-ft. tall human figure sculpture dangling 175 ft. above the intersection of Monroe Center and Ionia Avenue on an anchored cable connecting Select Bank and the Clear Channel building. Brimmer teaches design and photography through the advertising department in the College of Communication Arts & Sciences at MSU, and he said he enjoys the distinction his piece has earned.
“I really like when people look up and haven’t seen it and go, ‘Wow, look at that!’” he said. The installation cracked the top 25, but failed to make it to the final 10.
This is the fourth year for ArtPrize, an international art competition that brings out artists from seemingly every medium and transforms the entire downtown area of Grand Rapids into a giant contemporary art exhibit. Like Brimmer, Lansing resident Tom Sheerin also looked up for inspiration, but his recycled art piece is a little more grounded. He created a metallic eagle — freeze-framed in the middle of a lifelike swoop —using nothing but table flatware.
“I worked meticulously to make it as realistic a representation as I could using silverware,” Sheerin said. “I try to be clever about making things not look like what they are.”
This isn’t Sheerin’s first fork-and-knife raptor. At the 2009 Old Town Scrapfest, Sheerin said he collected a “mountain of silverware” to make his first bird in one week.
“At that time I thought it was really something,” he said, “But it’s nothing compared to this one.” This year’s piece, “Bird Feeder,” is positioned near Van Andel Arena and made it the top 100. Sheerin says the piece has about 3,000 pieces of silverware in it, “give or take a couple of hundred.” He worked on it for about a year and a half, which involved quite a bit of tedious prep work.
“I had to remove about 1,500 wooden or plastic handles,” he said. “And they were not meant to come off.”
Chris Vanwyck’s piece is much more down-to-earth. The MSU grad and vice president of creative strategy at Ciesa Design in Old Town took an ultra modernist take on an Adirondack chair when working on his piece, “Be Still.”
“I was told by about five different fabricators that there was no way I could bend the metal the way I wanted it,” Vanwyck said. “Thankfully, my friend Fred Hammond and I don’t believe in the word can’t.”
“Be Still” is installed at the Weston Open Space. Vanwyck, who is also an instructor of graphic design at MSU, said he was inspired by the Adirondack is a universal icon for
“It seems like I’m always running around and never taking the time to relax and pay attention to the things that really matter,” he said. “I went out of my way to develop a piece that people could not only look at but they could actually interact with by sitting on it, taking a moment to relax.”
And, you know, enjoy the view for a little while.
All Lansing-area ArtPrize entrants:
“Gravity Matters Little”
“The Penguin Project”
Craig Mitchell Smith
“Making a wish”
Scott Van Allsburg
“The Potato Project”
“A Mile in Her Shoes”
“Porthole of Scottish Identity”
Trish Turner Davis
“La Senora Fria”
Francois Dillinger, Ashley Worden
“Fine Art Photography”
Cristine V. Hampton
“Breaker Boys of the Harry E”
“Boy and His Dream”
“Enchanted Rain Forest Primates”
“Farewell Arthur K”
Azlini Anuar Tan
“Where should I go”
Upper Peninsula Charts
“Upper Peninsula Charts”
Tyler Vander Maas
“The Poltergeist Portrait”
“My Swinging Machines”