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Visual arts

Scrap city

Salvaging and remembering in the name of art

Mary Carolan's Bail Out.
A rubber purse by Julio Dominguez.
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Published 11/5/2008

Wait. Don't throw that away. A weathered matchbook, a handful of handbills, rubber collected from the freeway, and fabric swatches are the stuff of inventive creations for the 11 local artists in Soft Scrap: A Show of Scrap-inspired Art.

Mary Carolan, an artist and Michigan native with a BFA in architecture from Miami University in Ohio, lives in Corktown, just a few blocks from the storefront where the show takes place. She and fellow artists Leah Retherford and Abigail Newbold wanted to show art that involved found objects and recycled material, and they wanted to put it in on display in an intriguing space.

"We wanted a space that wasn't a gallery," Carolan says. "We wanted a different atmosphere where we could make our own rules."

So they borrowed a storefront in a building that fits so perfectly with their salvage theme it could almost be considered a piece of art within the show. Built in 1887, the place has large windows accented by squares of stained glass. It has great lighting and a magnificent partition in the center made from a salvaged early 20th century meat locker. Originally a meat market and then a flower shop, it eventually became the home of the Tiger Stadium Fan Club.

In 1995, Detroit architect Brian Hurttienne purchased and renovated the building, making an apartment upstairs and his business office downstairs. Hurttienne has since moved his office, leaving the space available for the upcoming exhibition and giving the public a chance to see the extraordinary interior before it's possibly renovated again.

"The show is a nod to that Mad Max thing Detroit has," Carolan says. "People here are into salvaging: old buildings, instruments, parts of things. It's that drive to work with what you've got."

Carolan says Soft Scrap is anything but a white wall show. Made out of vintage matchbooks, her miniature model of her own Corktown home embodies the free, salvaging spirit. "No Handbills," her large circular sculpture in the show, is made entirely out of handbills. Her giant stuffed taco, jumbo plush hairbrush and an oversized pillow made from a scrapped tent will be part of "Soft Location," the opening performance by Detroit painter and musician Kathy Leisen.

Metro-area artist Julio Dominguez was born in Peru in 1980. He draws on memories of his family's move to the United States when he was 13 years old. His initial shopping trips to K-Mart and the Gap, where he got his first American clothes, inspire his work in leather, rubber and found objects. His purse made of rubber lace unleashes the glamour of material that was destined for the dumpster.

Meghan Heeres is an MFA candidate at the Cranbrook Academy of Art. Despite its muted colors and low position near the floor, her fiber installation, "The Fits and Starts Beneath," is one of the more dramatic pieces on display. In it, layers of snake-like pillows lie together sleeping. The show also features work by Retherford, Newbold, Sarah Lapinski, Sarah Burger, Connie Shea, Bec Young, Emily Linn and Stephanie Hafer.

Soft Scrap opens Nov. 7, 7-10 p.m., at 1401 Bagley St. in Corktown with viewings 5-8 p.m. on Nov. 14 and 21, and Dec. 5. There will be a scrap exchange open to the public Nov. 29 from 7-10 p.m. Show closes Dec. 12 with a Scrap Food Potluck at 7-10 p.m. Info at mcptown@hotmail.com.

Norene Cashen writes about arts and literature for Metro Times. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

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