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Visual arts

Get out of the house

Home may be a castle, but a yard can be art

MT Photos: Cybelle Codish
SEE ALSO
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Published 6/15/2005

Summer is our time to get out and explore. To see and to sweat. It's the time to call out around the world for Martha Reeves and the Vandellas' "Dancing in the Street," Eddie Cochran's "Summertime Blues," Sheryl Crow's "Soak Up the Sun" and endless renditions of Gershwin's classic from Catfish Row. It's the season for beaches and barbecues, festivals and road tours, tanning in the sun and looking for shade, guitars on patios and mega-concerts, driving with the top down, staring up in the night sky at the Milky Way.

Need more specific suggestions? In this Summer Guide edition of Metro Times, we have scads of suggestions in our summer listings in addition to the usual plethora of ideas for the week ahead in the Night & Day section. And we have a look at what the discards and detritus of summer tell us about who we are.

But this summer, we especially want to help you take a look at the art that some of your neighbors are creating right in their yards.

Discovering magic

There are hundreds of fascinating folk-art environments, celebrated and forgotten, around the nation and overseas. Howard Finster's Paradise Gardens in Pennville, Ga., and postman Ferdinand Cheval's Palais Idéal in Hauterives, France, are among the most renowned. Locally, most of us are familiar with Tyree Guyton's Heidelberg Project, and a few of us remember Rosetta Archie, whose junk art lined Beaubien north of East Grand Boulevard back before the public cared so much about the polka dots. But yard art is abundant in metro Detroit, and discovering it can be magical. It's intriguing to think about what turns a hobby into an all-consuming obsession that knows no boundaries, except those imposed by property lines and city officials.

In this special section, we bring you places where ordinary people have felt called to put their own vision of beauty out where their neighbors (and the world) can see it.

Preservationist Lisa Stone coined the term "life-specific art," and it fits these artists. The visionaries are personalizing their private plots as an expression of hometown pride and spiritual devotion. A couple of these locations are so impressive they deserve national recognition, not to mention funding from the John Michael Kohler Arts Center (a Wisconsin-based foundation dedicated to preserving art environments), before they are vandalized or demolished, or nature simply takes its course, destroying decades of passionate work.

So go see these places in full bloom, when the greenery becomes one with the art — when ivy crawls up wood totems and creeps through the cracks of old cement, a hibiscus flower the color of fruit punch bends near the bright blue shards from a broken plate, and sunlight falls through tall trees, speckling stone.

You have the whole summer ahead of you.

A slice of Americana
By Rebeca Mazzei

Behind his pizzeria, it’s Rome sweet Rome.

Suburban sanctuary
By Rebeca Mazzei

Primrose crosses paths with primitive.

Burke’s work
By Sarah Klein

Body parts, broken buildings — and blossoms.

Fourth Street fare
By Sarah Klein

Art and life as neighbors.

Reach for the sky
By Sarah Klein

A world of wondrous whirligigs.

Welcome to the dollhouse
By Sarah Klein

Second leases on life for discarded toys.

Summer losers
By Jason Bitner

A collection of photos and notes from Found Magazine.

Summer Guide Spotlights
By Eve Doster

Training our sights on some summer delights.

Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

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