New work at group Exhibit with fellow Cranbrook Academy of Art students and Artist-in-residence.
Gender non-confirming sex toys Non-Binary Lab @ Cranbrook House
Virtual Exhibition Ongoing from April 2, 2021
Speculative Histories is organized by Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research Associate Curator Kevin Adkisson and Head of the Cranbrook Academy of Art Metalsmithing Department and Artist-in-Residence Iris Eichenberg. Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research is responsible for stewarding the collections of Cranbrook House (in partnership with Cranbrook House and Gardens Auxiliary), Saarinen House (in partnership with Cranbrook Art Museum), and the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Smith House.
Watch the virtual guided tour by curators Kevin Adkisson and Iris Eichenberg (underneath) with special appearances by student artists:
Merel Noorlander, 4D Design 2022
Paper, Tyvek, silicone, pigment, commercial strokers, epoxy dough, 3D prints (PLA), Arduino Uno, DC gearbox, servo motor, extension cables, resistors, slide switch, LiPo battery, micro charger
Speculative Histories is the fourth intervention of new, site-specific work from Cranbrook Academy of Art students, staff, and Artists-in-Residence. Over seventy artists staged work within Cranbrook’s historic homes: Cranbrook House (1908/1918), Saarinen House (1930), and the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Smith House (1950/1968). The new work was created in dialogue with the art, architecture, and stories of each homes’ residents: Cranbrook founders George and Ellen Booth, architect and designers Eliel and Loja Saarinen, and Detroit schoolteachers Melvyn and Sara Smith.
The theme, Speculative Histories, encouraged the artists to produce objects and interventions that embrace, enlighten, uncover, or imagine histories for the three houses. Experimental new works in a range of media, sited directly alongside existing pieces in the homes, challenge the idea of art existing only within the neutral space of the gallery. Award-winning Detroit-based photographer Eric Perry documented the show.
There are two ways to experience the exhibition: watch the virtual guided tour by curators Kevin Adkisson and Iris Eichenberg (above), with special appearances by three student artists; or explore the exhibition through the website with photographs and short essays about the work.
HOME OF GEORGE AND ELLEN BOOTH, 1908-1949
ALBERT KAHN, ARCHITECT
Metalsmith and newspaper publisher George Booth and his wife, Ellen Scripps Booth, built this Arts and Crafts manor home as the centerpiece of their country estate, Cranbrook. The Booths outfitted the interior with fine examples of handcrafted furniture, textiles, metalwork, and sculpture, often purchased at the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts downtown. It was from this home that the Booths envisioned and implemented the transformation of their personal estate into a multifaceted center of art, science, and education now known as Cranbrook Educational Community.
Just as George and Ellen Booth supported the work of artists and craftspeople with special commissions for their home, the pieces included here for Speculative Histories add stories and ideas important to the artists of Cranbrook Academy of Art today.
In the Booths’ Dining Room, Scott Klinker, 3D Design Artist-in-Residence, brings his Structures of Light to frame and double the fireplace. Side chairs begin to float futuristically as the neon redefines the understanding of the traditional room. 4D Design Artists-in-Residence Carla Diana adds her book, LEO the Maker Prince and 3D printed characters from the book into the Cranbrook Cabinet, made for the display of handmade books from George Booth’s Cranbrook Press (1900-1902). While Booth’s books represented a turn back toward the distinctly handmade, Diana’s book presents a future where robots and technology are the realm of every person: the characters were printed by a young reader from files accessed through codes within the book.
In George Booth’s Old Country Office, Kira Keck and Jane Sasso hoped to bring back the presence of Ellen (Nellie) Booth: this room was renovated into her Morning Room in the 1930s, yet restored back to George’s office in the 1990s. Alongside a dried flower arrangement and surrounding an historic pillow embroidered “Nellie,” the artists rehung Ellen’s drapes and incorporated surviving furniture and small items from the Morning Room. Keck and Sasso helped bring forward the story of Ellen, including the brutal (but misremembered) tale of murder among the finches or canaries of the aviary attached to the room.
In the Living Room, atop the large oriental rug, Jenna VanFleteren expanded and gave dimension to a single flower design from the rug, humorously commenting on history repeating itself in a new way. 2D Design Artists-in-Residence Elliot Earls added a group of works exploring his graphic figures around the fireplace in a manner suggesting Booth had continued collecting objets d’art well into this century. In an Italian curio cabinet, Merel Noorlander’s two robotic sex toys—one moving on a paper spiral, the other with a paper accordion—explore the relationship between organs, sexuality, and the design language of commercial sex toys. In the Sunset Room, Sylvain Malfroy-Camine added his portable painting-turned-light shade. He imagines the painting as a character in its own right, and its form mirrors the vertical thrust of the arm of Giambologna’s bronze Mercury nearby.
For more info about the participating artist and their work, curators and Cranbrook’s historic homes, please visit: centre.cranbrook.edu/speculative-histories and explore the exhibition through the website with photographs and short essays about the work.
PHOTO CREDITS Color photography by Eric Perry, Courtesy Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research. Historic photographs Cranbrook Archives, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research, 2021.