Detroit Performs


Secrets and Nostalgia

Artist Robert Schefman finds inspiration in secrets; Artist Matt Eaton explores themes of nostalgia and space; and Gabriela Riveros is influenced by her Paraguayan heritage.

Episode 908

AIRED: October 08, 2019 | 0:27:59

- [DJ] In this episode of Detroit Performs,

a painter and drawer,

an abstract artist,

and an illustrator.

It's all ahead on this addition of Detroit Performs.

- [Announcer] Funding for Detroit Performs is provided by

the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation,

The Kresge Foundation,

the A. Paul and Carol C. Schaap Foundation,

The Michigan Council for Art and Cultural Affairs,

the National Endowment for the Arts,

and by contributions to your PBS station

from viewers like you.

Thank you.

(uplifting music)

- Hello and welcome to Detroit Performs.

I'm your host, DJ Oliver.

And today I'm at Brightlytwisted,

located in Detroit's Corktown neighborhood,

to participate in a tie-dye workshop.

So throughout the episode you'll see Zach McKeever

teach us the steps of the tie-dye workshop.

So take it away, Zach!

- All right all I'm gonna do

is I'm gonna draw two circles on this piece of fabric

in front of us.

I'm gonna to do a fairly big one and I'm do a small one.

They don't have to be perfect,

they're not gonna to be perfect.

Don't get caught up on your circles.

So just go ahead, just like that.

Just like that.

- All right, so as I finish up my circle here,

let's check out our next artist, Robert Schefman,

who's working on an exhibition based on strangers' secrets.

Take a look.

(soft piano music)

- The most important thing you can do

is invest yourself in the work

and be willing to take and use what is most appropriate,

in terms of the skill, to get your idea across.

Since I was a kid, I always loved art.

But I also liked medicine as well.

So, actually, when I was in high school, I had an internship

down at Receiving Hospital doing autopsies.

That experience gave me a different perspective

on the human body, about being us.

And, eventually, that found its way into my work.

What you see in terms of my paintings and my sculptures

is no the way I was trained.

Back in the '70s, you were pretty much discouraged

from doing anything that was illusionist like I paint.

You were also discouraged from doing anything

with the figure.

But I finally went in that direction

and it seemed like endless possibilities,

as opposed to dead end.

So, I went there.

I'm making an illusionist just a magic trick.

I wanna see where I can take, and use illusion

to make metaphor,

to use symbol to relate to different issues.

The inspiration can come from any place.

You take an idea and you run with it,

and you develop it 1,000 different ways

and explore wherever it will take you.

If you have the guts

to go to places that were, quote, forbidden, fine.

It's not about starting in any specific way.

So sometimes I might see something that sparks and idea,

and it goes in my sketchbook.

I might work that and develop an idea.

Then again, it might take five years

before that idea, which I see in that sketchbook

over and over and over, kinda coalesces

with other things that I see.

And it's suddenly wow, these things go together

and they make a different thing than I wanted

to say before, but it's unique.

Ideally, what I like to do when working in series,

is take an idea and I'm exploring different things

that are relative to that.

And, tryin' to explore as many as I can

and develop images from them.

So they're all gonna be different.

The series that I'm working on now,

which is the Secrets.

So I solicited secrets across the internet.

And people sent me personal secrets.

Everyone's secret is not unique.

In fact, I had very few unique secrets.

By using that secret,

not as an illustration of what they sent,

but talking about a more internal feelings,

and developing an image based on that idea.

Some of the secrets were more personal, less political.

Some were more political, less personal.

Some of the secrets were legal issues.


Yeah, but it was enlightening.

The biggest secret that Americans keep right now

seems to be suffering from depression,

and everything that goes with that.

And so, because of that, it became the largest painting

that I was gonna do in the series.

And I wanted to take on that being otherworldly

and right in this world at the same time,

because that is what we do.

Depression is something you are right in this world,

yet you can't take a point of view

that keeps you in this world.

There's another painting in the show

that is someone who was in love with their best friend

and couldn't tell them.

And it was about sexuality, and about choice,

and about also the hiding.

And that internal struggle is what I tried to get

on the canvas.

And then there was a lot of people

who are hiding sexual orientation, drugs,

and addictions to either food

or different drugs and alcohol.

There was lots of, lots of stuff for me to explore.

Some of the people actually wrote again

to tell me how cathartic it was,

that they've been holding this secret for 45 years

and never told anyone.

And that the experience of putting it down

and sending it out released them in a way.

The Carbon series started with a trip to the Middle East.

And I was most impressed by this intersection

of politics, and religion, and the carbon.

The carbon was a part of all the decisions.

In religion, dust to dust, ashes to ashes.

Us, as human beings, we are carbon.

In the Middle East, so much of what was going on

was not just about religion,

but the religions controlling other carbon issues,

resource carbon issues, political carbon issues.

And this intersection where all of this was coming together

gave me a notion about this carbon series,

and then a series of paintings

called Politics and Religion.

And the two are integrated.

So the Carbon series was drawings,

and everything I did was made out of carbon, about carbon.

And the paintings were more about the political

and the religious aspects of this carbon system.

My process has always been starting

from a blank sheet of paper.

When you start with a drawing that has no direction,

everything is possible.

And I'll use the drawing,

and I will make hundreds of drawings

until one strikes me as making that agenda

hit as much as possible,

being as direct to what I want to say.

And then when I start painting,

it's still a moving target.

And things are gonna change when I start painting.

And, either for visual reasons or for content reasons,

this is illusion.

It's not real, it's just pixels on a page.

And if you think about the pixelation

of an image, this is how painters have always worked.

Only instead of digital pixels, it's a brush stroke.

So every brush stroke is a different color.

And how illusionist you want this work to be

is how often you change the pixels.

I'm changing the pixels as much as I can.

That experience, that illusion, is important to me.

It's not the focus, but it's how I want

to get the idea across.

And so if I want to paint a hand or an arm,

it'll probably be 15 different colors.

And I will start with those and then intermix

and change those, depending on how it goes.

My paintings are not about paint,

it was about what I wanted to say.

You take an idea and you make an image.

And I've been fortunate enough to have moved enough people

that they will give me a platform, meaning shows.

Whether it's galleries or museums

when you get the work out there,

people come and see the work.

I'll get letters back saying, oh, this affected me,

that affected me.

I think that's the communication factor.

That's that image transferring information

from one person to another.

You're trying to affect someone.

You could go in a closet and make all your work,

and burn the closet down.

You fulfilled only half of the issue of the arts.

The arts is communication.

Without the audience, you have not fulfilled

all the mission.

(soft piano music)

- Good?

- You're a pro.

- All right. (laughing)

Next up, abstract artist Matt Eaton explores themes

of nostalgia and space.

(light instrumental music)

- I was born in northern California

but my family lived in Los Angeles until I was about 11.

Then we moved to London, England and lived there

until I was about 20 before moving back to Michigan.

Actually, we had never lived in Michigan before,

so moved to Michigan.

My father was actually a photographer

and worked in Miami, and Detroit,

and in the West Coast, and California as well.

He used to be a model for Hudson's,

the department store here in Michigan.

Being on the other side of the lens,

I think when he was really young, inspired him

to pick up the camera.

There's always been creative people around us,

so my brother and I grew up in the kind of household

that we were constantly surrounded by creatives,

actors, or poets, or dancers, or musicians.

Well, the first thing I'd probably lead your eye to

is the horizon line.

This represents the horizon, for me.

This is an experience out in the High Desert.

And, basically, what I was seeing

was this beautiful sand and landscape

with shadow being cast across it

with rocks and boulders.

So, all of this represents that positive and negative,

created by the sun and light and shadow.

And this is all the trees in the background,

off in the distance, in the low mountain range.

So this is kinda the easiest way for me to express

without being obvious about a specific location,

or geographic kind of experience.

But this is what I found beautiful

in this personal experience for me.

I was in this part of nature and I stood and I looked

upon this vista, and what stood out for me

were the way the shadow and light was dancing

with these rocks.

And then thinkin' about how linear and flat this was,

juxtaposed with these tree forms, vertically,

and the uplifting kind of motion of the mountains.

So this is just a horizon line.

This represents one part of the view,

and this represents the other part of the view.

And it can be whatever it you want it to be, too, obviously.

But this is, I guess, the easiest way for me

to kind of extrapolate, or extract and then extrapolate

upon these simple pleasures of that view, for me.

A painting like this exists in my head

for a great deal of time

before it actually manifests, physically.

I wrangle with how to-

You know, I look at the photos I took

of this area and I try to remember that experience,

and try to just bring to the surface what is important

for me to express in that telling of this story.

So in this way, like the orange

of the desert floor stood out.

The light blue in edge of the shadow stood out.

So those are things I choose to amplify.

If I was to explore every single item in that view

then it would chaos.

Or, it would be a photorealistic painting

and I find that boring.

I appreciate it, boring for myself.

And I, also, am not talented, even close to talented enough

to do that.

So, that's what I do think there's merit in refining

that viewpoint and finding those points

that really emphasize the story you are telling

and the way you tell that story.

Putting everything out there all the time,

just becomes chaotic.

It's hard to understand what you're trying to say.

It's hard to have a voice.

I'm the program manager for Red Bull Arts Detroit.

It's a residency program for national artists,

hoping to open up internationally next year.

We have three residencies that consist of three artists

at a time, through the year.

Then we have a Curatorial Fellowship

that's about 10 or 12 months long.

And every two months

we have a literary, or writers fellowship.

People come and visit, and write, and engage

with the city and other artists here.

And every month we have a micro grant,

only for local artists.

We're located in Eastern Market, in Detroit.

And we've been there since about,

in operation since about 2012.

So I'm very proud of that program.

It's evolved beyond my wildest dreams,

but I expected it to.

Because it's feeding into a community

of people that value that action,

supporting artists and trying

to find the most authentic and honest way

of supporting arts and culture in the city

and re-defining corporate patronage and what it means.

When someone comes from Berlin, or elsewhere,

it's this mysterious place

where all these amazing things have happened.

So how can you feel inferior about this place of wonder?

People are curious about this place

because so much cool stuff has happened here.

So many amazing people and personalities

have come from this place.

So, of course, it's put on a pedestal,

as it should be.

If you're feeling inferior about this city,

then the problem lies within you.

(easy jazz music)

- What's up guys?

I am hanging out here with Lilli Bishop,

whose mom makes the quilts here.

So, Lilli, tell me a little bit about these quilts.

- So, I love the dye classes.

And one of the reasons I love them

is because they are such a bringing together,

a merger, of community.

Not only do the participants get to create something

that they get to keep, that's meaningful and one of a kind,

but they also get to contribute to the community

in another way.

And it is these quilts.

My mom is actually the seamstress behind them.

So, in the quilts you see a square of the practice piece

like we're doing today.

And then on the other side, mom kinda goes crazy.


She kinda goes nuts.

She really dips into it.

And, she really does a little bit of herself.

So you have like the Jeanie Nicholson side

and you also have the Brightlytwisted side.

It's really unique because she's got a head injury.

About 13 years ago she was involved

in a catastrophic car accident.

She was in a coma and we didn't know if she was gonna live.

She was actually given a 7% chance to live

and a 1% chance to be out of a vegetative state.

So it's kinda miraculous that she's even here with us.

- [DJ] Absolutely.

- Let alone, be able to continue in her craft

and in her art.

It's been such a beautiful, tangible story,

what she's been able to make.

And I think everyone in my family has lots of quilts.

But it wasn't until these classes

and this collaboration with Brightlytwisted

that these quilts have really come alive

and become something that we can give to the community.

- Yeah, so how do people feel once they get these quilts?

How's their response?

- Honestly, I think the reception has been wonderful

and it definitely brings tears to my eyes.

- [DJ] Oh, right.

- Ya know, it's so great for my mom to have a voice again.

- Thank you so much, Lilli, for letting me

be a part of this.

I wanna give you a hug, man.

Thank you.

- Thanks for sharing our story.

- Oh, appreciate it.

All right, now let's check out some upcoming events

happening in and around the D.

(upbeat jazz music)

All right, so now we're at the tie-dye process.

So can you help us out here, Zach?

- Yes, absolutely.

What we're gonna do, we've got hearts here

that we twisted earlier.

I always find it's best to start with pink

for the center, so grab this guy right here.

- This is pink.

- And you can just follow right along with me.

We're gonna go right up to this first rubber band.

So this big chunk in the center,

and really saturate it.

Don't be shy about using that dye.

- Okay.

- Now if you want to go into this one right here

- Purple. - Yep.

Same thing we did before.

I'm gonna overlap both of these rubber bands.

So we're gonna start there, it's gonna bleed

up into the pink.

That's good, we want that.

- Okay.

- So you've got a short little bottle in there

with a fine tip.

Black dye.

We use black dye in almost every piece we make.

Now all I'm gonna do is right over the top

of these rubber bands, I'm just gonna draw straight lines.

It's gonna look like it's goin' everywhere,

I promise you it's not.

So this is all we're gonna do,

five or six times back and forth.

And do that for each rubber band.

Stash 'em right in here.

- All right.

- There we go.

- All right. Thank you, man.

- You are welcome.

- All right, now let's check in with our next artist,

Gabriela Riveros who's making a name for herself

in the art community with her unique illustrations

based on her Paraguayan heritage.

(upbeat orchestral music)

(pencil coloring)

I am Gabriela Riveros and I grew up

on the west side of Milwaukee, born and raised.

And my parents are from Asuncion Paraguay.

(upbeat orchestral music)

I was still growing up where I was kinda just into drawing.

And then I happened to go, or be lucky enough,

to go to schools that specialized in art.

So, amounting to my college career, I thought illustration

was the best fit because my drawings always told a story

of some sort.

(xylophone playing)

So, my designs, I like to focus on history and culture.

I'm really into heritage,

especially Latino heritage.

So I try to integrate as much history

and lineage and I research a lot of tradition

and kinda re-translate that into something

that people can relate to, modern day.

Recently my biggest inspiration is Latino literature.

So, I really draw my inspirations from the past.

For my audience, though, I'm really inspired

by people like me who want to know more

about their identity and kind of connect more with that.

Because I think a lot of times people lose

their cultural roots.

I first started really getting into it

when I actually went back to Paraguay.

And then I've been just taking notes and creating art

while I was there and soaking up.

It's like their own traditions

that I would normally look past, and just do.

And then doing on my time researching Paraguayan history

and art and understanding where everything comes from

that we have present in our culture.

Like all the indigenous roots and the Spanish roots,

and how all of those combine.

I think I really love the mythology

because Paraguayans are like,

well they're like the ultimate mestizo for the most part.

But indigenous is Guatanee and the Guatanee traditions

and that culture's very present with us.

So one of my favorite things I take away from that

is all the old tales, and I love all the art along with it.

They do a lot of traditional weavings,

and they these really special delicate weavings

that I incorporate a lot into my work,

as like an inspiration.

(light flamenco music)

So the ones that I've done

that have been most important to me

was probably be some pieces from my Undergrad work.

There was one that I made that was very conceptual,

it was about Day of the Dead.

And it was this young girl that was reconnecting

with her roots, and she had a bunch

of Jose Posada skeletons dancing around her.

And after that I was like,

oh, I really like the way this looks.

So, I guess that was one of my most important pieces.

It kinda launched the series of my current work.

I have worked with Collectivo Coffee, Cafe Corazon.

I recently just worked with this nonprofit called Noxtin,

out of California, Milwaukee Film Festival.

This year they wanna do something

crazy, colorful, and detailed so they were trying

to look for an artist that fit that bill.

I had a professor that recommended me

so we linked-up and they said,

"Oh, you're work's perfect for this."

The theme of it was the wild side of Milwaukee.

My main inspiration for that piece

was medieval art, so the main layout

is based off Hieronymus Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights.

The center panel, where it's kinda like

this heavenly landscape, if you know your history,

you notice like medieval beasts

that I've kinda reinterpreted as Milwaukee citizens.

And then I was also inspired by drolleries,

which were medieval, they were like really weird

medieval doodles in the margins of illuminated manuscripts.

(upbeat music)

So I usually start my drawings on paper

and then I scan them in the computer.

And then with the computer,

I basically draw and paint digitally.

I start out with research, that's always my base.

I have a subject I'm kinda interested in knowing more about

so I research it and I do a lot of drawing,

and I collect a lot of images, and I just keep drawing

until I find the composition I'd like.

And then I transform it into an illustration.

I always encourage our younger people to just kind of,

don't be afraid to experiment and try out new things.

'Cause you never know, it could push your work

in a whole new direction.

(upbeat music)

I'm torn between the actual researching part

and then like the final piece 'cause it feels really good

when I just see it all finished and pristine.

It's really cool seeing more of the audience come out

and relate and connect with my work.

I love it when other Latinos come up to me

and are saying, oh, I love this, I identify with it.

And I'm like, awesome, that's my goal.

(upbeat music)

- Thank you so much, Jeanie.

- Thank you. - Appreciate that.

- Thank you, very good.

Thank you.

- Thank you.

And that wraps it up for this edition of Detroit Performs.

As always, for more arts and culture,

head to

where you'll find featured videos, blogs,

and information on upcoming arts events.

I'd like to thank Brightlytwisted for having me here today

to participate in a tie-dye workshop.

And you can create your own beautiful tie-dye pieces

by coming down to Brightlytwisted

during the scheduled workshop

or booking your own private workshop.

Into next Tuesday, get out there and show the world

how Detroit performs, y'all.

I'm DJ Oliver, thanks for watching, guys.

- [Narrator] Funding for Detroit Performs

is provided by:

the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation,

The Kresge Foundation,

the A. Paul and Carol C. Schaap Foundation,

the Michigan Council for Arts & Cultural Affairs,

the National Endowment for the Arts,

and by contributions to your PBS Station

from viewers like you.

Thank you.

(upbeat music)


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