The Fed Galleries @ KCAD, ArtPrize Nine’s Top Venue, Unveils Timely New Exhibitions

Posted November 7, 2017 in Gallery

ArtPrize Nine may be over, but the winner of the competition’s Outstanding Venue Award is busy preparing to re-engage viewers in meaningful experiences with art through two new exhibitions opening this month.

On November 7, Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University’s (KCAD’s) The Fed Galleries @ KCAD will open Resort: Work by Andrew Ellis Johnson and Susanne Slavick and Knockoffs: Originality, Theft, and Everything In Between.

Resort presents the work of artists and life partners Andrew Ellis Johnson and Susanne Slavick. Through their artistic pursuits and their work as colleagues at Carnegie Mellon University, the pair have developed a strong creative bond driven by overlapping worldviews and daily collaboration. Either independently or together, they have been featured in venues such as the Chelsea Museum of Art in New York, Arti et Amicitiae in Amsterdam, the Korean National University of the Arts in Seoul, and Temple University in Rome.

Robotic creatures in barren landscapes(above): "This Land Is My Land, This Land Is My Land I and II" by Andrew Ellis Johnson; (below): work from the "Ghost Ship" series by Susanne Slavick (images courtesy of the artists)painting of ship on choppy water with life preserver hanging above it

Through a mix of drawings, paintings, and video works, Johnson and Slavick have crafted a thoughtful and stirring exploration of the intersection of security and insecurity as it pertains to the ongoing global refugee crisis.

At one end of the exhibition, Johnson’s series of drawings, “Until Human Voices Wake Us,” confronts viewers with hallucinatory, mirage-like images that reflect the often-harsh realities refugees face that are hidden behind promises of assistance, rescue, and improved living conditions.

At the other end, Slavick’s series of paintings, “THREADBARE,” portrays damaged “magic carpets” that have been marred by violence, unrest, and abuses of power. Mirroring the conflicting nature of life as a refugee, the intricately patterned remnants of damaged rugs and fabrics are painted with semiliquid clay, creating cracks and fissures from which escapist scenes of harmonious open skies emerge.

picture of a series of drawings depicting life preservers covered in sand(above): "Until Human Voices Wake Us" (series) by Andrew Ellis Johnson; (below): "Nothing But Blue Skies" by Susanne Slavick (images courtesy of the artists) painting of a blue, cloudy sky with grey circles over top

The artists then merge their representations in “RESORT,” a video piece that juxtaposes those who use bodies of water for recreation and relaxation with those refugees for whom water is both a physical barrier to their emigration and a symbolic representation of the social barriers they encounter when they arrive in foreign countries.

“The refugee crisis is a defining issue of the contemporary global landscape,” says KCAD Curator of Exhibitions Michele Bosak. “Andrew and Susanne have created a richly layered experience that provides an entry point alternative to those presented by the media, returning the focus to the human element and building empathy and understanding.”

Johnson and Slavick will take viewers inside their work and process during an artist talk on November 7 at 6:30 p.m.

Knockoffs is a dynamic exhibition considering how the definition and history of “creating” has shifted over the centuries and questioning whether knockoffs’ capacity to both inspire and limit creation will enable us to thrive in our current copy/paste culture.

For the first month of the exhibition’s run select pieces from the Baker Furniture Collection will be shown alongside select works from the Gordon Collection in The Fed Galleries. The Baker Furniture Collection includes period furniture and decorative arts spanning three centuries. The Gordon Collection is a compendium of work from some of West Michigan’s most notable artists, including Mathias Alten, Reynold Weidenaar, and Armand Merizon.

Drawing of a small village beset by a natural disaster(above): "It Was a Terrible Day" by Reynold Weidenaar, part of KCAD's Gordon Collection; (below): "Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman" by Charles and Ray Eames, part of KCAD's Baker Furniture Collection

Picture of the famous Eames lounge chair

KCAD students will be visiting The Fed Galleries at various times throughout the month in order to observe the historic pieces and then create “knockoffs” of them in a variety of mediums. The students’ interpretations will then be displayed in an adjacent gallery space during the second month of the exhibition, forging an intriguing and active contemplation of the implications of emulation.

“Imitation can both inspire and quell innovation, so where does that line begin and end? That’s what we want to explore through this active exhibition,” says Bosak. “We’re looking forward to seeing how the experience for viewers change as the students begin responding to these existing works in interesting ways.”

A joint opening reception for Resort and Knockoffs, free and open to the public, will be held on November 7 from 5-7 p.m.

For more information on these exhibitions and events, visit