Sitting in a political science class at Northern Michigan University, Esan Sommersell found himself daydreaming.The only member of his family born in America — his family hails from Guyana — Sommersell went to NMU after high school to pursue pre-law at the prodding of his parents. But the Grand Rapids native and Ottawa Hills High School graduate felt out of place and disengaged. His professor, an eccentric guy who had traveled the world and marched with Martin Luther King Jr., noticed and encouraged him to pursue his real passion: making art.
The photography of recent Kendall College of Art and Design graduate Jeen Na intends to act as a study of the phases of living — all of the situations and circumstances people encounter and how they choose to process them. Ahead of his body of work, As Much Heaven As Earth, being featured at the Grand Rapids Art Museum during ArtPrize Nine, Na chatted with Revue about the themes and art that inspire him, and where he hopes to take his burgeoning career.
Like so many artists, Jovannah Nicholson fell in love with art and working with her hands at a very young age. Now she sculpts and creates ceramics, but as a kid it was all about coloring and drawing with her markers before school, which could get kind of messy. One of her mom’s favorite stories to tell is how Jovannah’s teachers in elementary school thought she wasn’t getting bathed enough because she would come in with marker all over her hands. “Putting the caps on the markers could be quite difficult,” she said, laughing.
Growing up on a farm in rural Illinois, William Campbell was drawn to building, creating, fixing and imagining from a very young age. It’s no surprise that he constructed something intriguing in Anvil Goods — a furniture design and building company run by Campbell and his wife, Meg. The shop specializes in home furniture goods, such as tables, benches, desks and shelving, as well as some commercial builds for the interiors of local businesses, including the cash wrap counter and maple shelves for the Wealthy Street leather goods store Mercy Supply. Campbell’s idea of success is to continue to provide heirloom quality pieces for customers to love for years, and to make enough profit for road trips to the UP and southwest.
If it weren’t for ArtPrize, Jeffrey Songco wouldn’t live here. Born and raised in New Jersey, Songco then lived in California for seven years before coming to Grand Rapids, a city he fell in love with after competing in the annual art competition. Songco first participated in ArtPrize 2011, and then 2012, 2015 and 2016. He also has a background in dance and musical theater, built up while attending Carnegie Mellon and the San Francisco Art Institute. Recently, Songco performed for the first time in years in A Chorus Line at Circle Theatre and has been selected as one of the ArtPrize Seed Grants recipients for 2017.
For Gareth Hawkins, tattoos and art are synonymous – in this case, your client’s body is the art gallery for your work, and that piece of work will be on display for years. What started as an apprenticeship at age 19 developed (after many years of “painful” work) into a full-time career and eventual ownership of local tattoo shop Sovereign Arms on Cherry Street. Voted the second-best tattoo artist in Best of the West 2017, you need only see examples of Hawkins’ work to understand that his attention to detail, fine line work and experimentation with style sets him apart from other artists in the area.
Kim Nguyen moved back from Colorado just because she missed Grand Rapids, and she’s been diving deeper into the local art scene ever since, from First Fridays to ArtPrize and Grand Rapids Zine Fest. Nguyen loves to experiment, describing her style as versatile thanks to her many interests. She’s garnered attention with both her ArtPrize entry, Quest Phasing, and her Mom Zine, a delightful collection of conversations with her mother. Nguyen will have her first solo show next year at MadCap Coffee.
JoLee Kirkikis wants you to understand that there’s strength in softness. The 23-year-old Kendall College of Art and Design alumnus works her own photography into collages, also bringing in words and other materials. There’s a delicateness to both the photos themselves and the resulting collages that reverberates through her work. We talked with Kirkikis about her art and its exploration of voluntary susceptibility.
Hannah Berry has loved art as far back as she can remember. The artist, 27, always saw herself having a career in art, except for a very brief time when she tried something else. “But then I was like, ‘What are you doing? You hate this,’” she said. So back to the literal drawing board it was. Now the Kendall College of Art and Design alumna has a gallery of her own, Lions & Rabbits, which is much more complex than just a place for people to hang their pieces. She also recently tied for first place in the Visual Artist category of our 2017 Best of the West Readers Poll. This is her story.
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