• BTL Photo: Andrew Potter

Collecting Homegrown Creatives

Kate Opalewski
By | 2018-07-25T10:29:28-04:00 July 24th, 2018|Detroit, Features, Neighborhoods|

Hotter Than July Fine Arts Exhibition Spotlights Emerging Artists

Artist and curator of this year’s event, Geno Harris. BTL Photo: Andrew Potter

Geno Harris is “excited” to bridge the gap between the LGBTQ community and the straight community using creativity as a platform.
The self-taught artist will curate for his fourth consecutive year the annual Hotter Than July Fine Arts Exhibition beginning Thursday, July 26 through Monday, Aug. 13 at The Carr Center in Detroit.
“What I’ve explained before is that these exhibitions that I do are not solely for LGBTQ people,” he said. “It is for those who want to know and understand more about people who identify as LGBTQ. It’s really important for me to let people know that we’re the same as you.”
The exhibit features homegrown art created by a mix of LGBTQ people and their straight allies. All the artwork is available for viewing and for purchase. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to LGBT Detroit, host of the 23rd annual HTJ event, themed “Honor & Rejoice,” which lasts through July 29.

“When you get a chance to meet these 23 artists, each one of them has a story that is valid that they put into their artwork. Providing a platform for them is what my goal is,” said Harris. He is known for establishing the Poor Man’s Art Collective in early 2003 with a group of African-American Detroit artists – Mychal Noir, Kenya Vinson and Jack Johnson – to find and nurture the talents of emerging artists who otherwise would not know where to begin to have their work exhibited.
“Geno’s consistent commitment to leadership has been stellar and dynamic … Hotter Than July is fortunate to have his dedication and unique point of view as a part of the pride experience,” said Curtis Lipscomb, executive director of LGBT Detroit.
Harris said his artwork that will be on display is “completely emotional.” He chose decoupage as his form of expression and uses handmade Japanese paper to create abstract forms and shapes.
“It was created out of a sense of needing to heal myself,” he said. “It was and still is therapy for me. It is a contradiction to my pain – bright and colorful.”

Susan Bankston, too, intends to provoke thought and emotion through her work.
“It’s important to express yourself,” said the Detroit artist. “Everybody should express themselves. It’s important emotionally and physically to get it out. It really helps your health.”
Bankston’s love for art started as a child in kindergarten. She studied different mediums including watercolors, sculpture, pen and ink, and jewelry all through high school and some college. But painting with acrylics is her favorite.
Bankston encourages members of the community to “get out and see what we’re doing. Support your people. It’s important. It wouldn’t hurt if they bring their wallets.”

Not all the high-quality art on display will be expensive. Harris said the artwork is “affordable” and “priced to sell.”
“I’m a true believer in that art should be accessible to everybody,” said James Chism, adding that he wants viewers to look, and touch, his artwork.

“I’ve always been into art, but every time I wanted to touch something that was intriguing, I couldn’t touch it. I want to invite viewers in to feel my work. I want my work to be an experience,” he said. The abstract artist, who resides in Harper Woods, strives to create his works of art using a Yoruba concept known as Asé, meaning power, command and authority.
Chism doesn‘t approach his canvass with any type of plan or conventional tools. He has traded in his paintbrushes for plastic scrapers, spatulas, forks, knives and spoons. These everyday items help create texture using thick layers of acrylic paint and a broad range of colors. 

“Art for me comes from a place deep, deep inside. When I approach a piece, I’m not trying to conform to anybody. It’s whatever I have on my mind. I’m not trying to fit in any type of box. Whatever I have up here in my mind I put out and once I’m done, I’m happy with it, however it may turn out,” he said.
For Detroit artist Tristan Slade, his work – painting, screen printing, woodworking, photography, and even sewing – is influenced by many things in his life that others can relate to from love and humor to depression and being stereotyped. Slade’s recent works, in their Pop Art style, center around relationships. A few of his pieces feature a kiss between same-sex couples. He said, “A kiss is a kiss no matter who it’s with, and love is all the same.”
Ashley Benke from Kalamazoo hopes that viewers can relate to her art, also.
“That’s what encourages me to keep moving on. To know that what I have to say isn’t just for myself. It’s for everyone else, too,” she said. “I hope people can say, ‘Oh, I went through that,’ or, ‘Oh, that’s exactly how I felt.’ I hope that it brings up happiness or peace or joy or whatever they need.”
She has created with the use of mannequins the Women Project, a found object and sculpture series about the common and uncommon thread of life women share.

When asked about the best way to approach the exhibition, Benke said, “It’s just about going and opening your mind and visually just getting a new experience. You don’t have to know about art. It’s really about expanding your mind. So for anyone who wants to come down and see these pieces, they will feel happy at the end because they’re beautiful pieces.”

The Hotter Than July Fine Arts Exhibition opens with a reception on Thursday, July 26 from 6-10 p.m. at The Carr Center, 1505 Woodward Ave. in Detroit. The exhibit runs through Monday, Aug. 13. Call 313-965-8430 for more information or visit facebook.com/carrcenter/.

Artists featured in the Hotter Than July Fine Arts Show:
Jack Kenny – Documentary Photographer, Author
Jay Coleman – Painter, Wood Carver
Anthony Williams – Photographer, Painter
Ashley Benke – Mixed Media Sculptor
Ari Hampton – Painter
Demetrius R. Green – Mixed Media Painter
Duane Vaugh – Painter
Christie Love – Poet
James Chism – Mixed Media Abstract Painter
Jeffrey Cross – Photographer
L.M.Coz – Mixed Media Painter
Jimmie Scott Robinson – Painter
(Jimmie is deceased. His work is represented by his wife Latanya Orr)
Lauren Bullar – Painter
Nathaniel Haris Muhammad – Mixed Media Abstract Painter
D.J. Perrett – Painter
Quenton Wright – Vocalist
Reggie Singleton – Abstract painter, Wood Sculptor
Slaw Stanislwaski – Painter
Susan Bankston – Painter
Tristan Slade – Mixed Media Painter
Verbert Bennett Jr. (The Bearded Chef) – Culinary Arts
Geno Harris – Mixed Media Abstract Paper Artist
Jice Demere – Poet Storyteller

About the Author:

Kate Opalewski
Kate Opalewski is BTL's features editor and has been since 2015. She has covered a variety of topics ranging from art, politics and community outreach. Recently, she was honored by the Detroit Police Department LGBT Advisory Board for her work for the local LGBTQIA community.