Melissa Merli's Art Beat: Visiting artist will share love of trashformation

Melissa Merli's Art Beat: Visiting artist will share love of trashformation

Anyone who knows even just a little about contemporary art realizes that more artists and craftsters are using recycled materials. Some call it green art; some, "trashformation."

Among green artists is Michelle Stitzlein, who with her artist husband, Nathaniel, founded Art Grange Studios in Baltimore, Ohio. She will be the artist-in-residence at the first Hatch, the I.D.E.A. Store's juried exhibition and art fair featuring works made from recycled materials. It will take place March 1-3.

While here, Stitzlein will lead a mural-building project with students at South Side Elementary School in Champaign; present a slide presentation at the McKinley Fitness Center; and lead a daylong workshop in making mini-murals from plastic bottle caps. That session is designed for teachers, art therapists and other interested adults.

As featured artist, Stitzlein also will exhibit two of her large moth sculptures, made, of course, from recycled materials, during the Hatch exhibition at the Indi Go Artist's Co-op in downtown Champaign. The exhibition will be on view March 1-17.

Stitzlein's work has been shown in art and craft museums nationally. And, as an artist-in-residence, she has visited more than 50 elementary schools and organizations "to share her passion for creating with humble materials."

She also collects art made from recycled materials from India, Guatemala, Mexico, South Africa, Peru, Bolivia, Colombia and Namibia.

To see her amazing trashformations, check out

Submissions for Hatch, billed as A Creative-Reuse Art Festival, continue to stream in, both for the art fair and exhibition.

"We have some quality submissions, including work from artists in Indianapolis and Chicago," said Melissa Mitchell, communications coordinator for The I.D.E.A. Store.

Hatch will be the first creative-reuse art festival produced by The I.D.E.A. Store, a sort of thrift shop that benefits the Champaign Urbana Schools Foundation.

We will, of course, let you know more about Hatch shortly before it happens.


Susan Becker, an adjunct professor in the University of Illinois School of Art + Design, teaches a fashion design course there. It ends each spring with a runway show featuring costumes made by students from recycled materials.

It's a gas.

Becker, though, did not use recycled stuff to make costumes for another UI professor's latest work, Jennifer Monson's "Live Dancing Archive," which will be presented Feb. 14-16 and 21-23 at The Kitchen in New York City.

Becker instead used new materials that are fairly standard for dance costumes — mostly polyester knit and some fake fur. The project, of course, is unrelated to the work she does for the fashion design course at the UI.

"Working with Jennifer was so amazing; it was such a great experience," Becker told me.

Becker also will create costumes for another UI professor's work that we admire: Deke Weaver.

Weaver, a talented writer, performer, and video and graphic artist, will premiere "Wolf," part of his Unreliable Bestiary Series, this fall at Allerton Park in Monticello. Another component will take place on buses, Becker said.

Monson's "Live Dancing Archive," which will be presented at Krannert Art Museum in the fall, is described as a visceral exploration of the dancing body as a physical archive of experience and place. This description comes from The Kitchen, a well-known center for video, music, dance, performance, film and video:

"Drawing from more than a decade of dance-based environmental research, 'Live Dancing Archive' has been choreographed using material from video documentation of (Monson's) 'The Bird Brain Osprey Migration' (2002), an eight-week dance project along the Atlantic flyway, in addition to improvised scores accumulated over the past decade.

"The full evening-length solo performance is accompanied by two additional components, a video installation and a digital archive, which query the process of archiving as well as the shifting nature of dance and environmental phenomena.

"Proposing that the body has the possibility of archiving and revisiting multiple scales of experience, Monson specifically looks at the way experiences of the environment and ecological dependencies are registered through physical movement. The work further explores how Monson's navigation of her own queer, feminist and animal-like body has shaped relationships to cultural and social phenomena. 'Live Dancing Archive' negotiates and explores what a queer ecology might offer for dancing bodies and rapidly shifting conceptions of environment and place."

Monson received funding for the new piece from the New England Foundation for the Arts' National Dance Project. Lead funding came from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and additional funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Becker's fashion design course at the UI is funded this year by Allen Hall and Weston Hall, both UI residence halls. Her students' fashion show is set for 7:30 p.m. May 4 at Ikenberry Commons.

Hot artist

ArtBookGuy — aka Michael K. Corbin, an art collector, writer and full-time broadcast journalist, has included UI painting Professor Patrick Earl Hammie in his list of 106 Super Hot Artists for 2013.

Among others on the list is Greg Drasler, a painter who graduated from the UI in the 1970s. I looked through the list of 106 artists but didn't recognize anyone else with local connections, though there probably are.

ArtBookGuy sounds like a cool guy.

"A New York City native, he travels far and wide for art's sake," his bio reads. "He writes for various art websites that include and of course,"

He also loves books and writes and produces books about his experiences with art. He describes as an online magazine about contemporary art, artists, culture and life.

Art cities

ArtPlace, a public-private coalition of major foundations and the National Endowment for the Arts, recently released a list of the 12 top art cities in the United States.

The organizations picked cities that have successfully combined the arts, artists and venues along with independent businesses, restaurants and a walkable lifestyle to create more vibrant neighborhoods.

The winners: Brooklyn, N.Y.; Dallas; Los Angeles; Miami Beach, Fla.; Milwaukee; New York; Oakland, Calif.; Philadelphia; Portland, Ore.; San Francisco; Seattle; and Washington, D.C.

Lose the numbers

UI grad student/C-U native Ben Grosser continues to receive attention for his Facebook Demetricator, an open-source software program he created that removes most of the numbers from your Facebook feed, making it feel less like a high school popularity contest.

The latest came in an article ( in The Atlantic about researchers at the UC-San Diego who tried to determine from people's Facebook activity who their closest friends were.

Grosser was quoted as saying that Facebook is not itself a neutral space and that the subtleties of its algorithms can shape which friends we interact with and how often we do so.

"The question I would ask is not whether these quantifications of interactions on Facebook are predictive of who our friends are," Grosser added, "but more whether the ways that Facebook prescribes interaction are changing how our friendships develop."

The article goes on to say: "This is not to say that the effect is strong enough to actually change who our closest friends are, nor that this is in any way nefarious, he emphasized, but just a reminder that Facebook doesn't merely capture a portrait of our social lives; it also contributes to what that portrait looks like."

News-Gazette staff writer Melissa Merli can be reached at 351-5367 or Her blog is at

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