Open Your Eyes, Before It’s Too Late

March 30, 2017

It’s a strange and complicated thing, being awake.  When you get out of bed in the morning, when you open your eyes: then all bets are off.

We stumble and go through our morning-time rituals.  Some of us search out coffee or tea and maybe something sweet.  Others ingest healthy things, to better energize their day.

There’s a big difference between being merely awake and being wide awake.  It’s not enough to be not asleep.  Hyper-awareness comes on like a trance, like a broken song.  Sometimes, for the artist, this awareness is more like a dance.

Sometimes it’s a sad dance.  Sometimes it’s a happy dance.

We’re after truth.  We’re after magic.  We try to enter the deepest, secret heart of life itself.  We breathe the air of mystery yet shrug off most puzzlement.

Some people are asleep while they’re awake.  The hate reality and the train it rode in on.  They’ve perfected the use of blinders. They wear eyeglasses which distort everything, then proclaim “This is the way things truly are!”

To that, well “No, no, no (and then) no.”

The electronic fuzz of television, the delirium of dead-end wishing, the death/violence/ finance super-deal, the mockery and the distortion of love itself, the ridicule and disgust directed at the true poet:  all of these things and more.  They’re ready for a swift kick in the pants! They’re ready to be taken care of.

Open your eyes!  Open your mind and your heart.  Open them wide, before it’s too late.


Art Matters More than Ever!

February 26, 2017
From 1978

From 1978 “Invocation of the Forces of Summer”

1800’s poet Arthur Rimbaud talked about the friends of death and the enemies of love.  This has always stuck with me. *

The group to which he referred is now ascendant and clawing, cheating and back-stabbing their way to power.  This is going on not only in Great Britain and the U.S.A.  There are signs of it everywhere.

These people are no friend to the true artists and poets.  The creative, aware and alert mind is something which they disdain. Sometimes they may even dread it and fear it.

Art has an important part to play in resisting the dominant and pervasive misery.  If there was an undeniable and vigorous artistic Renaissance which wanted no part of them, it would help to awaken and inspire people.  We need not only to reach out to our own tribe but to the people on the fence.

If someone’s truly brainwashed and frozen within their delusion, it will be hard to sway them  Yet we need to keep trying.  We need to try to thaw or warm the relations in this cold, cold war.  One way to do this is through Art.  Art is a form of communication, among other things.

More Art!  Quality is more important than quantity, yet numbers don’t hurt.

Musicians, performers, singers, dancers, film-makers, actors/ actresses, cartoonists, writers, poets, photographers, print-makers, sculptors, artists and dreamers of all stripes: work hard, talk to each other, take to the streets and go door to door if need be. Renaissance Now!


*When I can locate the precise Rimbaud quotation I’ll append it here.

Here are some of the previous posts and manifestos that I’ve written which are connected to these ideas.

Renaissance Now:

Art Therapy for a Sick World:

Shake Up the World with Art:

For the Encouragement and Strengthening of the Arts:

From 2009:

Tips on making Political Art: 2017-2020

January 19, 2017


Tips on making political art from 2017 to 2020:

  1. Respond to events as they unfold.  Keep your eyes and ears open.
  2. Stick to the most real sort of reality.  The truth hurts but lies can kill.  Artists often dwell in a world of imagination.  Once again though, harsh reality rears its ugly head.  It will be hard to ignore. It may well be dangerous to ignore.  You may need to take a “sanity break” now and then.  Yet try to understand what’s happening and to respond to it.
  3. You need to do more than just preach to the converted.  You need to go outside of your own circle at times.  Some of the conservative citizens also care about the earth, love, human dignity, art, poetry, truth, respect, magic and beauty. Maybe we can change their minds or at least initiate a dialogue. Art is one way to do this.
  4. I’ve made a promise not to mention his name, or to mention it as little as possible.  Mr DT has all the publicity he needs.  He doesn’t need any help from me.
  5. Elsewhere, I’ve taken DT to be a humorless trickster.  If so, he’s one who hates being ridiculed or kidded.  Can he take a joke? That said, humor will have a part to play in any art that responds to these new events and new players.  Some believe that making fun of the man empowers him and even helps him.  Yet there must be something here that we can  make fun of!
  6. In responding to political events: if you’re frightened, if you’re sad, if you’re angry, if you’re enraged , you still need to carry on.  You need to have whatever you create still be an authentic work of art.  You need to speak to people, and to touch people.  Maybe you can move a few hearts and minds.
  7. Making political art may well connect you with the greater tribe of artists.  Dialogue and work with each other and enter into a spirit of solidarity.
  8. Art can wake people up.  It can shake them up.  It can make them more aware.  It can also be a balm or a medicine.  It can be a calmer place amidst the frenzy.  Both of these sides are important.
  9. Watch out!  Watch out for bigotry and the forces trying to make hating normal again.  Watch out for censorship and disinformation. Watch out for violence and incitement toward violence.  Watch out for stupidity and cruelty.
  10. Form the wagons into a circle.  Try to aid and protect the poor people.  Try to assist and protect each other, both through art and through life..
  11. Beside making art and viewing art, try to protest.  Go to marches and gatherings.  Write and phone your elected officials as regards those issues that you care about.  We’ll find out how good our checks and balances are.  Will America be a true democracy?


My old Blog Posts on Political Art:

REVOLTED! A  Political art shows in Highland Park, Michigan from January 21st to February 4, 2017:

The Uninvited, a political art event in Detroit, one day only, January 22, 2017 1-3pm:

Related material:

Political Art in Times of Trouble?

Political Art in the Age of the New Nihilism?


By Tomi Ungerer

More on my Autumn 1996 trip to France

December 30, 2016

Here are more photos from Paris.  You can click on them to enlarge them, then backspace to return to this post.

Paris, 1996.

Paris, 1996.


A two photo sequence: Carousel and Protest March/ Rally.

A two photo sequence: Carousel and Protest March/ Rally.

To be continued/ Watch this Space.  Good Luck in 2017!

In Paris, France 1996

November 30, 2016

This is part 2 of 3 parts.


Paris, September 1996. The sunset light.

My trip to France was a game changer.  All thanks are due to my good friend Jacques Karamanoukian.  It’s difficult to believe that it’s been nearly fifteen years since he’s left us.  Thanks also to the Musée de la Création Franche in Bègles.  I’ll talk more about them in next month’s post.

Without their sponsorship and support, I’d have never got to France.  I was working at my fairly awful job at a Detroit department store.  I did everything except for selling and management.  Everything.  I had several mediocre bosses and several horrible bosses there. Luckily at this time the best (or most humane) of the managers was in charge, Mr. Gene DeCrease. He allowed me to go on this trip.  With other managers, I’m sure I’d have had to choose between the adventure and the job.

It was amazing just going around by myself.  I’d get lost now and then.  I loved just wandering aimlessly and feasting my eyes.

I got to go to the Picasso Museum, Halle Saint-Pierre, the Musée d’Orsay and the Centre George Pompidou.

I wish I’d taken more photos.  I did utilize some one-use-only panoramic cameras.  I got a few good vertical shots with these too.


Paris 1996.


This is the next year, 1997, with an oil painting which was inspired by my trip to Paris and by Pablo Picasso.

My Trip to France in 1996

October 31, 2016
Drawn while riding the fast train from Paris to Bègles on September 28 1996.

Drawn while riding the fast train from Paris to Bègles, September 1996.

In late September and early October of 1996, I made my only trip overseas.  I left North America.  Perhaps I will do so again someday.

I was chosen to exhibit at the Musée de la Création Franche in Bègles, France.  Of the seventeen artists, I was the only American.  I was in good company.  I really enjoyed the artwork of the other artists that I exhibited with. Some, like Roy Wenzel and Evelyne Postic, I’ve looked at their work recently.  Others, I still need to track them down.

This was sponsored by my good friend, the late Jacques Karamanoukian.  We traveled together and he was my host, guide and translator.  Thank you, Jacques!

It’s hard for me to believe that this was twenty years ago.  It seems like it was far more recent than that.  So much of this trip is fresh and clear in my mind and heart.

I'm on the left, Jaber is center. Paris, September 1996. Photo by Jacques Karamanoukian.

With Jaber, center. At a Paris art gallery. September 1996. Photo by Jacques Karamanoukian.

I’ll try to have a more detailed history of this adventure next time.  For now, here a a few scattered memories:

The long flight was an experience in itself.  I’d flown to New York but this was different.  I was happy to be flying over Great Britain.  There were clouds and textures in the sky.

I was walking around Paris and Clamart reading Homer’s Odyssey, my travel book of choice.  I was also drawing a lot, of course.

My French language skills are fairly poor.  I know what a lot of  the words mean but I can’t string them all together.  People would translate for me.  I communicated with artists through art or through performance.  By the time I left I’d learned to make change at least, in my intent yet fumbling attempts to speak French.

I had one especially great walk where I just wandered around Paris. One thing that I found was this old store, Deyrolle. I especially loved its drawers full of brightly colored butterflies and moths..  I opened one drawer after another.

There were other surreal chance encounters.  I met one guy who knew the poet Ted Joans and a photo he’d taken of him in his wallet. Joans died in 2003.  I look at his work fairly often.

It was great going from Paris to Bègles.  We took the fast train and things seemed to rush by.  Bègles is in the south of France, near Bordeaux. Showing my work there was a great experience.  Besides most of the artists that I showed with, I met other artists as well.

These included Claudine Goux and Gerard Sendrey.  They’re both wonderful artists and had known Jacques for a while.

Musée de la Création Franche is a wonderful space.  It was a pleasure and an honor to be shown there.  My work was well received.


To close, here are some photos from a bit where I was playing Jaber’s puppet or mechanical man.  He “conducted” me despite the language difference.  He pretended to wind me up as if I had a key in my back and set me off on my action.  Jaber is quite a guy. He and Jacques were good friends.  I still see his work on the internet.  I’ll write more about Monsieur Jaber in the future.


Photograph by Jacques Karamanoukian


Photograph by Jacques Karamanoukian.


Photograph by Jacques Karamanoukian.



Ted Joans:

The Musée de la Création Franche, in Bègles:


Life as a Self-Taught Artist

September 30, 2016
"Apprentice" oils, late 1999 and early 2000.

“Apprentice” oils, late 1999 and early 2000.

Life as a Self-Taught Artist or What Did You Study and Whom Did You Study It With?

I’ve always been a real autodidact.  I went to college primarily to teach myself how to teach myself more efficiently.  I wanted to learn how to learn.

Learning  in order to be qualified for a better paying job just wasn’t on my radar at all.  My university studies only increased my status as a “sociable loner.”

It didn’t help much with my speaking skills.  That came later.  My college speech class and an attempt at studying acting both had limited success.  Later, I learned to enunciate and to speak more clearly through putting on puppet shows.  Now if I mumble, it’s usually intentional.

My undergraduate years also didn’t help my other “people skills” much.  I felt like a true outsider and misfit for a really long time.  That period did help to solidify my resolve to live my life as a creative artist and to better figure out just what kind of creative artist I wanted to be.

Much of the education and inspiration which I received came from books.  My reading is fairly intense and obsessive.  It’s also wide-ranging.

I especially loved cultural histories and biographies, especially the ones which studied poets, painters, musicians, filmmakers and surrealists.

I learned a lot by watching other people and by talking with other people.

Working with the Zeitgeist Gallery and Jacques Karamanoukian became a school of sorts.  I really learned a lot by doing collaborative works with other artists. We got together and did this every year, for seven years.  I came up with the idea of calling this series Visual Jam Sessions.

I also learned a lot by drawing large (and in public) on downtown Detroit’s Hudson’s building.

It also was great to go to live performances.    I paid close attention to art that I saw at museums and art galleries.  Observation and study are key.

Most important, though, is to practice, that is to work.  You need to keep at it as best you can.  You need to jump through a lot of hoops to be able to steal time.  Paint, write, perform, dance, sculpt or construct as you will.  Keep swinging, keep plugging away and never give up the ship.

There’s something true about the old idea of learning by doing.  If you can’t or won’t go to school, there are other ways how to learn to do what you love to do.

Once I’d done 10,000 drawings I started to feel that I was going somewhere.

It’s not essential to be a polymath as well, but for me it works.  The rewards outweigh the distractions.  I have many interests, and I like to cast a wide net.



Lost Cultural Venues of Detroit: Social Spaces and Playgrounds

August 31, 2016


As I’ve said, the people of Detroit don’t want to stay at home all of the time.  We’ve long had a need to go out and about and to put our foot in it.

Some go out on the town only rarely, as a special treat.  Others go out a few times a week.

Then there are people who seem to go out every night.  It might just be for a drink or two at a neighborhood bar.  Not many can afford to go to restaurant or nightclub every night.

You can hear some great stories in bars.  Is this entertainment too?

There have been many special scenes and special places in Detroit.  It’s long been a great place for music and for other cultural pursuits.

It’s great to hang out with old friends or family members.  Sometimes you want to meet new people.  One searches for a date. or better, a partner.

Then too, connections lead to connections.  Series of spontaneous and interlocking communities emerge.

We become part of an audience.  In cushioned seats or folding chairs, we experience theatre, music, dance. poetry or cinema.  It can be lovely to be a spectator, seated with other spectators.  Other times though, we get out of our seats.  We watch people dance. We dance ourselves.  We mingle.  We party.

We search for the place where mystery lives.  We sit in the corner, dreaming.



Lost Cultural Venues of Detroit: I Was There

July 31, 2016


In the late 1960’s, when I was in high school, I started to explore the city.  I don’t drive, but I do get around.  Most of my travels were on the bus. Early on, I’d go to programs in Detroit’s Cultural Center.  The Detroit Institute of Arts, the Main Branch of the Detroit Public Library and Wayne State University all had good exhibitions and events.  I’d hang out downtown as well.  I started to frequent the art galleries.

When I was a bit older, in college, I’d go to the bars and clubs a bit more.

I was obsessed with films and film history early on.  I’ll go into this in depth in my Cinema blog.  Suffice to say that not only was I going out and seeing films.  I was showing them.

You could borrow films from the library.  I’d organize film programs for children at the Monteith Branch Library, where I worked.  Then I’d borrow films to show at our coffee-house.

I was always very involved with Detroit’s underground and alternative movie house scene.


Art by Bill Bryan, color by Maurice Greenia, Jr. / circa 1970’s.

The Catacombs Coffee House was the first utopian art space which I was involved with.  I’ll write an entire post about it eventually.  It ran from the early 1970’s into the early 1980’s. I think that it was open for around ten years.

Several nationally famous performers got their start there.  The same is true for a number of Detroit musicians, performers and artists, including myself.  I was also part of the crew that booked the shows, ran the kitchen and kept the whole thing going.

It was magical and vibrantly eclectic.  Programs included films, jazz, rock, poetry, comedy, theatre and more.  It attracted huge crowds from all over the Detroit area.

The Catacombs was held in a church basement in Detroit’s Jefferson-Chalmers community.  The neighborhood was lively.

One of its other treasures was the Concerts by the River series.

This great Summer concert series featured a strong line-up of Detroit jazz, blues and gospel performers.

The Vanity Ballroom was also in that neighborhood.  I saw jazz shows there.  I saw the Stooges and the MC5 play there.  I had to leave partway through the MC5’s set, alas.  It was 3 or 4am and I was 16 or 17.  I could only stretch my curfew just so far.  Later on, I was also part of a film crew which filmed part of a movie there.

The Cinderella Theatre was there too.  It was an old movie theatre which was briefly a rock club.  I was there when the J. Geils Band recorded a live album there.


So many of Detroit’s annual outdoor festivals are gone.  I went to all of them.  I especially miss the Festival of the Arts.  Thank goodness that the Concert of Colors and the Detroit Jazz Festival are still going strong.

The Fourth Street Fair was the second utopian art experience in which I was involved.  This was a one day annual block fair.  It started small and kept getting bigger and bigger.  When the final fair was held, in 2007, there were four stages on different parts of the block.  The crowds got bigger and bigger too.

For fifteen years I helped with the fair.  I’d help set up the stage, do cleanup the next day and so on.  Eventually, I’d perform there with the Don’t Look Now Jug Band, the Space Band and my puppet thing.  It was an eclectic mix of Detroit performers including a lot of rock music. It was always an essential Summer party.

The third utopian art group I joined was centered around the Zeitgeist Space on Michigan. It was another lively, magical scene. It was primarily a theatre and an art gallery, yet we branched out into presenting music, cinema, poetry and communal painting as performance art.

The late Jacques Karamanoukian ran Galerie Jacques in Ann Arbor. He was also connected with the Zeitgeist and with Rabbles Coffee House in St. Clair Shores.  He added a lot to the scene.

I was very  involved with the Zeitgeist.  I’d help put up and take down the exhibits, help publicize our activities, help clean up and help decorate the building with art.

Over the years, there were often solid live performances at other art galleries as well, including  the Willis Gallery and the Johanson Charles Gallery.

In these special, magical scenes, there was always a group of dedicated planners and workers at the core.  Then, if you’re lucky, there’s some sort of support group and an alert and responsive audience.


Art by Brian Taylor.

There were many great spots where I’d hang out and sometimes get to perform myself as well.  At first, this involved reading my poetry. Then in 1988, I started doing puppet shows. In 1992, I joined a band.  In 1998, I helped found a second band.

Cobb’s Corner was a wild scene.  I didn’t get by there very often. Yet I went to poetry readings, art shows and some musical shows there.

Alvin’s had so many great events and bands.  There were mostly local acts yet some great national acts as well, big names.  I think that the last time I saw Sun Ra perform was at Alvin’s.  I was with the Don’t Look Now Jug Band when we opened for the late Vic Chesnutt.  I did puppets at Alvin’s as well.

I only got by the Song Shop and the Grinning Duck Club a few times. Both were always a treat to visit.  They were unique.

404 West Willis, Zoots and the Art Center Music School were also regular hangouts.  I’d go for shows and sometimes be on the bill myself.

I was more involved with the Freezer Theatre than most.  I started to hang out there when it was a poetry and theatre club. This was in the early 1980’s.  I was less involved in its last days, when it became a hard-core punk rock club.  I got by a few of those shows.

I saw the Talking Heads, Stephane Grappelli and much more at the Punch and Judy Theatre in Grosse Pointe.  I saw my share of live music, including both local and national/ international performers.

I got to the Gold Dollar around ten times.  I performed there just once, doing a live soundtrack to a movie starring my puppet troupe.

I went to the after hours jazz at the Rappa House a few times.  I kept getting more and more into jazz and blues.

I’d go to outdoor events like the Belle Isle Kite-In, the Unity in the Community Concert Series at Clark Park, the Detroit Rock & Roll Revival at the State Fairgrounds and the Goose Lake International Music Festival.

There are plenty of other places I could mention.  There are other stories to tell.  I’ll save some for later.  Then too, there are a few places I’d go to as a young man that are still active now including the Scarab Club and the Detroit Institute of the Arts.  I’m hoping that strong new places and new scenes will arise and thrive soon.




Lost Cultural Venues of Detroit: June 15 through September 10, 2016

June 16, 2016
Circa early 1960's. From the Collection of Lutz Bacher

1963.  From the Collection of Lutz Bacher.

Lost Cultural Venues of Detroit: Social Spaces and Playgrounds.

This exhibition pays tribute to places in the city of Detroit.  These include bars, ballrooms, art galleries, coffee houses, nightclubs, dives and spaces for after-hours jam sessions.  They were here but now they’re gone.  The same structures hold other venues or sit empty.  Many have been demolished.

I’m attempting to find evidence of areas where people gathered to listen to music, lectures or poetry.  Also included are venues where the music was closely tied to dancing.  Then too, there are spots where we got together to watch films outside of the usual circles of “commercial cinema.”

Through books, original material and copies of original material we attempt to travel back in time.  We list and remember the places we’ve lost.

I also include outdoor festivals and block parties, especially those which were held annually.

Some of these are scenes that I frequented and knew well.  Others were before my time.

Then there are the buildings destroyed by freeway expansion in the early 1960’s.  The Black Bottom/ Paradise Valley/ Hastings Street neighborhood was a vital part of Detroit’s cultural history.  I’ll look for material connected with this.

Music is always an important part of any scene.  Detroit has had a rich history in jazz, blues, soul, folk, rock, punk, classical, electronica and more.  I’ll try to touch upon and remember as much of this as possible.

This collection is primarily concerned with Detroit.  However, there will be some notice taken of the suburbs.  Also, while the focus is on lost venues, some mention will be made of longstanding cultural spaces.  There are places which have enriched our cultural life for many years.  Often though, for better or worse, they’re no longer what they once were.  They’re still good though.

I’ve been collecting materials since the early 1970’s.  I’ve also found or borrowed other materials from the 1920’s through the 1960’s.  I’ve found books and ephemera here in this library’s collection.

Thanks a lot to this exhibit’s supporters, including Lutz Bacher and Dave Toorongian.  A collection is more valuable when it sees the light of day.  If you have any especially interesting material yourself, let me know what you have.  Perhaps I could borrow it or scan or photocopy it.

The exhibit will change over the next three months.  I’ll take things out and add other things.  I’ll open books to different pages.  It will get denser and more complex.  Get by if you can.

At the Library of the University of Detroit Mercy, McNichols Campus. 

June 15 through September 15, Summer 2016

It’s open Monday through Friday.  The current hours are Monday through Thursday 9AM to 10PM.  Fridays 9AM to 5:30PM. Please note: The show is closed weekends until September 10th.   The curator was not present from August 22 to 29th as he’s “on assignment.”  Paper flyers for this show should be available there, if you’d like one.  

The run’s been extended a few days from the 10th to the the 15th or so. Parts of the exhibit may continue past the 15th and into September.  Yet it will start to disappear and soon be reduced to just two cases.  These too, will vanish by October.

(I’ll usually be there myself, but not always.  Eventually, I’ll do an extra paper handout.)

If you come see this show, note that it’s in two parts.  There are a series of showcases when you first walk into the library.  Then there are two more showcases far off to the side.

The location, directions and other information:


2121 Cass. Open from 1967 to 1980.

Take One is the physical exhibit itself: Lost Cultural Venues of Detroit: Social Spaces and Playgrounds.

Take Two will be an essay or two that I’ll write on the history of Detroit’s past cultural venues.  I’ll post it here or on my Adventures and Resources blog.  Then I’ll have paper copies to hand out too.  I’ll also do a post just listing as many names as I can, breaking them down by categories.

Take Three is a facebook page.  This is now active.  It will continue, even after the exhibit is dismantled.  Other people can put images or links on there too, so long as it relates directly to the subject at hand.  If you’re interested in it, here’s link to it.  It includes further information, including images, web links and related material:


From the Collection of Lutz Bacher.

kuumbaPost Script:

Thanks to Dave Toorongian and Lutz Bacher for loaning items for this exhibit.  

Thank you to library at the University of Detroit Mercy for continuing support of this and other exhibitions.