Critics’ Picks

Martha Mysko, What To Do With Windows, 2021, mixed media, 80 x 40 x 15".

Martha Mysko, What To Do With Windows, 2021, mixed media, 80 x 40 x 15".



Cranbrook Art Museum
39221 Woodward Avenue
January 26–June 19, 2022

Walking into the lower-level galleries of the Cranbrook Art Museum to see the group exhibition “Homebody,” I first encountered Martha Mysko’s What To Do With Windows, 2021. This large framed mixed-media work features a photographic reproduction of a living room, with three cream-colored accordion lampshades jutting out from the picture’s surface. Holes are cut into the image, and out of them rise various textiles based on the appointments in Mysko’s piece, like a patterned fabric that resembles a throw depicted on a sofa. One of the slits partially obscures a bouquet of white daisies resting on a coffee table, while the same plastic and three-dimensional flowers, along with fake fern leaves, emerge from this opening.

“Homebody” features the work of twenty artists with ties to Detroit and draws its central theme from the way pandemic isolation has evolved our relationship to where we live. In Ricky Weaver’s photograph “God’s gonna trouble the water, 2021, the artist creates four clones of herself, two of whom carefully pour water into crystal glasses around a kitchen. Each figure’s face is obscured, veillike, by her long hair, giving this strange scene a mournful quality. As Gaston Bachelard wrote in The Poetics of Space (1957), “A house constitutes a body of images that give mankind proofs or illusions of stability.” This conceit is apparent in many of the pieces: Take Dessislava Terzieva’s meditation on the struggle for escape in the era of the plague, When You Can’t Leave the Country, Build a Portal, 2020. This sculpture features a plastic washbasin; inside it is a swirl of wrinkled clothes topped with dried yellow flowers, all glossy and frozen from resin, as the receptacle hangs vertically on the wall like a mirror.

In Victoria Shaheen’s sculpture Rebekah Lodge, 2018—which is named after a group founded in 1851 under the fraternal Independent Order of Odd Fellows—we see a ceramic bouquet growing from the seat of a large wooden dining-hall chair, designed by Eliel Saarinen in 1928. A silicone rubber mat is hastily draped over the chair’s lower rungs. The chair acts as a scale balancing the two objects, while the mat further grounds this ordinary object to the floor. The flowers draw the eye up the back of the chair: At the top is little decorative square made of metal, depicting a crane, the world’s tallest flying bird. It appears worn, framed by Saarinen within the sturdy and protective wood, where it’s been isolated and trapped for the past ninety-four years.