The JazzSpace Detroit exhibit, a 25 x 7 ft photographic triptych, was originally displayed during ArtPrize at the Grand Rapids African American Museum to reflect Michigan’s rich musical heritage of jazz, blues and Motown history.
The artwork is divided into three sections: two fabric panels are covered with photos printed via the dye sublimation process. The panels are hung on either side of a 5 x 7 ft canvas printed with the photo of saxophonist Faruq Z. Bey on a Detroit rooftop. This image was created from my original 35mm black and white negative that I printed on archival, fiber-based photo paper in my darkroom, color-tinted with Marshall Oil Paints, scanned, and digitally enlarged.
Approximately 70 photos are printed on the fabric panels. The collage design is reminiscent of a quilt — a collection of patches, each one a photo of a legendary musician that symbolizes an individual story and history. Included are Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Sippie Wallace, John Lee Hooker, Yusef Lateef, Marcus Belgrave, Roscoe Mitchell, Betty Carter, Roy Brooks, Griot Galaxy, Sun Ra, Miles Davis, A. Spencer Barefield, Regina Carter, Geri Allen, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Marion Hayden, James Carter, Robert Hurst, Ralphe Armstrong, and many others.
The left-hand panel displays 20th Century “darkroom” photographs, shot between 1973 and the late 1990s with 35mm black and white film. I developed the film and printed silver gelatin prints in my darkroom; some of the images were transformed from black and white to color by old-fashioned hand-tinting, oil-painting techniques, taught to me by Pulitzer-prize winning photographer Tony Spina, who was my mentor and head of the photo department at the Detroit Free Presswhen I was Art Director of the Free Press Sunday magazine in the late 1970s.
The right-hand panel includes “lightroom” photographs from the 21st Century, shot digitally and “developed” on my computer. Many of the photographs were shot at events that I helped to produce or organize. Each photo is embedded with personal stories. Most of the people I photographed are/were Detroiters or have Detroit roots, and many of them are personal friends.
All the photographs were shot in Michigan, primarily in Detroit, except for one photograph from 1981 of Stevie Wonder, which was shot in Washington, DC, for a huge Solidarity Day labor demonstration, where I also had the honor to photograph Coretta Scott King, Bella Abzug with Gloria Steinem, and thousands of workers from throughout the country. I was photographing the event for the UAW’s Solidarity magazine, where I was the art director at the time.