02/29/2012 09:48 am ET

'Beauty Debate': The Detroiter's First Annual Invitational Show Examines Role Of Beauty In Art

Two events planned this week aim to make Detroiters think about beauty in art -- and find some of it to admire.

"Beauty Debate," the first annual invitational art show organized by the arts website The Detroiter, opens Saturday at the Art Effect gallery in Eastern Market. It comprises work by 18 artists, some familiar in Detroit, and others coming from New York, California and farther-flung places.

While the show will let art lovers make up their own minds about the role of beauty in art, Wednesday night's accompanying panel will come closer to a real "debate," engaging artists and critics in a discussion to provide a thought-provoking introduction to the gallery show.

The panel will be moderated by "Beauty Debate" curator and Detroiter Editor-in-Chief Colin Darke and will include artists, critics and curators from WDET, the Detroit Institute of Arts, College for Creative Studies, the Detroit News and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. One of the panelists, Hrag Vartanian, who runs the art site Hyperallergic, will join the panel from New York on Skype.

For the show, Darke said he chose artists whose work and style are completely individual. To him, individuality equates with beauty.

"If an artist is pushing himself, you appreciate that," Darke explained. "I see beauty in terms of someone being truly unique and capturing a unique vision."

Darke noted Topher Crowder, one of the featured artists, as someone who captures that uniqueness.

"A lot of people wouldn't consider his work beautiful … [but] it really knocked me off my feet," Darke said. "It's kind of distorted and disturbing ... because of the intricate detail, it fascinates."

Emerging artists from across the country are bringing work in all media to "Beauty Debate." They include Vince Cacciotti, Brian Barr, Tim White-Sobieski, Elle Deadsexicon, Man Bartlett, Judith Hoffman, Lauren Rice, Bryant Tillman, William Irving Singer, Ron Zakrin, Geno Harris, Carla Gannis, Man Bartlett, Stephen Maine, Clarina Bezzola, Ashley Zelinskie, Matthew Davey and David Gerhard.

"They either use materials differently, or have an outlook on life that resonates through their imagery," Darke said of the artists. "Most of them do touch on physical beauty, but that's still in the background -- in the foreground is just this look at life that kind of shifts your perspective because its something very new and fresh."

Working as a curator, Darke said he was influenced by his own process as an artist, but it was important to him that none of the work in the show reflected his own aesthetic.

"I research each artist and picture them in a circle, how they interact with each other, as if I was creating an installation piece," he explained.

Darke also said he tried to steer clear of work that evoked an aesthetic that has often been attributed to Detroit, such as using found objects or industrial imagery. Instead, he focused on artists' individual voices.

The show begins Wednesday with a charity preview ahead of the general opening, with some proceeds going to support a writing fellowship for a volunteer writer for the Detroiter website. Both the fellowship and the Detroiter are supported by Y Arts.

Charity preview attendees will be tempted with an array of food from local restaurants and a fashion show featuring bathing suits from Grosse Pointe's Morada Blue Swimwear. Darke said the fashion show melds well with the figurative art work included in the show.

"[It's about] just appreciating human beauty," Darke explained.

Although considering the theme of "beauty" is one way to approach and interpret the work in "Beauty Debate," Darke said his intentions when choosing pieces for the show were much simpler.

"The primary focus is having great artists all in one place so people in Detroit can see them and find some new favorites," he said.

The "Beauty Debate" panel is Wednesday, Feb. 29, at 7 p.m. at the Boll Family YMCA, 1401 Broadway Street, Detroit. The "Beauty Debate" show, which runs March 3 through April 21, opens Saturday with a charity preview at 6:30 p.m. and general event at 8 p.m. at the Art Effect Gallery, 1420 E. Fisher Fwy., Detroit.

The panel and show during regular hours are both free, and suggested donation for admission for the charity preview is $25. For more information about the show, artists, panelists and gallery, see the Detroiter and Art Effect Gallery's websites.