Love it or hate it, the Dream Cruise is upon us — the time of year when classic car fans from all over the world clog Woodward Avenue in a tribute to the almighty automobile.
While the annual cruise remains a polarizing presence, a group of artists are attempting to appeal to lovers and haters alike with a car-themed art show planned for the Rust Belt Market.
The show will predominantly, though not exclusively, feature the artwork of women, including Jacx (Jaclyn Shanes), Debbie Sipes, Olivia Huszti, Amanda Morrill, and longtime scene fixture Niagara. It will also feature fashions by Janna Coumoundouros, who makes dresses out of car parts, and musical performances by Josie Pace, Jill Fitzgerald, and StunGun.
Joell Leining-Hart, who organized and produced the show as Iconica Art & Design, says the effort to primarily feature women was a conscious choice to be inclusive. "We try to include more women in our shows, which I feel is important because sometimes when I see shows I notice there's very [few] women involved," she says. "So I always make it a point to include 50 percent or more." She also points out that as Detroit-based artists, many of them have been incorporating automotive themes in their works for years.
Sipes, who is a photographer and collage artist, says it's important to highlight the accomplishments of women in the art field, and counts Niagara among her early influences.
"Back in the day, I used to look up to [Niagara] because not too many women artists were doings things in this area," says Sipes of Niagara, a pop artist who crossed over from Detroit's nascent punk rock scene and is known for her paintings of femme fatales. "And she just did it. She didn't care what people thought. I always loved that kind of tenacity she had, because she continued to do it, no matter what. So that kind of influenced me to not be afraid of putting myself out there, because that's something I always wanted to always do, which was to just create art, no matter what it was."
That "just do it" attitude rubbed off on Sipes, who says she worked in marketing for 20 years before she switched gears to study and pursue photography. She says when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015, she began making collages as a way to pass the time during treatment, mixing her landscapes with images pulled from vintage fashion and advertising.
"I had to do something, because a lot of times you're in bed, you're sick and you can't necessarily work at the pace that [you] used to work at," she says. "So I one day thought, 'I need to do something,' and I started to create these collages of old Detroit locations ... I would take landscapes and then incorporate things that I love, like vintage fashion, vintage cars, scooters, motorcycles. So it was kind of taking what you expected and then putting the unexpected with it... creating these collages that kind of contrast themselves. You have the soft and then you have the hard. The two edges meet. That's kind of the way I felt at the time."
Sipes says, like the other artists featured in the show, cars inevitably cropped up in her work. "Automobiles are such a part of everybody's life," she says. "Mine's not necessarily a focus; it's more how we use cars."
Leining-Hart says the show should provide an offbeat, lighthearted addition to the Dream Cruise festivities. Located at Nine Mile and Woodward, Rust Belt Market has a prominent location for pedestrian traffic, and already features plenty of automotive-themed vendors, including Speedcult's Mad Max-inspired metalwork and Detroit GT T-shirts.
"I know that a lot of people have an attitude, especially locals, like, 'just leave the premises' because you're kind of landlocked" says Leining-Hart of the Dream Cruise traffic. "We want to get people to embrace the cruise and support local art."
Hell on Wheels runs from 5 p.m.-9 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 18, and noon-7 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 19, at Rust Belt Market, 22801 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 810-441-0956; rustbeltmarket.com; free admission.