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Branching Out: Michigan Woodworkers

December 11, 2014 through February 9, 2015

Top: Rebecca DeGroot
Lacewood and cherry

Mike McClung
Off the Grid (one of a Pair)
Walnut, ebonized walnut, leopardwood, and wenge

L. C. and Margaret Walker Gallery II

Branching Out features the art of Michigan artists who work in wood. Sculpture, fine furniture, and craft objects will be on display, highlighting the range of techniques and forms these artists are incorporating to create their pieces.

Wood is a versatile medium, readily shaped and assembled into myriad forms. It can be left raw and natural, stained and varnished, or painted, allowing for a range of expressive possibilities. Wood can appear soft or hard, heavy or weightless, dense or translucent. It is this versatility and beauty of the wood medium has attracted artists for centuries.

The artists in Branching Out were selected based on their history of producing creative and expressive works of art in wood. All live and work in Michigan, providing guests an opportunity to explore the diversity of our State’s fine art community.

The participating
artists are:
Jake Blok,
James Day,
Rebecca DeGroot,
Don Doezema,
Mike McClung,
Josh McVety
Jeff Salter,
Joel VanDam,
Jim VanderWoude,
Jim Wellise, and
Jerry Ward


Branching Out is part of the MMA’s ongoing Made in Michigan Artist Series, a commitment to supporting and exhibiting the work of Michigan artists.

Branching Out is underwritten by the Van Kampen Boyer Molinari Foundation. Media Sponsor is Blue Lake Public Radio.


Thursdays in January, 1:00–3:00 pm
Open Public Tours

Meet on the upper level every Thursday for free exhibition tours led by MMA docents. January tours feature The Essential Elijah Pierce and Branching Out: Michigan Woodworkers.


The Essential Elijah Pierce

December 11, 2014 through February 9, 2015


Top to bottom:


Elijah Pierce (American, 1892–1984)
Elijah Escapes the Mob, not dated
Carved and painted wood
Columbus Museum of Art, Museum Purchase

Elijah Pierce (American, 1892–1984)
Before Death All Are Equal, 1946–1947
Carved and painted wood relief
Columbus Museum of Art, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Boris Gruenwald

Elijah Pierce (American, 1892–1984)
Picking Wild Berries, 1979
Painted wood relief
Columbus Museum of Art, Museum Purchase

L. C. and Margaret Walker Gallery I

The MMA presents The Essential Elijah Pierce, an exhibition of more than 40 woodcarvings by African American carver, barber, and lay preacher Elijah Pierce (1892-1984). The narrative carvings are drawn from the collections of the Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio, whose holdings of the self-taught artist’s prolific output are the most comprehensive in the country.

Pierce, who was born on a cotton plantation in Baldwyn, Mississippi, spent most of his adult life in Columbus. His carvings are hailed as important additions to the history of American folk art and to the larger story of American art as a whole. A master storyteller, Pierce often worked this phrase into his pieces: “Your life is a book and every day is a page.” His “sermons in wood”—religious themes, moral lessons, and secular subjects—all share this philosophy: we are given a clean page every day upon which to “write” our lives.


The Essential Elijah Pierce marks the first time in 20 years that the Columbus Museum of Art has organized an in-depth study of Pierce’s work. It builds upon Columbus’s seminal 1993 exhibition, Elijah Pierce, Woodcarver, which was organized in part by Jane Connell, at that time a member of Columbus’s curatorial staff, and today the MMA’s Director of Collections and Exhibitions/Senior Curator.

The Essential Elijah Pierce was organized by the Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio. The exhibition is sponsored by the Nancy Waters and Mark Waters Fund at the Community Foundation and Blue Lake Public Radio.


Thursday, December 11
Opening Reception & Lecture

5:30 pm Reception
7:00 pm Lecture by MMA Senior Curator Jane Connell
Your Life is a Book: The Woodcarvings of Elijah Pierce
MMA Senior Curator Jane Connell first saw Elijah Pierce’s barbershop, a mere two blocks away from the Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio, in 1981, when she became a member of their staff. At the time of Pierce’s death in 1984, the museum acquired more than 100 narrative carvings that became the core of the most comprehensive collection of Pierces in the country. In 1993, the CMA’s seminal exhibition Elijah Pierce, Woodcarver, was organized, in part, by Jane Connell. Join her for an in-depth look at Pierce’s “sermons in wood”—the religious themes, moral lessons, and secular subjects that, in the history of American folk art, made Pierce an icon among African American self-taught artists.

Thursday, December 11, 12:15 pm
Brown Bag Film

Elijah Pierce: Wood Carver
(18 mins.) This documentary showcases Elijah Pierce and his work.

Saturday, December 13, 10:00 am – 3:00 pm
Reindeer Super Saturday
Free Family Fun Day

Tour the Elijah Pierce exhibition and make a wood reindeer ornament. You can also see a free family film in our auditorium and meet a REAL reindeer next door at Hackley Public Library.

Thursday, January 8, 12:15 pm
Brown Bag Film

Sermon in the Wood
(27 mins.) In this interview from his barbershop on Long Street in Columbus, artist Elijah Pierce talks about his work and his life and shows how his carvings express his experiences and beliefs.

Thursdays in January, 1:00–3:00 pm
Open Public Tours

Meet on the upper level every Thursday for free exhibition tours led by MMA docents. January tours feature The Essential Elijah Pierce and Branching Out: Michigan Woodworkers.


Japanese Warriors: Robots from the Warren Schwartz Collection and Japanese Traditions

November 6, 2014 through February 15, 2015

Zaboga, from the Warren Schwartz Collection

Ganera, from the Warren Schwartz Collection

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi
Japanese, 1839-1892
Kinsei Gikyo Den
Woodblock, not dated
Hackley Picture Fund Purchase 1975.13

Michael and Kay Olthoff & Thelma and Paul Wiener Gallery

Renowned Boston-based architect and rabid collector of toy Japanese robots, Warren Schwarz is one of five major collectors of toy robots in the country. He is sharing with the MMA a selection of his more then 1,000 robot toys that originated in Japan, showcasing these strange and legendary action figures whose golden age of popularity was from 1972 to 1982. Many toys from Schwartz’s collection are rare examples and often include their original packaging.

Legions of these Japanese exotic playthings were, in part, architecturally inspired and rooted in centuries of Japanese history and culture. Shiny and colorful, their characters were identified with their own story lines developed for Japanese TV shows and movies. The alluring robots, both fearsome and playful, are festooned with spikes and swords, spring-powered missiles and “rocket punches.” They invaded U.S. toy stores with an irresistible frenzy, beginning decades ago, and are still zealously collected today.

During the fertile decade of the early 1970s and 1980s, some of the most popular Japanese pop-culture characters were created including Godzilla, Red Baron, Jumbo Machinder, Ultra Man, Mazinger Z, and the Transformers. The toys from this period remain among the most unique and imaginative playthings ever created for children worldwide. Works from the Schwartz collection have been featured in Super #1 Robot (Chronicle Books, 2005), and in several other publications for Japanese animation enthusiasts. 


Sponsored by Cinema Carousel





Thursday, November 6
Opening Reception and Program
5:30-7:00 pm Opening Reception
7:00 pm Lecture by W. Schwartz
Join us for refreshments; then learn about the world of Japanese robot toys by one of their most avid collectors. Free and open to the public.



November 6, 2014 – January 26, 2015
Japanese Traditions from the Permanent Collection

Alcoa Foundation & Ernest and Marjorie Cooper Gallery

Japanese Traditions features the art of Japan in a wide array of eras, media, and subject matter, all pulled from the MMA’s permanent collection. Woodblock prints of the 18th and 19th centuries will be included along with prints from the 20th century, revealing both a continuity and transformation from the past. Nineteenth and 20th century ceramics, decorative arts, and works of contemporary glass are also highlighted. Japanese Traditions accompanies the Japanese Warriors, providing a deeper perspective into the cultural and artistic origins of the robot collection.

The following programs are free and underwritten by MMA Education Partner Alcoa Foundation/Howmet.

Saturday, November 8, 10:00 am – 3:00 pm
(Robot) Ornament Designer Super Saturday
Free Family Fun Da
Create a robot-themed ornament for the Super Saturday Christmas Tree, which will be part of the MMA’s Festival of Trees display that opens November 20. Each young designer will get a free kid’s FOT admission ticket. Super Saturday activities will include guided tours through the Japanese Warriors exhibition and an anime film.
10:00 am – 1:00 pm Guided Tours
Tour Japanese Warriors with an MMA docent.
10:00 am & 1:00 pm Film
Castle in the Sky
(125 mins) This children’s anime adventure features young miner Pazu and mysterious girl Sheeta, who team up to find the long-lost island of Laputa, which is rumored to have great riches and gems.
11:00 am – 2:00 pm Make & Take
Design robot ornaments using recycled items, including garland and more, to adorn a Super Saturday Festival of Trees holiday tree!

Thursday, November 13, 12:15 pm
Brown Bag Film

The Hidden Fortress
(139 mins.) Director Akira Kurosawa's classic adventure depicts the travails of two scheming peasants drafted by a defeated general to escort an imperious princess and her clan's royal treasure through enemy terrain. Free coffee and cookies are provided. Bring your own lunch.

Thursdays, November 13 and December 4, 11, 18
1:00 – 3:00pm
Open Public Tours

Drop in for guided tours of Japanese Warriors. Reservations are not required.

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