Beyond Ruin Porn and Inside the Motor City Muse

By Amanda Lewan on April 29th, 2013 / Comments

The story of Detroit has often been told in the visual media as a story of ruin. Photos of the city’s decay have even earned the nickname “ruin porn,” though Detroiters and visiting artists know there’s much more in existence to this tale.

The Motor City Muse exhibit at the Detroit Institute of Arts (D.I.A.) portrays an alternative visual story, one that combats ruin porn with unique and historical perspectives.

Nancy Barr, Curator for the D.I.A., put together Motor City Muse with this in mind.

“It was really a matter of representation of Detroit,” said Nancy. “Detroit’s changing and we wanted to document this.”

The Motor City Muse gallery shows a dialogue between past and present, with landscape shots placed next to an often emptier, yet still beautiful Detroit of today. Nancy described the famous photographer Robert Frank’s fascination with the city back in the 1950’s.

“Detroit is such an American Dream city. Robert Frank wanted to come here and look at the American Dream,” she said. Frank’s black and white photos of workers resting at lunch offer a bleaker view of the American Dream, a dream represented through the past and present photographs on display.

The exhibit features local work from Detroit photographers as well as visiting artists. German photographer Karin Jobst photographed the city during her recent visit, and her work is currently on display in a visual grid capturing the architecture that encapsulates a sense of place in Detroit.

“I was interested in bringing out all of the decades in my photography,” said Karin, who found many unique colors in the city through shots of Belle Isle, the Fisher Building, the Brewster Buildings, and more.

“I would drive around the city and feel so much energy,” Karin said. “There’s a feeling of being an art pioneer here that I haven’t felt anywhere else. I’m curious to see what happens in the next few years.”

About the Exhibit

The Motor City Muse exhibit is open now through June 16 at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Admission to the museum is free for anyone living in the tri-county area. The exhibit features over 100 photographs by Hentri Catrier-Bresson, Robert France, Dave Jordano, Karen Jobst, Detroiters Nicola Kuperus, Russ Marshall and Bill Rauhauser, along with other select works.

Karin’s Jobst work is also currently on display in at Lee Jacksons PF Galleries in Clawson. Learn more about her work by visiting her website.

Follow the DIA to keep up with more exhibits, and share with us your own art and perspectives of Michigan.

Similar Articles: Why We All Need Art in Our Lives, Why Photography is Good For the Soul, Interview with Detroit Artist Tyree Guyton

About the Author

Amanda Lewan

Amanda Lewan

Editor @michipreneur. Co-founder Bamboo Detroit. Follow me @Amanda_Jenn. I love telling the story of entrepreneurs and innovators.