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Straight Off the Assembly Line


24 x 30"

acrylic on canvas

LAMP Fine Art, Indianapolis, IN


In our exploration of Michigan, we realize that this broken state is full of great contrasts. We enter through the Upper Peninsula (called the U.P. by locals), and arrive in a landscape full of raw beauty. The leaves are just beginning to change, and look as if their tips have been dipped into a palette of gold and maroon paint. Streams of light sneak through gaps in the forest and guide us through winding roads. After crossing the Mackinaw Bridge to reach the Lower Peninsula, we stop at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Here, 450-foot sand dunes plummet into Lake Michigan. It is a

fantastic sight, and if it weren’t for the thought of hiking back up, I would slide down the mountain of sand and cool off in the lake. Unfortunately, the resplendence of Michigan begins to fade as we travel further southeast.

Small towns seem deserted and crops look dry. By the time we reach a run-down Dearborn, Flint and Detroit, Michigan’s majesty has completely escaped our minds. Power lines grid the sky along a drive down Eight Mile, and beneath trash, broken picnic tables and overgrown grass, we catch a glimpse of Belle Isle Park. A large stone fountain features as the centerpiece, where children run and Muslims kneel to pray. The water appears cleansing, until we take a closer look. Algae has turned the stagnate liquid green and in some areas, chip bags, paper cups and beer bottles replace what should be filled with water. It appears that Motor City has been driven into misery. Radio broadcasters speak of recent layoffs at the Ford Motor Company, giving us an insight into why this area has become what it is.


Today, it hasn’t stopped raining. We spend about seven hours at Panera Bread Company in Farmington Hills. A chai tea, chicken artichoke panini and sugar-loaded coffee keep me alive through the monotonous process of emailing galleries. As I sit and watch the raindrops race down glass windows, I suddenly realize how much this adventure has exposed to me. Although my memory is fractured when it comes to left-brain references, I have a better understanding of history and my surroundings. A journey like this should be a prerequisite for every college student. I have also grown to appreciate how much I still have to learn. This project could take place in a single state, or even town. In fact, one could spend an entire lifetime trying to understand the relationships that take place under a single roof. 

We display the Wisconsin-inspired painting in Ann Arbor, but head to Chelsea to meet with a gallery that we have been in contact with. Here, at West of the Moon Gallery, we meet Marsi Parker Darwin. While in her twenties she had taken a year and traveled around the southwest, so she could relate to our life on the road. She misses traveling, but is sympathetic to the physical and emotional strains that a nomadic lifestyle brings. We have a great time talking with her about everything from traveling and the project, to the different contrasts of Michigan, and in the middle of our conversation she points out the window to Jeff Daniels. He owns a theater in town, and sure enough, is walking across the parking lot.