Arts & Culture » Visual Art

A base in chaos



Adam Winnie doesn’t have a television. He does, however, have a coffeemaker — good thing, because he needs it.

While many 21-year-olds are still in bed, trying to sleep off last night’s party and cursing the pounding footsteps outside, Winnie is at work. It’s a beautiful Saturday morning and this baby-faced guy is taking a short break from his job as a custodian at the University of Michigan.

“I tried going to college, but it just wasn’t for me.”

But the term “drop-out” just doesn’t suit this kid. On the campus of one of the most prestigious universities in the Midwest, the world of academia seems a million miles away. This unimpressed worker wants to talk about art:

“My mission (if I have one) as an artist is to make things a little more random,” says Winnie. He’s a sweet guy, terminally polite, and possesses the slightest hint of bashfulness. His alabaster face is pierced by a lip ring and his head is capped by the sort of dreadlocks that only a straight-haired person could grow. Winnie creates art for what he believes are cathartic reasons — he makes no bones about the importance of creativity in his life, but his works are as deliberate as they are an extension of his whimsical side.

“I sometimes don’t even finish my pieces,” he says, and when asked why, adds, “Maybe it’s exhaustion, maybe it’s boredom … society always forces things to be ‘finished’ and I am trying to get around that.”

The standard art-conversation cringe begins to set in. How many regurgitated art history 101 lessons have disguised themselves as dialogues about art? How many glasses of syrah were consumed before the world realized that half of the crap that burgeoning artists and critics say about art is complete and utter hyperbole?

But, thankfully, there’s an honesty to Winnie that reassures us that this is not another one of those lofty conversations. He’s celebrating his very first official art opening at the Dreamland Theater in Ypsilanti and his nervousness is endearing.

“Many of the galleries are a little bourgeois,” he says when asked about going to shows at other venues. His use of the word “bourgeois” is delightful; I wonder how many years ago it was that the young man learned the meaning of what many would consider the poor man’s “open sesame” into the world of subculture. I can’t help but anticipate more naiveté. But almost immediately, Winnie begins to show a heartfelt side. He explains that he thinks that he can “find some order in the chaos” and “vice versa.”

His pieces use a lot of repeating shapes and color schemes, and while Winnie assembles his works as a disconnect with the real world, there’s an obvious gravity to them.

“It always starts with a base,” he says.

One can’t help but be intrigued — knowing that Winnie insists on a base, but from there creates randomness, the dichotomy fascinates. As he moves from photography to photograms to mixed media and sculpture, some might say that he lacks focus and, hell, maybe he does … but isn’t that one of the appeals of youth? It certainly is one of the appeals of his artwork.

Shouldn’t all 21-year-olds still be figuring out who they are? Winnie’s attitude is nothing if not refreshing — and it gives his viewers no prescribed idea of what the future holds for this young Dada enthusiast.

Sometimes it’s just nice to behold the guy on the block who killed his television, revels in a good cup of joe and takes time to think things over. Sometimes that’s all you need.


An exhibition of Adam Winnie’s works opens at the Dreamland Theater (44 E. Cross St., Ypsilanti) on Sunday, July 20 at 8 p.m. Call 734-657-2337 for information. Live music will be provided by Patrick Elkins and Rootstand.

Eve Doster is the listings editor of Metro Times. E-mail

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