Arts & Culture » Visual Art

A cute pain


For the month of February, Hamtramck’s Primary Space gallery further establishes itself as a local champion of all that is emerging from bittersweet and honey-buttery painter Trish Grantham.

With Toast, Trouble and Tears, Grantham — a self-taught artist from Portland, Ore. — draws from the comic-manga-sanrio canon to turn such items as white toast, teeth and cafeteria milk cartons into post-pop, sad-cute characters.

This show — like several recent shows at Primary Space by Kurt Halsey Frederiksen, Deth P. Sun and Amathin, to name a few — represents the influence anti-consumerist graphic design has had on young painters who came of age in the heyday of complexly drawn cartoons and graffiti art. The end result is a knee sock-wearing, Indian style-sitting contingent whose emotional discourse includes topics such as Hello Kitty.

In Grantham’s work, doe-eyed, pursed-lipped and pigtailed girls peek out insecurely from behind cameras and overgrown bangs. Snaggletoothed bunnies, wistful birds and dejected panda and squirrel characters — with names like Bunny, Robot-Panda and Carl the Squirrel — are not in short supply.

Grantham works mostly with acrylic, watercolor, resin and ink on wood panel, sometimes layering the panel with vintage Japanese paper, to create an appealing mess of smooth, simple sweetness. And while her style is slick graffiti-meets-graphic design, her ink-drawn characters are cushioned by dusty pink and blue clouds and smeared color fields of minty green.


Until Feb. 26, at Primary Space Gallery, 2750 Yemans, Hamtramck; 313-870-9470.

Melissa Giannini is a freelance writer. Send comments to

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