ANN ARBOR, MICH.-
Detroit-based architect Catie Newell wants to capture her citys darkness before its all gone.
Once the worst in the nation, Detroits streetlights are being replaced by thousands of LEDs in a $185 million infrastructure project. Before all the lights come back on, Newell has been working to document that darkness in neighborhoods around the city.
The lights are coming back, and well lose that darkness, she says.
Newells photographs are the focus of a new exhibition, Overnight, on view at the University of Michigan Museum of Art
. Overnight includes photographs from her Rome project, as well as new photography from the series Nightly, featuring nighttime images of Detroit streetscapes and interiors, alongside a site-specific sculptural installation commissioned by the Museum.
The installation draws on Newells architecture background, and is made up of materialscopper, aluminum, piano wire, LEDsthat reference the city streetlights, and will be lit at night.
The most important element in Newells formal artistic vocabulary is light, not only as a material in its own right, but also as a condition. Varying in strength, form, and duration, light constructs architecture as a situational experience rather than a fixed space. Newells fascination with light is a fascination with darkness. Through urban interventions, installations, and photographs, she investigates how darkness creates alternate environments, with unseen geographies, untold histories, and secret identities.
Ive always been interested in darkness and the night, Newell says. Colors look different. Things have a different hierarchy, based on whats lit and whats not.
Exploring the neighborhoods around East Grand Blvd. and the Grand Belt in the middle of the night, Newell purposely avoids the now clichéd abandoned structures around the city. As Detroits new LED streetlights come in, Newell said she looks for hot spots of light surrounded by darkness.
Im more interested in capturing these moments that are kind of impossible, she says.
Newell, assistant professor of architecture at the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, is a recent recipient of the Rome Prize in architecture. Her Overnight exhibition runs at UMMA in the Irving Stenn, Jr., Family Gallery from June 11 to November 6.