Detroit Phoenix

Submitted by Paul Seftel

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Client: Gregory Holm- Antietam

Location: Detroit, MI, United States

Completion date: 2015

Artwork budget: $25,000

Project Team

Artist

Paul Seftel

Client

Gregory Holm

Antietam Detroit

Overview

To create a 25 x 6 ft stone and metal fresco mural as a feature wall for a 1930’s inspired, nightspot and restaurant, to capture the timeless spirit of Detroit. Fusing the elements of nature and industry in a light shifting surface, the wall was intended to be both the backdrop and feature, bringing together the tin ceiling, marble art deco floor and custom lighting, furniture and wood paneled surfaces. The brief was also to blend abstract geomorphic qualities with the angular art deco features, capturing a sense of time and experience.

Goals

Every part of this project was created by commissioned artists and artisans, in order to give a high quality, handmade and timeless feel to the space. In contrast to the art deco architecture, the goal with the ‘Detroit Phoenix’ fresco was to brings abstract geomorphic qualities into the overall design, blending abstraction with the art deco geometry, and create an elemental and organic feeling within the space. Complimenting other features, the aluminum powder and iron oxide were used to blend the colors of metal and wood within the space, reminding us of Detroits’ history of metal and fire. The piece was also intended to capture the shifting light of day as the sun streams in through the windows at sunset, reflecting its burning colors across the wall, to the shift in evening atmospheric lighting. In order to achieve these geomorphic and light reactive qualities the piece had to be created in the studio, on canvas, to later be transported and installed on site.

Process

I was flown out to Detroit by fellow artist, friend and restaurant developer/ owner Gregory Holm to give some ideas on bringing his building to life and creating a feature wall. Looking at the space and the other elements involved, we defined the color and feeling together. He looked at mark marking in my paintings and identified fields and pools of pigment that i’d achieved in prior work as something he’d like to see large scale across the feature wall of his space. Having identified these colors, moods and materials - we decided that using limestone, marble dust, quartz and polymer, to create a stone surface coated with aluminum powder and saturated with iron oxide would be the right surface and feeling or a historical wall that held something of the mystery of the past and future. natural cracks in the stone surface were intended, entropy captured as part of the process.

Additional Information

This project was achieved against the odds. To get the desired end result it had to be created off site and on canvas. Creating it in my studio in NYC, I had to make the stone and metal surface pliable enough to roll, transport and adhere to the wall in Detroit without falling apart in the process. The 25ft length is actually divided into two places by natural breaks in the wall. The piece reflects Detroit’s ‘against the odds’ resurgence and Greg Holm’s challenge in creating a now top listed space in Detroit’s happening restaurant scene.