Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Starring "The Gallery" Featured Artist

I'm pleased to announce that I am the featured artist for November at Starring "The Gallery" in Northville, Michigan.

Many of the photos that I have posted on my Facebook page over the last few weeks are new works which will make their public debut and will be on exhibit there for the entire month.

You are cordially invited to attend the reception:

118 W. Main St.
Northville, Michigan

Featured Artist: James C. Ritchie, Photography
Artist Reception: Friday, November 7, 2014  6:00 - 9:00pm

Artist Bio: James Ritchie is a native of Northville, and a self-taught photographer. His work stems from his many interests which range from the art of automotive design; railroads and machinery; architecture; to historic subjects, scenes and events, and more.  His award winning photographs have been published on book covers and calendars and have illustrated newspaper articles and web sites across the country and around the world.


Mr. Ritchie's work is set apart from that of others because he rarely portrays a subject in its entirety. Instead, he creates a series of details that, to him, are its very essence. Recently he has developed a slight variation of this modus operandi. While he still seeks subjects that fascinate him, and he still presents mainly their details, he has been inspired to get out of his visual box and to see things with "new" eyes.


His new objective is to find the art in ordinary, overlooked, and ignored sights in life. That "art of the ordinary" focuses not necessarily on what something "is," but rather on the colors and contrasts, light and shadow, and / or geometric shapes of a scene or subject.

Some of his work in this new perspective is presented here for the first time.

Follow "James Ritchie Photographic Art" on Facebook.

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Sunday, June 1, 2014

Rescue for Detroit's National Theatre?

Detroit's National Theatre in late afternoon.

The National Theatre is located on Monroe St. between Randolph and Farmer. When it opened as a vaudeville house on September 16, 1911,  it was the newest addition to an already bustling entertainment center. Theatres, billiard halls, cafes, bars and restaurants lined both sides of Monroe, with even more on nearby Randolph, Cadillac Square, and Woodward Avenue.

   Tinted photo of the National Theatre on Monroe near Farmer St., c.1915.

 South side of Monroe between Campus Martius and Farmer, c.1915.

The new National stood out from its older companions day and night. Its brilliant white terra cotta tiling was impossible to ignore by day, but its nighttime presence was even more alluring. The entire facade is studded with light sockets on its face, in its deep-set arch, and behind the lattice work which illuminated it inside and out, creating a dazzling sight at night.

The National Theatre ca.1911

Among its neighbors and competitors were the old Detroit Opera House and Temple Theatre on Campus Martius, where Compuware now stands. 

Opera House, Merrill Fountain, and Temple Theatre, 1906.
The Merrill Fountain was moved to Palmer Park in 1925 where it remains today.

Temple Theatre c.1905

Temple Theatre, 1905.

Nearly all of 19th Century buildings on the south side of Monroe - many dating to the 1850s - were demolished in 1990. The sole survivor of Detroit's first theatre district, the historic National is the only known Albert Kahn-designed theatre still in existence. 

South side of Monroe looking east from Farmer, 1989.

South side of Monroe looking west from Farmer in 1989. 
All of these buildings were demolished the next year. 
[ Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) ].

The National has been in the news as a possible candidate for some sort of renovation. Last fall it was learned that Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert was interested in acquiring the landmark theatre for new development. His real estate arm has already purchased most of the properties near it, and several others around town.

The building has lain empty, forgotten, and neglected for decades, and any possible hope of its rescue is very welcome news. But, as happens so often in Detroit, purchase by a developer does not necessarily guarantee a restoration like the Fox, Gem, or Opera House (the former Capitol / Grand Circus Theatre). Damage to the structure is so severe that restoration is doubtful. If any preservation happens at all, only the street facade may be spared destruction.

The City has taken possession of the property from an owner who has, for more than a decade, failed to deliver on promises to restore or renovate it.  With that hurdle cleared, new mega construction on the entire south side of Monroe from Campus Martius to Randolph is certain. The National's survival definitely is not.

Read more about the National Theatre at HistoricDetroit.org

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Sunday, May 25, 2014

West of Center Exhibit 2014, Northville Art House

"West of Center" is an annual all-media exhibit at the Northville (Michigan) Art House. This year's event was juried by Detroit native and renowned fine artist, Robert Schefman. He is the Foundations Department Chair, and Associate Professor at The College for Creative Studies in Detroit. His work has been shown and collected in galleries and museums across the country (including the Detroit Institute of Arts), and is represented by the Robert Kidd Gallery in Birmingham, Michigan.  Visit Mr. Schefman's website to read more about him and view his work. Read an interview with him at ArtHopper.org.

I am extremely honored that a juror of such high esteem has chosen one of my works for this exhibit.


Dunlap Shadows
16x24 Gallery Wrap Canvas

West of Center
June 6 - 28, 2014
Opening Reception: 6-9 pm, Friday, June 6, 2014

Northville Art House
215 W. Cady St.
Northville, Michigan


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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

New at Fred's Ice Cream

Last year I was invited to display some work at Fred's Ice Cream in Northville Square which featured several images of Northville.

I recently replaced these two pieces . . .
 Vintage Bottle Cap (16x16)
1950s Sign (12x36)

. . . with this new scene.
East Main Street

The series is now entirely Northville sights and scenes. Watch for other new pieces during the coming months.

These, along with much more of my work, are available at The Urban Pearl Gallery (formerly State of Mind) at 120 E. Main St.


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Monday, May 19, 2014

New Venue in Walled Lake

I am pleased to report that some of my work is now also available at a relatively new store in Walled Lake, Michigan just four miles north of the shopping mega-plex in Novi.

Below the Bridge and Above is a little store in a little town offering exclusively Michigan-made products. Here you can find all kinds of fascinating things with a Michigan connection from condiments and preserves, books, and jewelry to artwork, and more.

Below the Bridge and Above
123 E. Walled Lake Dr.
Walled Lake, Michigan

First Friday - May, 2014 
My friend Rick Merrick and Below the Bridge owner, Susan Voydanoff at the opening reception for Rick's show.

Read about Walled Lake's history and its famous amusement park (with lots of photos) at Water Winter Wonderland.


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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Lawrence St. Gallery - Exposures 2014 Photography Exhibit

I have been invited for the sixth time in as many years to Lawrence Street Gallery's annual photography exhibit, Exposures 2014.

This year's entry debuts the first two works in my new series "Night Lights" which explores the quiet beauty of places most people pass by without noticing, wouldn't deliberately visit during the day (much less at night), or don't even know exist.

1897 Firehouse

20th St.

These particular pieces are sublimated onto 12"x18" aluminum sheets. This relatively new process produces color depth that surpasses that of any any traditional paper process.

This year's juror is Jenny Risher, who hails from Mount Clemens. She is a highly regarded commercial and fashion photographer, and has also published Heart Soul Detroit,  a volume of portraits and interviews of 50 notable and influential Detroiters.

Exposures: Photography '14
April 2 - 25, 2014

Lawrence Street Gallery
22620 Woodward Ave.
(1 block south of 9 Mile Rd.)
Ferndale, Michigan

Opening Reception:    6 pm, April, 2
Mid-month Reception: 6 pm, April 18

Regular Gallery Hours:
Wed. & Sat., Noon to 5 pm
Thurs. & Fri., Noon to 9 pm

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Friday, March 28, 2014

Faygo ghost sign tagged into oblivion

In late 2011 or early 2012, this building abutting a former grocery (now liquor) store in Detroit . . .  

Google Street View  July, 2009: 

Google Street Views July, 2011:

 . . . .  burned to the ground and revealed several vintage signs, dating back to at least the mid-1950s if not the late 1940s or before, including a classic Faygo Orange (far left), and KowalsKi sausage sign (middle, mostly hidden):

The signs after they first appeared in 2012 

To my surprise and delight this Faygo sign looked almost exactly like it did when the adjoining building was constructed:

 Vintage ghost sign as it appeared in early 2012.

According to the Faygo web site, this logo originated in the 1930s and was used into the 1950s. My search for anything with this logo style on it had, until that day, been futile.

I have returned several times since then in hopes that the debris and remnants of the adjoining wall might have been cleared so I could see and photograph the other vintage signs on the wall. On each of those visits I was disappointed - but not surprised - that the rubble remained. I was, however, astounded and extremely relieved to find that the Faygo sign remained untouched. Perhaps, I thought, local vandals and taggers might have spared this priceless classic out of respect for the art and history it represents.

Fast Forward 2 years.

In March 2014 I was nearby again so I drove by, still hopeful that the Faygo sign remained unscathed and the others, by some miracle, might be revealed, too. 

Silly me !

Nothing is sacred, respected, spared or preserved in this town. It just took longer than usual for vandals to find it and destroy it:



I have plenty more to say about  #%M*^@&F(#*B%@S&%  like this, but none of it is fit to print. I'm sure you can fill in the blanks . . .

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Bond & Bailey Machining, Detroit

The Bond & Bailey building on W. Fort St. in Detroit is one of my favorite old buildings. I like it because of its unique character, its slight lean, its "ghost" sign on the east wall, and most of all because it is at least 125-130 years old and still being used (I think). I have been unable to learn anything about its history except that Bond & Bailey has been there "since 1948," according to the sign out front.

Bond & Bailey Machining and its neighbor the Detroit Trucking Co. 
building, aka, Don Miller "Land Storage" - May, 2012

 Former Detroit Trucking Co. building - May, 2012

 This neighboring building was constructed (late 1930s - 1940s?) by the Detroit Trucking Co. and was later occupied by Bond & Bailey Machining, and then Don Miller Land Storage. It was still standing in 2012 after being vacant and suffering at least two fires. As you can see it was a mere shell awaiting its dismal fate which was most probably demolition. The only question was, how and when.

The answer came when it burned again (likely due to a scrapper's torch) the afternoon of June 29, 2012, just 40 days after the photos above were taken. After a 2-hour battle the fire was extinguished without injury. The building has since been demolished. 

The late 1800s Bond &Bailey building still stands. These photos show how it looked in 2012:

Bond & Bailey Machining (2012)

A sign on the east wall by the entrance boasting their services (2012)

It was - and still is - comforting in some way to see the little building still there each time I pass by. At the same time, though, I always wonder how much longer it will be there. While this old stalwart still stands it has been, like so many buildings in Detroit, senselessly defaced by tagger vandals. I was furious when I saw it on a drive down Fort Street in July of 2013. Taggers have painted the entire side of the east wall, completely obliterating the terrific old sign:

July, 2013

For what useful purpose was an historic building defaced, and a vintage sign destroyed?

What or who is TAF-TMK, and why should anyone care???

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Sunday, January 5, 2014

Lawrence Street Gallery: Best of 2013 Exhbition

I am pleased to have been invited to participate in Lawrence Street Gallery's annual exhibition which showcases the prize-winning artists from their four annual juried shows (Invitational, Figurative, Photography, and Small Works)

Exhibition organizer Laura Host says, “Just as music, theater, and literature look back on the best of the previous year’s offerings, we at the Gallery have decided to give the public another chance to take a look at the new work of last year’s top picks.”


I first "discovered" Charles Sheeler (1883-1965) in 2004 when his work was exhibited at the Detroit Institute of Arts. I was - and continue to be - completely captivated by his precision and realism, and how he created art from subjects to which the average person would never give a second glance or thought. To my mind, Sheeler and Edward Hopper were cut from the same cloth.

While he was a painter first, out of neccessity in 1912 he taught himself photography to make a living. He did such a remarkable job learning the craft that it soon became his full-time occupation.  By the 1920s his paintings and photographs received equal recognition. In 1927 Ford Motor Co. commissioned him to do the series of photographs and paintings of the Rouge Steel plant in Dearborn that so enamored me.

His 1939 photographs of the pistons and drive wheels of a New York Central locomotive were used as a reference for "Rolling Power," one of a series of paintings on the theme of power for Fortune magazine in 1940. "Wheels," is basically the same composition as his painting, but the photograph on which it was based no longer exists.

"Rolling Power No.1" is my homage to this master of canvas and camera, and was the inspiration for my subsequent "Iron, Steel, & Steam" series, two of which will also be exhibited.

Rolling Power No.1
Homage to Charles Sheeler

 Iron, Steel, and Steam No. 1
(First Place - Exposures: 2013)

Iron, Steel, and Steam No. 2

Other participating artists are: 

Jud Coveyou - Ferndale
Suzanne Rock  - Leonard
Mary Ann Rutledge - Sterling Heights
James Ritchie - Northville
Eliza Ollinger - Detroit
Jean Lannen - Bloomfield Township
Peter Tkacz - LaSalle, Ontario,
Janet McCall Rimar - Clarkston
Brant MacLean - Detroit
Jonathon Downing - Carleton
Rosemary Lee - Howell
There will be two receptions:
Opening: Friday, January 10,  6 - 9 pm
Mid-Month: Friday, January 24,  6 - 9 pm 
I hope you can join us for one of them.

Regular Gallery Hours are:
Wednesday & Saturday: Noon - 5 pm
Thursday & Friday: Noon - 9 pm

Lawrence Street Gallery:
22620 Woodward Ave.
(1 block south of 9 Mile Rd.)
Ferndale, Michigan

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Monday, December 30, 2013

Packard plant update

The enormous 35-acre Packard site made news throughout 2013. Vagrants caused several fires, and scrappers continued to pick its bones of structural steel causing the collapse of several sections of different buildings. In July Bill Hults, a would-be developer from Chicago, made overtures to purchase the site, but failed to produce the money. 

In October the entire site went on the Wayne County auction block. A high bid of over $6 million dollars was made by a Texas doctor who  put up about $200,000 in earnest money, but ultimately failed to comply with the auction process and forfeited the cash. The property was then awarded to the next highest bidder, who turned out to be the Chicago developer whose bid was $2 million. He put $100,000 down to secure his bid, but again failed to produce the money. The property was then awarded to Fernando Palazuelo, a developer from Peru whose $405,000 bid was the 3rd highest.

Lintel of main entrance to the Packard Motor Car Co.

The photo above was taken just days before the entire entrance facade was removed from the building and shipped to America's Packard Museum in Dayton, Ohio. This piece of Detroit's automotive and architectural history may be gone, but it is available to you as a 10" x 20", 12" x 36" or a nearly life-size 20" x 60" canvas gallery wrap photographic print. Each canvas has a solid substrate to prevent warping, is 1 1/4" deep, has a finished back with wall bumpers and hanging hardware already installed.  A "must have" for any Packard owner or enthusiast !

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Friday, December 27, 2013

Michigan Central Depot Centennial

Michigan Central Station

When Detroit's Michigan Central Railroad depot opened a century ago on December 26, 1913,  it was a majestic symbol of the city's grandeur and phenomenal industrial success.

It was the tallest railroad station in the world, and the fourth tallest building in Detroit. The Michigan Central Railroad (a subsidiary of William Vanderbilt's New York Central RR) spent $16 million - about $332 million today - on the new station, office building, yards and the underwater rail tunnel, which opened on Oct. 16, 1910. The cost of the station alone was about $2.5 million ($55 million today).

Today its hollow ruin has become an icon of the city's monumental decline.

From 1884 to 1913 the Michigan Central Railroad operated out of a depot in downtown Detroit at Third and Jefferson. In 1906 the company began constructing a tunnel under the Detroit River to Canada. To meet the demands of its growing business the railroad decided a new and much larger depot should be built nearby and began acquiring property in the Corktown neighborhood in 1908.

The new depot was to be formally opened on January 4, 1914, but a fire broke out at the old depot around 2 p.m. on December 26, 1913. The flames spread and it was quickly determined that the building was no longer usable. To avoid disruption of service, operations were hastily moved to the new building, and at 5:20 p.m. the first train departed for Saginaw and Bay City. An hour later its first inbound train arrived from Chicago.

Seventy-four years later, at 11:30 a.m. on Jan. 5, 1988, Amtrak 353 bound for Chicago became the last train to roll out of the once-grand depot.

Its only use in the last quarter century has been to serve as an easel for graffiti vandals, a makeshift shelter for vagrants, a target of scavengers and scrappers who have stripped it of anything and everything of value, a paintball shooting gallery, and an occasional set for apocalyptic films.

Read more about it here:

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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Now Showing at Fred's Ice Cream - Northville

Fred's Ice Cream has partnered with State of Mind Gallery and is displaying some of my canvases with a Northville and soda "flavor."

Fred's is a localy-owned family business named after the owners' late father. Most products in the store are from Michigan-based companies, and they serve Hudsonville Ice Cream in homemade waffle cones which are made right in the store!  Fred's fountain fare features floats with Michigan Soda Company flavors, ice cream sundaes, and fresh-fruit blended ice cream. There is also a large selection of Gelato, frozen yogurt and Dippin' Dots, too. Be sure to visit their store, web site, and facebook page.

Fred's Ice Cream
Upper level of Northville Square
133 W. Main at Wing St.

 Northville Clock (24 x 30)

 Vintage Vernor's Bottle Cap  (16 x 16)
 Vintage Vernor's Sign  (12 x 36)

  Manhole Cover  (24 x 36)

 Northville Marquis Theatre  (24 x 36)

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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

New canvas size for Packard plant entrance

In August, 2008 the main entryway facade of Detroit's Packard plant was removed and shipped to America's Packard Museum in Dayton, Ohio. At present it has not been reassembled and only the lintel is on display. (Read more about it here.)

Can't or don't want to travel all the way to Dayton, Ohio to see this historic automotive artifact? Now you can enjoy a canvas wrap replica in your office, den, or garage.

Previously only available as a 20" x 60" canvas wrap,
it is now available in a slightly smaller 12" x 36" canvas wrap size.

Signed, 12" high x 36" wide x 1 1/4" deep canvas wrap.
A "must have" for any Packard owner or enthusiast !

Area outside of red rectangle is wrapped around sides.

NOTE: These canvases are printed as they are ordered, so please allow up to 3 weeks for free delivery.

Order yours here

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Mystery of Novi's Name

Manhole Cover - Novi, Michigan

 It is documented that the area west of Farmington, Michigan was first settled by Erastus Ingersoll and several other families in April, 1825, one month before the opening of the Erie Canal. But, how Novi's name came to be is shrouded in mystery and myth. One common notion is that this place was the sixth stop, toll gate, or mail drop (No. 6, or, in Roman numerals, No. VI) along a road, railroad. or stagecoach line. This is completely false because the town was named and incorporated in 1830, and Novi's toll road was not built until 1855, and the railroad didn't arrive until 1861.

The story of Novi's name will probably never be determined with any certainty, but it is possible that it may have a Yugoslavian connection. In 1936 Novi officials received a letter from the Yugoslavian Consulate in Chicago saying many people in Yugoslavia knew of the town called Novi in Michigan. The letter related a romantic legend of a young soldier who fled to the U. S., and that his heartbreaking tale of lost love had influenced the selection of the name. 

There is no documentation to corroborate this tale, but there may be a grain of truth in it. In the 1990s a Novi News reporter was vacationing in Croatia and took it upon himself to investigate a possible connection. He found no concrete clues to the city's name, but did find that the names of a large number of cities in the area began with "Novi," which translates to "new." Like the colonials who named their settlements New York, New Jersey, etc. in tribute to the home they left for a new beginning, this might also have been the case for Novi.

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