Ed Fraga’s most recent exhibition at the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center (BBAC) was one of his longest-running, but also seen by very few people. At least in person.
As March hit and brought with it quarantine, Fraga was able to have an opening reception for Rising, before the BBAC closed to the general public, except for those who made an appointment, which is what they’re still doing.
“It’s kind of like when a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does it really happen? Same with this,” Fraga said. “Does a show happen even though no one sees it? If your heart was in it...then yeah, there’s something about the spirit, the intentions were good, so, good things came out of it.”
The series itself, which consisted of about 15 works, began when Fraga was given blueprints from a friend. Said blueprints ended up being from Michigan architect John Hilberry and were of a building he had designed that was going to serve as a synagogue, church, and entertainment center.
Fraga ended up repurposing them with whitewash to strengthen the paper and then put oil paint on top of the that. You’re still able to see some of the original blueprints in the pieces, but Fraga’s interpretation is very much there.
“I was pleased,” Fraga said. “I could have been really depressed because I put a lot of money into framing the work, but I felt great about how the work looked.”
“I would never have framed them and put them in the show if it weren’t for Annie (VanGelderen, president & CEO of BBAC) kind of rallying behind the work,” he continued. “It was a good sense of accomplishment seeing the work I started in 2014 together, all in one room.”
Rising not only featured the paper works but a table in the middle he reassembled to look like an architect’s table, with construction built on top and below, where a little village with churches, temples, and entertainment centers could be found to encompass the original intentions of the blueprints.
“In the end, I make art that hopefully has some elements of beauty, so that when you walk away you feel that it expresses something soulful and beautiful,” said Fraga, a Kresge Artist Fellow.
The Detroit artist’s love for art itself goes back decades. As a child, Fraga – who likes to work in many mediums but is partial to painting on paper or wood – had an eye injury which landed him in the hospital for months. While he didn’t lose his vision, it ended up impaired.
Once home from the hospital, his parents got him a paint-by-numbers set. Fraga completed it and was hooked, and decided to start making art from his own imagination.
His earlier works were much more realistic and very representational pieces, while his works now have transformed to more imaginary.
People all over the world have gotten to watch his transformation. Fraga has had exhibitions, both group and solo, from Germany to Michigan, and his work can be found in the permanent collection of places like the Detroit Institute of Arts and Cranbrook Art Museum.
Currently, with art galleries still closed, Fraga has no upcoming shows in the books, but he’s fine with that too.
“I’m still doing my work and one day when it's the right time and the right place, I’ll put it out there,” he said.
Photo: Laurie Tennent