graphic sculpture

Ofrenda Proposal

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Although our ofrenda wasn’t selected this year to be included in the DIA’s dia de los muertos exhibition, I still would like to share with you our concept.

Thank you Alex Goecke and Al Bodrie for being awesome collaborators and artists. If anyone is interested in funding this, we can build it.


Description of our concept


“Our ofrenda to the iconic musician and New Yorker, Lou Reed, will be a monumental altar in the form of the Empire State Building, celebrating his life and work as well as his profound influence on contemporary music.  Stylistically, the ofrenda will embrace a mash-up of 1960s pop art and Mexican folk art.  Neon lighting will illuminate the entire piece from within, including a subterranean “Velvet Underground,” backlit graphic images in the windows and a “Viva Lou” script above the building.”

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The Royal Oak Review – Article – Dads connect at Northwood, shine at Day of the Dead exhibition

Dads connect at Northwood, shine at Day of the Dead exhibition 11/5/14

By Victoria Mitchell
C & G Staff Writer

ROYAL OAK — Every day, Alex Goecke and Steve Miller maneuver through the routine of taking their kids to Northwood Elementary School, but the partnership forged at morning drop-off formed an artistic bond.

“It was so good to meet another artist,” said Miller. “We just started hanging out.”

Their common interests became apparent. Both men play guitar, have two children at Northwood and have a passion for the arts.

When Goecke heard about an open exhibition invitation at the Detroit Institute of Arts, their bond solidified with success.

“The first guy I thought of was Steve,” Goecke said. “I said, ‘I can’t do this alone.’”

The Royal Oak dads were a part of 29 artists chosen to contribute an ofrenda to the DIA Mexican Dias de los Muertos exhibition Oct. 24-Nov. 2 at the Detroit museum.

“Mexican folk art is a huge influence in my work,” Goecke said. He studied artwork in Mexico and covers the subject each fall as a middle school art teacher in the Dearborn Public Schools.

His forte is sculpture, while Steve’s background is in painting and graphic design.

There were no restrictions on the medium, per the contest guidelines, and both men said that agreeing on an idea for their submission was simple.

Their interactive, sculptural installation based on paper mache and found objects was the artists’ homage to the late actor and comedian, Robin Williams.

“He is a huge loss to the celebrity world, and the fact that he took his own life was interesting to us. The fact that he battled substance abuse was interesting to us. The fact that he reached out to people even when he was kind of hurting a lot — reached out to help others continuously,” Miller said.

“We loved both his comedic roles and his serious roles, and like Steve said, he was just a man who was just so gifted. But you could tell he was touched by greatness, but also this bitter despair, and I think that magic kind of shows up in his work, kind of teeters on the edge, and I think that is something artists are interested in,” Goecke said.

It took about a week to generate the digitally sketched proposal to send to the DIA for consideration. Steve’s background in graphic design helped the artists complete the detailed five-page submission.

Once the men received word that they were chosen for inclusion in the exhibition, they went into artist mode.

“To get a piece accepted into the DIA is huge for us, for any artist,” Miller said. “We were surprised, but at the same time, we were getting prepared.”

Miller jokes that when they found out they were selected to be a part of the show, he texted a vacationing Goecke and said, “Enjoy your family because you won’t be seeing them.”

Both men said they never would have been able to disappear for two weeks if it wasn’t for the support of their wives and other family members who pitched in with the kids and everything else the men usually do on a weekly basis.

The duo would work from about 4-10 p.m. every weeknight, and they spent both weekend days in the art studio/jam room/man cave. It was about three months of work crammed into two weeks, Miller said. They finished the sculpture Oct. 19, delivered it Oct. 21, and attended an opening ceremony Oct. 24.

The materials they used to complete their installation were almost as intriguing as the final piece. CPAP tube is the skeletal spine, and an old BMX wheel supports an egg structure.

“When you are an artist, you look at things that are around you, and you look at them differently, and you see how you can repurpose them, and that is really how we solved most of these problems – repurposing  found objects,”  Miler said.

Although the egg structure was the most challenging, they are most proud of creating the skeleton.

“It kind of rides the line between Day of the Dead, folky, anatomically correct realism, and sort of dramatic lighting, which is done by color, not real light,” Miller said.

Both artists were cognizant of creating something true to themselves while honoring the Day of the Dead tradition.

“It is not easy to pull off both a dark and light subject matter together in the same space in a light-hearted-yet-serious way,” Miller said.

“And that is kind of the beauty of Day of the Dead artwork,” Goecke said. “The duality of it.”

Traditionally, an ofrenda is an offering, so it is an invitation for the souls to come back and visit during the Days of the Dead.

Goecke explained that more traditionally you’d see people putting out food, or Coke bottles, or cigarettes, or something.

“But for Robin, we had a different idea,” Goecke said. “We thought because he was so laugh-addicted that he would want to come back for the audience and the laughter. So in front of our sculpture is a box, which is filled with chattering teeth to symbolize the laughter.”

The piece also included a button that museumgoers could push to activate a laugh track.

“It is an offering to Robin Williams. Thanks for the laughs; come back and grace us with a joke,” Miller said.

Each component of the sculpture carries significance to the artists.

A vintage mask symbolizes his public persona, a teardrop symbolizes his sad expression, a clown nose symbolizes his persona and “Patch Adams,” and the egg symbolizes his arrival to Earth in “Mork & Mindy.”

“He was introduced to the American public that way, and we thought we would send him off in that same fashion,” Miller said.

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The DIA Ofrenda Exhibit – Opening Reception 10/24/14

Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) will exhibit 28 ofrendas created by local artists from Friday, Oct. 24, to Sunday, Nov. 2. An ofrenda (offering) is an essential part of the traditional Mexican Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) holiday, a day to remember and honor the memory of deceased loved ones.

Opening reception is Friday, October 24th from 6:30-8:00pm. The reception will be followed at 8pm with a few remarks about the exhibit by Detroit Council Member Raquel Castaneda-Lopez in addition to a short preview of the Michigan Opera Theater’s Frida opera performed by singer Catalina Cuervo from 8:10-8:20.

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The Royal Oak Patch Article

Two Royal Oak Dads Team Up to Design Ofrenda 10/13/14

Alex Goecke and Steve Miller collaborated on a piece for Day of the Dead Exhibit at Detroit Institute of the Arts


Royal Oak residents, Alex Goecke and Steve Miller, teamed up to create an ofrenda (offering) for the Detroit Institute of Arts Mexican Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) exhibition. Their work, along with 28 others, will be on display from Friday, October 24 – Sunday November 2nd.

Miller and Goecke’s ofrenda will be a tribute to Robin Williams. They plan to showcase a paper mache Robin Williams departing our world in the egg from which he came (on the hit TV show, Mork and Mindy.)

The two artists met at Northwood Elementary School drop-off, where they each have two children attending. Goecke is an art educator by day, often hosting folk artists from Oaxaca, Mexico, thereby inspiring this particular Dia de los Muertos display.

Miller is a stay-at-home dad and painter who draws from his background in advertising/graphic design and his skills as a pseudo-rusty-improvisational drummer to create artwork. This creative-minded duo of dads also likes to collaborate on music projects at night. So, it’s also important to note that they both have loving, supportive wives who try not to hinder their inspiration — unless they need to pick the kids up from school.

Detroit Institute of Arts hours and admission: Museum hours are 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays; 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Fridays; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Admission is $8 for adults; $6 for seniors; $4 for ages 6-17 and free for DIA members and residents of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties.

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A Cow Not On Parade

A Cow Not on Parade – 9/30/14

Well, unfortunately, my cow was not selected by a “donor” at auction. However, the good people of Cow Parade are not ready to give up on seeing this idea become a reality, and neither am I. So I thought I’d put the word out and see if anyone is interested in becoming owner of “Infra-Red-Meat”, a supporter of public art in Detroit and a charitable donor to cancer research.

My artist statement about the cow:

My name is Steve Miller. No, not that Steve Miller. Although I do write songs and play guitar, my primary interest is fine art. Specifically, painting.

I paint to see what my head, heart and hand can produce. My visual stories capture moments in time, abstract ideas and layered feelings. I explore abstraction as well as representation and sometimes I work in an exaggerated color palate.

My cow, “Infra Red Meat” is inspired by thermal photography. Thermal imaging cameras take pictures of heat. Different temperatures show up as different colors. Violet and blue represent cooler temperatures, green is in the middle and red and yellow are warmer. White is hot. Warmer colors appear where there is less insulating fat and lots of blood flow.

Because this isn’t a ‘real’ cow, I don’t find it important to depict ‘real’ thermal imaging. For me painting is about expression, not mimicking. So, in order to integrate my head, heart and hand, I chose to imagine and interpret what the cow might look like as if my eyes where thermal cameras, using my own body and limited understanding of bovine anatomy as a reference.

I hope that when you look at a fiberglass cow decorated this way, it makes you think about cows in more ways than just a public decoration.