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Earthbound particles descend throughout CCS Center Galleries, as Kim Harty’s water molecules, Robert Sestok’s mettalurgic rock formations and Assunta Sera’s celestial compositions unite in Cosmologies.  

For Sera, these otherworldly paintings represent a homecoming of sorts. Sera, a 1980 alumna of the College for Creative Studies, moved to New York from Metro Detroit in 1987 to get her MFA at Brooklyn College. Now a resident of West Orange, NJ, she commutes several days a week to the same SoHo studio she has been painting in for the past 20 years. Her children and family are all still here in Michigan, and she relished the chance from them to see her artwork nearby.

Born in Italy, Sera immigrated to Detroit after World War II when she was eight years old via New York—some of her earliest memories are of arriving through New York City’s Grand Central Station, which has influenced her artwork since her return to the city some 40 years later. She even won a commission from the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) in 1997 for a poster she designed of the station. Thus, the new paintings on display at CCS are a big departure in her artwork, as they have skewed more towards abstraction in recent years, while still returning to some of the themes she was drawn to immediately at the iconographic train station.ther

“For about 15 years, I had done a lot of Grand Central paintings, looking up, looking down, aerial views. I seemed to have an affinity for the space.” By 2000, she discusses beginning to research scientific themes and taking astronomy classes, which greatly influenced her oeuvre. The celestial ceiling within Grand Central Terminal was yet another point of research, as was the opening of the Rose Center for Earth and Space at the Museum of Natural History.

As her subjects slowly became more abstract, with subtle cues of orbs, stars and cosmic elements, she exerted those changes onto the physical nature of the canvas as well.

“I was tired of doing the rectangles and the squares. I began cutting paper, and began cutting out these shapes. I gave myself the assignment that these would be four-sided, so these are all four-sided, and no two sides are the same. Also, these were going to be geometric, but the painting on the interior was organic. That’s how these came about. I like the tension that came about between the geometric and the organic.”

All of Sera’s canvases are custom-made for her based on her dimensions, alterations to the traditional rectangles and squares that she had felt confined to until the past year-and-a-half.   

“I was thinking of stars and thinking of the placement. A lot of these paintings, it’s about composition, how do I resolve this compositional space, and also have the illusion of [outer] space? They’re also fragments, bits and pieces. I like that aspect because we really don’t see the universe as a whole.”

While the paintings, rendered in oil stick, are scattered throughout the entire gallery space, lending an ethereal credence to the exhibit, Sera views her paintings as collaborative entities. “They’re out there in the universe, but they’re having a conversation. They’re not just shapes by themselves.”

Cosmologies: New Work by Kim Harty, Assunta Sera & Robert Sestok is on view at CCS Center Galleries, Detroit, through February 27th.