Campus employee finds inspiration for his art in everyday life


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Artist Corby Blem speaks about his art installation "Eeny Meeny Miny Crow" at the Central Michigan University Art Gallery on August 28, 2018.

Mount Pleasant artist Corby Blem uses bold colors and pop culture influences as the foundation for his Pop-Folk art creations.

Blem, senior specialist clerk for Student Employment Services, first introduced his artwork to the community in 2004 when the city held the one-day event "Taste of Mount Pleasant." 

"I have been drawing all of my life and over time I have accumulated a number of paintings," Blem said. 

Blem uses materials like acrylic paint, oil pastels, sharpies and crayons to make a variety of illustrations. 

He describes his collection of caricatures and other works as having a blend of folk art and an intense, pop culture narrative. 

"(It) is untrained and outside of the traditional art world," Blem said. "(It) also embraces bold colors; there's always bright and clear pop culture connections in it and it usually ends up being goofy." 

Blem's use of beaming colors and simple shapes is inspired by the works of artist Mike Altman, an illustrator for The Original Popsicle brand trademarked throughout the United States and Canada. 

Blem met the artist in 1993 when he attended one of Altman's three-day workshops in New York. 

Although Blem enjoyed drawing while growing up in the city of Bluffton, Ind., he said the workshop exposed him to a brand new, "crazy universe of creativity."

The workshop helped Blem improve his skills and oppose the norms of the art world. 

"We did drawing, some creative games and a special number of things that made me realize that there was so much more that I could be doing as an artist and as a creator than what I was allowing myself," Blem said. 

When Blem settled into his career at Central Michigan University 14 years ago, he saw the college atmosphere as a first-class flight to a world of culture, new ideas and diverse perspectives. 

"It helps me to really stay current culturally. These universities draw so many people and ideas and influences in. It's really the whole world -- not just America -- that comes to a college campus," Blem said. 

Blem said CMU allows him to navigate what's relevant in the entertainment and political world. 

He said that even as a 50-year old man, he is able to have successful conversations on rap artists such as Drake, Nicki Minaj and Kanye West. 

"I don't think too many people in my age group can do that," Blem said. 

Staying updated on current culture has allowed Blem to create various controversial pieces, such as his "Eeny Meeny Miny Crow" installation that was featured in Art Walk Central 2018. 

"Eeny Meeny Miny Crow" is a three-dimensional piece mimicking a carnival game. It includes red balls showcasing the acronym "M.A.G.A." on them as three African Americans serve as the game's targets.  

Blem said his art normally features everyday people doing normal things, like reading, napping or daydreaming in a natural state that is shared by all humans. 

"Racism and discrimination against folks that are different from me was an issue I touch on the most. (But that) was the first time I have gotten into something that was so intense," Blem said, "that was really kind of new to me."

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About Samantha Shriber

Samantha Shriber is a staff reporter at Central Michigan Life and is a Saint Clair Shores ...

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