EAST JORDAN — Some of the most extraordinary experiences are those brought to life by imagination — be it one’s own or that of another.
“Being able to see other people’s creative efforts — whether it’s art or something in science or a moon landing — it excites people’s imaginations and it certainly is a way of educating people of other ways of looking at the world,” said Art Curtis, one of the curators for the Jordan River Arts Council’s current exhibition.
“Fantasy Figures” features 36 two- and three-dimensional pieces by 15 artists. The free show opened July 14 and runs through Aug. 9 at the Jordan River Arts Center.
Curtis worked with fellow arts council member Wendy Froud and her son, Toby Froud, to curate the show. Wendy sculpted and fabricated Yoda for “Star Wars: Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back.” Toby played Toby Williams — the younger brother of main character Sarah Williams — in Jim Henson’s 1986 film “Labyrinth.”
Online movie and television database IMDb lists Toby as having worked on special effects and animation for films including “The Boxtrolls” and “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.”
Both Frouds have pieces in the gallery, as does Curtis and Brian Froud, Wendy’s husband and Toby’s father, a conceptual and costume designer on “Labyrinth,” according to IMDb. The Frouds have a family home in the area.
“Fantasy” artists used a wide range of media, from traditional watercolor, to wool and other fibers, to a digital montage of a 1937 Ford manipulated into a huge dragon, said Curtis, a Bellaire artist and poet.
His own concept is unusual — an animal or human form “taken deep into one’s imagination,” he said.
It was the title that caught the interest of Traverse City artist Michelle Tock York after Curtis invited her to apply, she said. York, who has five pieces in the show, attended Detroit’s College for Creative Studies and ended up teaching art downstate for 30 years while also working on her own pieces.
She specializes in assemblages, working with clay and found objects like driftwood or a bicycle fork to create whimsical, fantasy-based art, York said.
“All my work’s proportions aren’t proper — I’ve exaggerated characteristics of an animal or person to make them more expressive or beautiful or creepy,” she said. “It’s fun to find the imperfections and hone in on them and make them a bigger part of the artwork when looking at a person or animal.”
The exhibit is fun for any age, said Curtis, pointing to some of the art pieces — a minion from the “Despicable Me” movies overlaid on a Darth Vader mask or a paper mâché bird with feathers.
Kids are going to be able to look at the digital dragon and recognize the form, even if they don’t understand how it came to be, he added.
Exhibit-goers will see imagination coming to life in people’s artwork, York said. Ordinary things people normally would just walk by have been taken and honed to show an artist’s creativity, she said.
“It’s well worth seeing to see where people’s imaginations can take them,” said Curtis.