Who was Claude Cahun?

 (Self Portrait, 1928)

In my art & design theory/history classes this semester, we came across the artist Claude Cahun–and I think that her story was too cool not to share. A Jewish French artist, Lucy Schwob adopted the androgynous name Claude Cahun, and produced prolific work exploring gender and beauty throughout her lifetime. She took hundreds of self portraits, donning different guises, and also created numerous literary works.

She also famously collaborated with Suzanne Malherbe, AKA Marcel Moore, to create art that broke the boundaries of aesthetic and societal normality. Cahun and Moore were involved in a lesbian relationship which they hid from the public (even though their parents married, making them stepsisters).

Amazingly, Cahun and Moore escaped to the Isle of Jersey right on the cusp of World War II and became a force to be reckoned with. They responded to the German invasion by launching a fierce anti-Nazi resistance movement, distributing flyers, translating messages, and even putting on costumes around the island. The women were sentenced to death, but were freed in 1945 after Jersey’s liberation. I found it admirable that the couple were willing to put their lives in danger in order to follow their beliefs and fight for what they believed was right. True martyrs, Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore will be remembered for their astonishing bravery and artistic genius.

Foundation Year in Review

As my first year at Michigan comes to a close, I am bittersweet about leaving for the summer. Of course I’m excited to go back home, but I’ve made so many great friends and memories over the past eight months here that I’m hesitant to leave.

As a freshman dual degree candidate, I chose to take my foundation year at Stamps. Every freshman, around 180 or so, takes three specific studios and a supplemental art history/theory course each semester. Although I had to work with mediums with which I was very unfamiliar, I believe I learned so much surrounded by diverse peers and great teachers.

For example, my interest in art for social justice has deepened. I have loved graphic design since early high school, and my interest has only grown. Yet now I realize the possibilities for responsible design, and design to effect social change. In Art and Design in Context and Art and Design History, I was exposed to a lot of contemporary art and the social/historical/political contexts relevant to significant artists, which made me more motivated to make my own work.

I have also gained valuable experience with different techniques and styles of art. 3D (sculpture/tactile projects) and 4D (audio/video) in particular were whole new worlds to me. At times, I felt completely inexperienced compared to my peers, but I believe that the challenge made me a better artist, who can express creativity and refine ideas to come up with a better final piece. Now I am looking forward to exploring more, whether that means delving into video and photography, or participating in performance art, or learning about UI/UX design. These explorations can lead to even bigger ideas, that are both visually appealing and progressive in some way.

What’s important is the meaning that art has for you as an artist. You can choose what to address, and what to show within your own art. Whether that is to counter harmful stereotypes, push for social progress, or just capture beauty, art is truly democratic in the sense that it is open to everyone and can consist of nearly everything. I’m beyond excited to continue my creative journey at Michigan and beyond.

Ode to Bojack Horseman

(Netflix)

You’ve probably heard of the universally-acclaimed Netflix original show by now. The adult animated comedy-drama is getting ready for its fifth season this summer, and I couldn’t be more ready. People praise it because it is so real: a satirical take on Hollywood culture, Bojack doesn’t hold back on issues such as depression, self-destruction, and love. Each season has continued to get deeper and darker, reflecting on the human experience and the problematic society in which we live. Still, there are glimmers of hope and happiness which make the show purely wonderful.

Bojack Horseman, the titular character is evidently flawed. He’s narcissistic, humorous, afraid of commitment, yet excruciatingly honest. He is surrounded by other human and anthropomorphic animal characters, like Diane, Princess Carolyn, Mr. Peanutbutter, and Todd, to name a few. Each character is so unique and nuanced, showing that the show’s creators really took time to develop them as individuals.

In addition, social issues are prominently featured. Gun control, asexuality, addiction, abortion, politics, and feminism take a strong spotlight within the third and fourth seasons. Bojack’s writers are witty and brutal, which makes the show that much better.

If you want to laugh, maybe painfully so, cry your emotions out, or just chill to the amazing soundtrack, I strongly recommend watching Bojack Horseman. Perhaps you’ll even end up learning more about yourself as well.

Lorde: Queen of Alternative Pop

Last week, I had the chance to see Lorde in concert in Detroit, with three of my good friends. It was my first “huge” concert experience, as the stadium was packed with thousands of screaming fans. I’ve been a fan of Lorde since she began gaining fame in 2013. Now a 21 year old, her personality, style, and music have grown exponentially since her introduction to the world at only 16 years old. Clearly she has always had a talent for songwriting, and it was very apparent that growing up had innumerable influences on her new music.

Personally, I like her new album Melodrama more than her debut album, Pure Heroine. She collaborated with big name musicians, and poured her soul into the songs. Evidently, her growth as a singer and as a person resulted in an astounding album, full of down-to-earth feelings and thoughts.

The concert was amazing–she performed a mix of both new and old songs to the delight of the crowd. She sang hard hitting anthems, such as “Liability” and “Buzzcut Season” as well as more uplifting songs like “Green Light.” A natural performer, her presence lit up the arena. Her stage set was carefully chosen, with lighting that worked to enhance the burst of emotion. The backup dancers performed flawlessly, even when lifted into the air within a dangerously tilted transparent box, which of course made Lorde’s performance even better.

It was probably my favorite concert I’ve ever attended. Being in a massive room surrounded by friends and devoted fans, even some middle aged parents, was an unparalleled experience. There was so much raw emotion in the air. Lorde knows her fanbase well, and it seemed that she honestly cared about their experiences. This concert was truly an unforgettable experience, and I’m so glad I went. I’m looking forward to whatever her future may bring.

Kara Walker and the Complexities of Race

Kara Walker, an African American artist, is well known throughout the art world mainly for her detailed cutout paper silhouettes, which adorn the walls of exhibition rooms. They focus on race, gender, and sexuality, but have also caused controversy among other artists for their depictions of stereotypes of black people. Yet her personal style comments upon complicated race relations and the struggle of acknowledging America’s dark history of slavery. She first came into the spotlight in 1994 with Gone, An Historical Romance of a Civil War as It Occurred Between the Dusky Thighs of One Young Negress and Her Heart. Currently, she serves as a Visual Arts chair at Rutgers University and resides in Brooklyn.

This week, for my LHSP Race and Ethnicity class, I had the privilege of seeing two of the five pieces from her The Means to an End: A Shadow Drama in Five Acts series at the UMMA. Looking at it up close, we examined the intricate details that added to the characterization of the subjects, who were all depicted in silhouette profile. I had no idea that the UMMA housed these works, but was delighted to find that there is an abundance of famous and unique art. It was a great experience to actually witness Walker’s work in real life, as well as analyze it in a modern context–I had just learned about her other work in my Art and Design history class. I hope to return to the UMMA soon and continue learning about these amazing contemporary artists.

(Allentown Art Museum)

The Ann Arbor Film Festival

Last night, I went to the Out Night screening of the Ann Arbor Film Festival, and it was such a unique experience. It was also endearing to see members of the Ann Arbor community come together to watch and participate in the film festival. I had never gone to the AAFF before, nor had I known that it is the oldest avant garde and experimental film festival in North America. This year marks its 56th anniversary.

Out Night featured a collection of experimental short films with LGBTQ themes. For instance, the first film used stop motion and data collected from floppy disks to assemble a dizzying piece of AOL chat exchanges and homoerotic nude photos, presenting the online persona of a man named “jim.” Another film was shot as a music video and had two elderly women escape together from their boring “sitcersize” class. Overall, the films each had truly indescribable qualities, from using hand-drawn animation, to old footage from the 80’s, to a documentary approach, in order to create an individual piece of art. At the conclusion of the screening, audience members could vote on their favorites (or least favorites).

I walked away a little confused, but inspired. As an art student, I appreciated the hours of hard work that went into each film and the creativity it took to conceptualize that creative work. I realized that there were dozens of people involved in the making of the films, and countless people who helped put together the entire festival. If you haven’t been to the AAFF before, I strongly suggest you check out what’s happening and bring a friend! There are also afterparties and other events this week. Let yourself be inspired! https://www.aafilmfest.org/