REVIEW – Please Stand By: The 2021 Stamps School Senior Exhibition

Please Stand By: The 2021 Stamps School Senior Exhibition is a virtual showcase that highlights the work created by the graduating students of the Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design. As a featured artist myself, I can personally claim that the creative process has been immensely complicated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, evidenced by the impressive display, the unprecedented conditions we’ve experienced together this past year have not prevented our collective perseverance and the creation of astonishing projects! Even though it is saddening that most senior studios went unused, I couldn’t be more proud of my fellow classmates for advancing their practice and fostering immense creative and professional development through their studies. Congratulations! 

That being said, if you haven’t checked out the exhibition, you should definitely give it a look! Here is the webpage: Ironically, even though everything is digital, we have amassed a lengthy selection of books. In Between: este lado y el otro lado by Olivia Prado, a multidisciplinary artist, is a book that resists preconceptions of Mexican-American identity through the juxtaposition of poetry, drawing and painting, photography, and text messages with family members. Prado intentionally creates a multi-faceted narrative that contends with expectations for artists of color to reduce personal experiences to simplified concepts for white viewership and consumption. By offering a variety of rich and formative experiences, Prado opens a space for people to better understand, yet not entirely, the complexities of personhood as it relates to the communities we are a part of.

Additionally, because the website format allows for each artist to upload up to ten documentation photographs, the display configurations of more sculptural works are highly mutable. This is applicable to the Parasitic Vessels: Forms of Disuse series created by recent-graduate Ellie Levy. Levy is particularly interested in the introduction of invasive protrusions and modifications to bowls as a question and critique to the utilitarian nature of ceramic design. Although, with this mutation comes a supplemental and beneficial quality to the human interaction with an object. How do we perceive the bowls differently? As the material body of the bowls are mutated, a fused identity is created through a balance that allows for new existence. The parasite becomes a catalyst for the imaginative.

These are two of the many amazing and captivating works in the exhibition, which will remain permanently in the digital space. I encourage you all to explore what we have created!


Artist Information:

Olivia Prado – Website:

Ellie Levy – Website:; Instagram:

REVIEW – “Akeem Smith: No Gyal Can Test” at Red Bull Arts Detroit

Akeem Smith’s No Gyal Can Test exhibition at Red Bull Arts Detroit transgresses disciplinary classifications and the expectancy for a singular ethnographic history of dancehall, which is readily accessible to a globalized audience eager to exploit its cultural legacy.

In Jamaica, upper-class families grill their home to deter robberies of their houses. Smith utilizes these grills to protect the archival dancehall photographic and film footage behind, which ranges the two decades between the 80s and 2000s. Protruding from the flat walls of the building’s underground tombs, these decorative homes symbolize the artist’s attitude toward a global viewership that commodifies the hypervisible women of the movement. The voyeurim of the gallery visitor questions the assumed invitation to peer through cast iron metal shields. What is offered and what is withheld? On the other hand, their installation can also be perceived in relation to wealthy Jamaicans’ refusal to accept the cultural and political revolution of dancehall as a national signifier. Viewers are meant to question their position within, or outside of, the household in order to better understand what is deserving of safeguarding.

In these and other wall works, photographs and videos are intentionally obscured, offering a limited visual scope to the memories they document. Queens Street, an assembled building with an exposed interior,  encases a single-channel video that plays abstracted and slowed-down footage of a dance. Because there is a gap between the welded metal doorway attached to the front of the house and the leftmost edge of the adjacent window, viewers are situated awkwardly outside this personal space peering indoors. The portrait included in Black Queen, a minimal and rectangular wall work made with salvaged, black building remnants, is hidden from view behind an top section of latticework. The woman’s face is almost entirely encased in its shadow.

Curated by Maxwell Wolf and Kenta Murakami, this unique expression of love culminates the preceding twelve years of archival work and outreach to honor the legacy of the dancehall community Smith grew up around in Kingston, Jamaica. Born in Brooklyn, NY and raised in the Waterhouse District in Kingston before returning to Crown Heights, Smith is the godson of Paula Ouch, the founder of the Ouch fashion house, an all women’s team that shaped the visual loudness of the era. Several of their garments on view are draped on mannequins sculpted by collaborative artist Jessi Reaves that commemorate the women of his youth and particularly Sandra Lee, the central fashion and hair stylist. Jewelry by Brando, his grandmother’s former partner, is juxtaposed alongside these original pieces. The interwoven nature of his life is further solidified through his grandma, who raised him alongside his mom, and co-owned La Roose club in Portmore, a coastal city that borders Kingston. Materials – corrugated zinc, tarp, repurposed wood, and breeze – from the building’s facade, as well as other disused social spaces, make up the main components of Smith’s deeply-personal installations.

While Smith’s process implements specific protocols to procure and ethically compensate Jamaicans who provided him with the exhibition material, the extension of these guidelines within the gallery are ultimately left to the discretion of the visitor. What is implicated through the exhibition’s free admission and allowance of photography that facilitates a capturing of images among visitors?

Akeem Smith: No Gyal Can Test is on view at Red Bull Arts Detroit in Eastern Market every Friday – Sunday from 12 pm – 7 pm until July 30. Reservations are required. Appointments to see the Soursop offsite installation at Woods Cathedral in Detroit can also be made using the same webpage:


Artist Information:

Akeem Smith – Instagram:

PREVIEW – Akeem Smith: No Gyal Can Test at Red Bull Arts Detroit

Installation View of Akeem Smith: No Gyal Can Test at Red Bull Arts New York 2020. Photo by Daro Lasagni. All artwork courtesy the artist and Red Bull Arts

Red Bull Arts Detroit is hosting the second iteration of Akeem Smith’s traveling exhibition, No Gyal Can Test. This show, which premiered on April 16 and runs until July 30, explores the dancehall community in Kingston, Jamaica. Through collaborative sonic-sculptures that four-dimensionally collage ephemera – photographs, videos, garments and jewelery, along with architectural materials sourced from musical congregation sites now existing through public memory – Smith transports a display of togetherness resonant today in the ever-evolving and globalized community. Because Detroit’s cityscape reveals prevalent musical archives encoded within architectural fragments of former music and dance spots, I’m excited to see and hear how Smith’s exhibition is intimately recontextualized within a local arts space.

REVIEW – 2021 Graduate Degree Exhibition of Cranbrook Academy of Art

2021 Graduate Degree Exhibition. Photo- Katie McGowan

The 2021 Graduate Degree Exhibition of Cranbrook Academy of Art at the Cranbrook Art Museum offers a straddling of separate spheres across time and space as it relates to memory, the physical and digital body, and disciplinary categorizations. The exhibition features a wide range of work across concentrations. Among those defined below are architecture, fibers, and photography. While the highlighted artists are classified by their majors, much of the displayed work transcends limitations imposed by the mediums’ historical working methods and perceptions. This feature is highlighted in And that’s on who? Mary had a little lamb., the tufted rug of Qualeasha Wood, a student of the Photography department “embracing her role as a young hot ebony on the internet,” a phrase that begins her artist statement. In this wall hanging depicting a sunny day, a blackened silhouette of a woman holding a red pair of scissors is positioned in the foreground in front of a lamb. It can be assumed that she is going to shear its fleece as “white as snow;” however, this vision and that of implied race is never truly offered to the viewers. With photography technologically rendering images of the body within rectangular space, Wood physically and metaphorically rejects this contained geometry of the black body within the landscape to offer and reject consumptive access among viewers.

In Chickpea Landscapes, an illuminated wall-based sculpture of Jessy Slim, an Architecture student, Slim attaches clay she prepares with garbanzo beans, a food staple native to the Middle East, to backing fabric. Held up in areas with stakes, the cloth undulates and protrudes to form a mountainous topography that cracks like rock fissures peeling from its foundation. It is through these material explorations, and physical transformations, that Slim interrogates how immigration from Lebanon has displaced and reconstructed her memories tied to home. Physical recollections being kneaded only to flake from the landscape and crack, asking to be tended to with hands bearing witness to past views and meals eaten. This position of the in-between, a journey on the traffic-ridden freeway, is also highlighted in Same Road Different Day, a circular embroidered wall piece by Fibers student Kaylie Kaitschuck. Surrounded by hot wheels driving single file down the dotted line yarn roadway is a landscape to get lost in. Butterflies flap their wings; snakes slither toward burning bushes that flowers emerge from; goldfish swim in a pond surrounding by a checkerboard path with a swerving car; lightning strikes; the sun strikes a smile; a series of frowning faces ascend a yellow ladder to happiness; airplanes and sharpened, levitating pencils fly; hands reach for clouds at the end of the rainbow which tell you to “DREAM BIG.” What time is it? The pink band watch doesn’t work; instead its clock face is a portal. Am I spiraling? Is this a spiral? Where and when am I being transported? The road goes in circles, and I’m still stuck in traffic.


I think I’ll get off the freeway at the nearest exit and make the trip back to Cranbrook before the end of the week, after which the work is deinstalled.


Artist Information:

Qualeasha Wood – Website:; Instagram:

Jessy Slim – Website:; Instagram:

Kaylie Kaitschuck – Website:; Instagram:



REVIEW: Ann Arbor Art Center Murals – Olivia Guterson (Midnight Olive) and Avery Williamson

How do women of color, specifically black women, employ mark making to transform overlooked spaces to imagine future potentialities? Focusing on making processes as generative healing, both Olivia Guterson and Avery Williamson, two muralists commissioned by the Ann Arbor Art Center, are interested in mobilizing the power of line as a tool for letting go. Collective loss and struggles for survival are projected into portals, offering lenses through which to map out realizable landscapes of growth, joy, and play.  

During my conversation with Williamson, she remarked about the power of black abstraction as “a way to engage with the loss of [African American history] and also to celebrate the opportunity to imagine alternative worlds and lives.” Directing their focus to an incomplete archive, a juxtaposition of ancestral cloth, texts and annotations, and family photo albums, Guterson and Williamson’s work looks back as much, if not more, than it looks forward in order to self-realize diverse possibilities and individualized languages for expression. After sorting through queries, both theirs and mine, and pulling concepts and direct quotes from conversations with each artist, I am interested in a unifying question that runs through their work. How does the anonymity of abstraction lend its way to an ambiguous existence, encased within the permeable membrane between portraiture and landscape, that leaves traces of the past while denying the possibility of a future reimagined without gaps?

Olivia Guterson, a Detroit based interdisciplinary artist and new mother also known as Midnight Olive, began our conversation confiding in me that she didn’t talk much as a young child. Although this was temporary, her commitment to making things has developed in conjunction with the development of a mode of communication that is uniquely hers – a language of line based patterns. This creative sensibility is illuminated in her later remark, “To teach is to seek to understand and then make sense of for others,” a practice she compared to the artist’s process of making and leaving behind personal artifacts. The mural Guterson drew is exactly this, a release. 

Talking about Nalo, her son of several months, and her grandparents, I came to comprehend the role of family in certifying her connection to art making. Sitting on the pavement of the parking lot as Guterson hugged to the wall to draw the last flower of her mural, she told me this was the third time Nalo and her had been separate for a several hour block. On prior occasions, he was strapped to her chest as she dragged her sharpie pen across white painted bricks to replicate patterns from her grandmother’s wedding dress on the leaves of drawn flowers. This collapsing of time and space runs through her work; a weaving of generations of familial history into floral landscapes that juxtapose imagery from the fabric and quilts of Black Americans and Eastern European Jews. It is this connection to family, and possible lack thereof, symbolized by her white Jewish grandmother not gifting her and her siblings with a quilt at the age of thirteen, or the legacy of enslavement inhibiting a clear drawing of ancestry, that has Guterson infusing her natural landscapes with historical motifs as a conduit for rebirth and growth. The white space in between the flowers allude to this, and complicate an already multifaceted relationship to the act of giving. “I needed to take up space because I was given space and I don’t feel that way anymore,” Guterson says. “I realized I didn’t need someone to gift me my heritage through a quilt or something. I had the ability to create my own language and a lot of healing through it.”

Olivia Guterson’s mural, 111 N Ashley St, 2020, Photo: Courtesy of Ann Arbor Art Center

Avery Williamson, an Ann Arbor based interdisciplinary artist, began making the meditative line paintings in 2017 in response to the epidemic of killings of black people at the hands of police. While these works existed primarily in black and white, a value scale consistently employed in Guterson’s drawings, “What the Water Gave Me” is painted with ultramarine, white, and payne’s grey acrylic paint and medium. The scattered marks, referenced by Williamson as “guts,” are produced throughout a long timeline of active processing, extended because of the scale of the work. Additionally, dictated by its size, Williamson stood above the metal panes, which lay face up on her studio floor, as she painted. This process, in which Williamson interacts with her “canvas,” or metal panes, in “as an arena in which to act”, (Rosenberg, 1952) is similar to painting methods of the mid twentieth century action painters. Harold Rosenberg, an American art critic and influential figure regarding Abstract Expressionism, wrote, “What was to go on the canvas was not a picture but an event.” Avery’s identity as a black woman offers an incredibly important perspective through which to reframe such critique, as many of the ascribed artists were white men, and see contemporary black abstraction through a process centric lens. Swimming through a series of events into a sea of expansive blue, this portal gives birth to the power of water and its dynamic currents into a hopeful future where black joy and healing are prioritized and unconstricted.

Avery Williamson, What the Water Gave Me, 113 W Washington St, 2020, Photo: Courtesy of the Ann Arbor Art Center

 The meditative actions, or modes of creation, of Olivia Guterson and Avery Williamson unveil murals that exist as archival documents for the public’s viewing. Both artists expressed this act of leaving behind as an important part of iterative processing; a glimpse into a passing of moments let go of. “The personal archive can tell us so much more because there are fewer hands mediating us and our relationship to the objects and the words,” William says. I believe our only option is to enter these portals to explore all that these two women have left for us to discover.


Olivia Guterson’s mural is on display at 111 N Ashley and Avery Williamson’s “What the Water Gave Me” at 113 W Washington. In addition to these aforementioned artists, the Ann Arbor Art Center also commissioned eleven other muralists, so don’t forget to check out the other exhibited work while you’re in downtown!


More of the artists’ work can be found below:

Olivia Guterson/Midnight Olive:


Avery Williamson:

REVIEW: New Red Order – Crimes Against Reality

What does it mean to commit a crime against reality? How is this realness defined through actions to capture and liberate it through additive transformations? What can experimental approaches to using technology do to construct alternative realities advocating for Indigenous futures? New Red Order (NRO) explores these issues in their first solo exhibition, Crimes Against Reality, at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD), which runs from October 1, 2020 until January 10, 2021. Amidst increasingly publicized conversations about race, nationhood, and equity worldwide, and particularly in the United States, New Red Order’s exhibition is showcased to the public during a time of long overdue reflection and gradual unlearning among the most privileged.

Crimes Against Reality exhibition view at MOCAD

The “public secret society,” a spinoff of the Improved Order of Red Men, an all white fraternal organization established in 1834 in response to desires to “play native,” was created in 2016 by core members Zach and Adam Khalil, of the Ojibwe tribe in Sault Ste. Marie, and Jackson Polys, of the Tlingit tribe in Alaska. By identifying as such, it classification exists in relation to anthropologist Michael Taussig’s concept of a “public secret,” developed in his book Defacement (1999), and described in depth in Kenneth Surin’s article, “The Sovereign Individual and Michael Taussig’s Politics of Defacement” as “among other things the creation of social subjects who ‘know what not to know,’ thereby instituting a pervasive ‘epistemic murk’ whose core is an ‘uncanny’ dialectic of concealment and revelation, though the secret revealed in this case is, qua public secret, not really a secret (49)” (206, 2001). NRO works to “confront” and “rechannel,” two words used by Jackson Polys, long standing and overlooked desires for indigeneity that lie at the core of our national identity as a way of clearing the murk.


New Red Order is future oriented and committed to expanding Indigenous agency, as stated within their “who are we” portion of their website,  Approaching the 3 Cs – contract, concealment, and capture – as a methodology to create successful informants, another reference to anthropology, among non-Indigenous allies, this society fosters growth of decolonial perspectives, in physical and virtual realities. The films, Culture Capture: Terminal Addition (2019) and Never Settle (2020), their dark humor filled recruitment video, illuminate the process of building a virtual repository of monuments and museum artifacts, or the stolen collectibles framed as such. These rendered models, generated from differently angled captured photographs, are then mutated via a glitch, or series of phase changes, that transforms them. This glitch, or interruption of normalcy, calls for a reevaluation of hegemonic relations that we refer to as reality. Applying computer technology in investigational ways,  New Red Order succeeds in conducting “a small speculative step toward rectifying the violence committed by museum archives and the settler colonial icons that guard them.” (Never Settle, 2020) “The society of statues is mortal. One day their faces of stone crumble and fall to earth. This botany of death is what we call culture. And this is how we capture it.” (Culture Capture: Terminal Addition, 2019) 


New Red Order, Culture Capture: Terminal Addition, HD video, 2019, Photo: Courtesy of the artists

This day is among us. Now how do we, as settler colonial Americans, foster important discussions about overshadowed cultural issues, or culture as it was defined above, to devise a better and ultimately decolonial society? New Red Order: Crimes Against Reality is on display alongside two additional Detroit-based artists’ solo exhibitions, Conrad Egyir: Terra Nullius and Peter Williams: Black Universe. All three exhibitions close on January 10, 2021 so make sure you visit MOCAD, now open Thursday through Sunday, this weekend or late next week! 


You can find more information about the exhibition here:


Supplemental work of New Red Order can be found here: