REVIEW: GROW(ING): The 2022 Senior Exhibition

As a Stamps student eagerly stepping into my second year, I find that any glimpse I can get into the work of upperclassmen at Stamps is a treasure. The talent of Stamps students, refined by years of practice, discipline, and creative freedom, is manifested into varieties of works scattered throughout Stamps hallways. Although I enjoy the intricate jewelry and fiber sculptures put on display, many display cases remain empty; I often feel a disconnect from my fellow art students, constantly craving a more in-depth look at how Stamps allows ambition to blossom. The Grow(ing) exhibition was the first deep dive into Stamps work that I have experienced, and it was transformative.

Grow(ing) is a senior exhibition, showcasing the work of BA, BFA, and Interarts students at Stamps. The exhibition is arranged as a maze of large cubicles, each containing the work of one artist, accompanied by a plaque. Art across all mediums is included, from time-based art to wearable sculpture to projections on a floor. The variety is what immediately struck me the most— each artist was able to convey their personal message in truly whatever format they wanted, and this allowed them to communicate effectively, each work standing out from the rest. Three-dimensional art forms dominated two-dimensional, noninteractive art forms in this exhibition, which was shocking to me. I feel as if most Stamps students enter the curriculum with a focus on traditional two-dimensional forms— drawing, painting, et cetera— but Grow(ing) emphasizes the students’ capacity to expand their comfort zones. Stamps’ encouragement to explore creative possibilities paid off in the form of plant-adorned mirrors and enigmatic ceramic furniture sets. Even with limited time on my hands, I couldn’t help but stop at each and every cubicle to absorb the individuality of each space and how the artist’s energy dominates it.

Many artists combined mediums to create deeply layered works. One of my favorites at the exhibition was Silencio by Lissette Quintanilla, a collection of beadwork wearable sculptures that were both displayed on the wall and photographed. Lissette explores her heritage, upbringing, and the intersections of her identity through these delicate sculptures, portraying symbols of identity in a three-dimensional format. Although the sculptures are small, the obvious dedication behind them gave them an air of sophistication that demands your attention. I found that many smaller works throughout the exhibition were outstanding in the same way— although small, they are mighty, carrying a powerful message in a compact and detailed vessel.

Many of the exhibitions were larger sets, complete with instructions on how to interact with the work, lighting elements to boost the atmosphere, or sound elements. Each cubicle represented a fragment of an enigmatic world, a brief glimpse into the colorful mind of a creator. For non-art students and art students alike, the Stamps Senior Exhibition— and any Stamps exhibition at that— is a gift. Student exhibitions are a source of inspiration that naturally renews, encouraging its viewers to create more art, which will build future exhibitions, which will be viewed by more creatives searching for inspiration, and the cycle continues. Art is a beautiful thing, and fleeting moments to stop and appreciate it should be grasped. I look forward to future Stamps exhibitions and you should too!

Review: Upcycled Spring Flowers

As Earth day 2022 rolls in, with it comes the reminder that the Earth is in trouble. 

 

For my first two years at the University of Michigan, I’ve spent my time as a Program in the Environment major learning all about the overconsumption, the CO2 emissions, and the environmental harm that will lead to humanity’s strife and destruction. Since then, I have switched into Stamps School of Art and Design and have been looking for ways to incorporate sustainability into my art. 

 

This past Wednesday, I attended a reuse craft session with the Planet Blue Student Leaders who were in partnership with Scrap Creative Reuse Center. Twenty other people and myself found ourselves in the Graham Sustainability Institute before the brunt of finals to make zipper flowers out of discarded zippers. It brought an hour of peace, fun, and a little bit of stress as I struggled to thread a needle. 

 

The process of the zipper flower making was simple and most people ended up with cool and sophisticated results. Though, my fumbling fingers did struggle a little with this new process of making. The first step of making the flowers was to split the zipper in half. From there you fold one of the sides into a ribbon in the same style as the breast cancer awareness ribbon. Then you sew where the zipper overlaps into a small felt piece and you continue to make these petal shapes from the remaining length of the zipper. You then incorporate the other half of the zipper into the work by following the same steps as the first zipper. This will result in a flower with a messy center. To cover the middle, you can roll some of the excess zipper into the center to create a rose like appearance. You can then hot glue the felt background of the flower to a button to create your own wearable zipper flower button.

While I made my flower, I admired the texture and contrast that the zipper had. The gold metal of the zipper created a harsh but shiny texture, which would be an interesting addition to a mixed medium 2-dimensional artwork or even a sculpture. Creating these flowers opened my eyes to the possibilities of new material to add into my art practice. 

 

I am glad that I attended this event because it was a reminder that as a creative person, I should continue to look to reuse more items in my practice. It also taught me about Scrap in Ann Arbor which collects donated craft materials in order for them to have a second life. Therefore putting less strain on the environment and letting you craft for cheaper.

REVIEW: How to Build a Disaster Proof House

How to Build a Disaster Proof Home is the latest installation at the Institute for the Humanities on campus. Artist Tracey Snelling transforms the space into an explosion of color, sound, and texture as various home interiors occupy the room. Working both on a life-scale and a miniature scale, Snelling presents an exploration of what home really means and how one mentally and physically finds refuge in the contemporary world.

I’d like to examine this exhibit in a bit of a fractured way, pinpointing and elaborating upon various aspects as these come together to create the complete multisensory experience of Snelling’s work. Firstly–the aural. Before you even enter the space, you can hear a variety of monologues, sound effects, and music. This is because almost every section, or constructed home, has accompanying audio materials. Whether that’s a series of films being played all at once, or Duran Duran filling up a corner of the space, there’s a sense of the place being alive. The weaving together of sounds (the less delicate may call it a cacophony) create an entirely new sonic experience, one where the simulation of human presence is achieved. This simulation has both the comfort of a TV left on in the living room and eeriness of interacting with Siri or other faux-human presences. 

The same kind of aural complexity exists in the textures of the space. You find the tactile, familiar comfort of a worn rug juxtaposed with the tackiness, insincerity, and flatness of an idealized sunset-rainbow-beach wallpaper. There’s a dedication to different temporalities here, as a portrait in 70’s fashion hangs above a cherry red plush carpet circa the year 2000. The melange of these tributes to homes of past decades is fun and very carefully coordinated to maintain coherency, but there’s also a deeper, more touching and humanistic idea at the core of how we maintain familiarity and keep the things that we treasure most close to us (even if that’s the flimsy metaphor of hope behind a rainbow).

 

Finally, the color is alluring. Bright tones, eye-catching patterns, and iridescent touches are not only attractive, but add a very specific voice to the message of this exhibition. Ultimately, How to Build a Disaster Proof House is a sensory delight that makes you appreciate wherever you call home.

REVIEW: MENDING

 

In the quaint, well-lit corner of the Residential College, Jeanne Bieri’s exhibition of quilts, Mending, spends a three month-stay.

There’s something so intimate about quilts – blankets so well-loved, the material extra soft. The two comforters I flew in from home to my dorm are quilts. Most quilts have been personalized, gifted by a grandmother or someone of the sort.

Immediately, the first quilt felt too delicate, too personal to touch. With elegant velvet and iridescent silk thrown over a backdrop of military blankets, the collection is an utter gem. With the help of relatively thick thread, fabric in jewel tones, wool, knit, corduroy, dye, and the occasional stain create patternless collages. Mixing the brightly bold with humble rustic, Jeanne describes how “the layering of quilts with army blankets tapped into my notions of duality, the scratchy army blanket and smooth quilt, one made of love, the other for war.”

I went through the gallery, slowly like this: Scooching close to admire smaller details, the windings and coils of string, then backing up to take in the whole thing, before glancing over to the previous ones I viewed too. I had music playing, and the stories within the quilts were speaking louder.

The movement of the pieces are so fun. Orange Dot has my eyes trailing along its seams, up-down, and like a game or an animation, it moves. Some are so long they fold back and forth in ribbons on the floor – like poured chocolate. The different stitch patterns in Crazy Quilt reminded me of animal tracks, while the larger whole was a map. 

  

Night Wash contains two twin rivers flowing over a tattered old oil painting, whose ripped edges ripped off to reveal a more colorful culture and history inside.

Tied feels like a landscape, with living organisms and tribes of centipedes snaking between Earth’s crust and plates. The spots and circles resemble bacteria, or eyes. The stitches dotted around the outline of each shape could be wiggly pili or eyelashes.

Orange Drift is funky and fun. This fresh, dress-shaped quilt flaunts colorful seams and embroidered little things like initials and butterflies, flowers, zigzags along the bottom hem, x’s and loops

My music suddenly glitched out – rewinded, went 3x fast, then skipped to a new song with a bubblier beat – a testament to this quilt’s powers.

Properly spooked, I felt struck. Moved. It might sound silly, but these beautiful blankets also gave me the courage to ask the East Quad pianist what song he’d just played, because staring at those quilts while hearing “All I Ask of You” from Phantom of the Opera for the first time was a spiritual experience, man.

I just had to visit them again, the next day. 

I saw scribbles, webs, those circles that looked like viruses blown up through a microscope. Everything was connected, woven together, and somehow this made me think of how the internet has so much info about us, and it’s gross and creepy and dangerous. How traces of someone are always left behind. How even walking in circles can broaden and slowly get you somewhere, out of that hole. How we’re never going nowhere.

I like the spastic squiggling in Clara’s Ribbon and the sneak-ins like the embroidered scene of a bear getting into a barrel of fish, a patch of light-wash pink denim.

    

Back to Orange Drift – where what looked like closed tulips and Christmas tree lights danced along the silk patches. Then in Barcelona Morals, a subtle appliqued then stitched “margin good” and an innocent bee sat, staring me in the face. If I missed that, what else had I missed?

Upon digesting the fact that there were enough covert details for me to create a damn youtube channel dedicated to relaying all of Mending’s easter eggs with a giant yellow arrow in each thumbnail, I gasped, distraught. Just how long did it take Jeanne to make all of these? I longed to send her a coupon to that masseuse I visited after finals season had seriously fucked my back.

  

I was especially touched by the story of how textiles connected Jeanne to distant reaches of her family tree. “When I was given one of my Great Aunt’s quilts, I was put in touch with a group of relatives I’d never met.” Her genetic code revealed a shared creative impulse within these women, and in receiving passed-down quilts, she “sensed a tongue in cheek humor within their group.”

I can speak to the great comfort in hand-me-downs. Fabric and garments themselves, I find awe-striking in their painstakingness of stitches. But wearing my family’s old clothes – especially my dad’s or grandma’s (who have both passed) – is a feeling I hold really dear to me. I may not remember their voices ever clearly, but I can flip through an old photo album and say, ha! we’re wearing the same thing.

I never knew that quilts could carry so much personality; I always just loved the homemade, lots-of-thought-and-care aesthetic of them. As someone who hoards scraps of – you name it – fabric, magazines, old letters – with the intention of collaging old materials into something new and deeply personal, I admire Mending and all of its hand-stitched dedication. There’s a whole world waiting to be explored in each of Jeanne’s quilts; I could honestly spend all day looking at them and the hidden surprises they hold.

Read Jeanne’s lovely personal description of Mending here:

  

REVIEW: Perspectives: An Exhibition of AAPI Expression

I came to the exhibition severely underdressed. Upon entering the gallery, I was greeted with warm lighting, a spaced out selection of art – giving most pieces their own living space to breathe – and a room full of artists and patrons of the arts. Most are dressed well, not to the nines, but in knee-length black dresses or cardigans, getting semi-formal down to a tee. That label was always a bit confusing for me– what constitutes semi, and how much is too formal? Either way, it didn’t matter. What everyone really came here to see was the art.

Placed in each corner of the room, projectors loop videos, rerunning the media art. For the photography, there are display boards that MA:E and the photographers hammered in themselves. Most of the paintings and fine art span the walls, a couple placed in the center of the room.

After the opening remarks and an acknowledgement about the term AAPI and how it generalizes an incredibly diverse community, especially for Pasifika communities, the gallery tour begins. We roam like sheep, tranced by each new work. Everyone cranes their necks to get a better look, arching around one another to see fit. As much as I enjoy how art is in the eye of the beholder, I like hearing directly from each artist. They explain their intentions specific to each piece and the personal meaning behind their art. The distinctness of each artist’s style and voice, and the unique experiences that shape them, are especially apparent.

Some of the pieces that stood out to me:

Riya Aggarwal’s highly-detailed, depthy paintings immediately caught my attention. Each piece flaunts a deliberate to-the-brim intricacy, yet deftly skirts around appearing too busy. I liked how the content of Riya’s paintings were neither black nor white: she specifically explores the cultural tension between “following in the footsteps of my ancestors and creating my own path.” I admired how her artwork elicits feelings of both pride, celebration, and conflict. In True to My Roots, the dark background, body language, and facial expression of the subject evoke a gripping emotionality. 

True to My Roots (2020)

Keri Yang’s paintings pop off the page. I like how even the non-3D elements push the limits of their dimension and create visual allusion. Soulmates plays with border, as the subject encroaches outside of its backdrop.

Soulmates (2021)

Perched high up on the wall, taller than the artist herself, is Michelle Ha’s The Girl with the Iron Fist. With her art, Michelle hopes to “represent Asian American experiences by focusing on representing true narratives rather than focusing on the suffering that prejudices bring.” The lighting in the bathroom of the painting is synonymous to the ballroom’s dim ivory brilliance. “With oil paintings historically being about possession and male pleasure in the western context, I bathed my subject in the light of reclaiming that gaze.” I like how the subject looks half taken off-guard, half-bored yet unwavering. Through peering at the audience, this subject, performing the mundane task of brushing her teeth, confronts “the biases the audience has about East Asian American Women. On another layer, by showing the subject doing an activity anyone may do, I make the experience of being an East Asian American woman more accessible to those that find it hard to find empathy with those different than themselves.”

 

The Girl with the Iron Fist (2021)

Dorothy’s Masked is striking, from both afar and up close. From across the room, at first I thought the aquamarine on the girl’s face looked like tears. The painting emphasizes the importance of masks, and Dorothy chose her subject, her friend Angela, “because of the increase in racism against Asians at the time since the AAPIA community was being blamed for the virus.”

Masked (2020)

Angeline Tran’s Missing Eye, “an experimental top made of denim, selvage, and buttons sewn together both by machine and hand,” was my personal favorite. The material is sewn “to overlap itself and create the illusion of an eye socket and the buttons are placed in the middle, depicting the pupil.” With one eye lying on the breast, and the other at the belly, the garment represents heart and gut instinct. I loved this piece because of its visual attractiveness, message, and frankly, because it’s just so cool. It was also one of the only 3D, sculptural works in the gallery. I am just starting to take a STAMPS sewing mini-course, and hope to take a garment construction class in the future. As someone who expresses creativity largely through writing, exploring visual mediums has been a therapeutic, refreshing process. Angeline’s inventiveness and utilization of scrap material and selvage inspires me to create with intention and take risks with garment sculpture!

Missing Eye (2021)

Event Program: https://www.yumpu.com/en/document/read/66499721/perspectives-gallery-digital-program