REVIEW: What Were You Wearing?

This past December, the Umma hosted an incredibly thought provoking and sober exhibit named “What Were you Wearing.” It aimed to raise awareness about sexual assault on college campuses and the ways in which sexual assault is addressed.   While “What Were You Wearing” was only shown for a single day, I have no doubt that it impacted many students all across campus with its powerful message.  Just as the exhibit itself featured clearly displayed content warning signs, this post also comes with a content warning, as the topic of sexual assault and and images of clothing worn during instances of sexual assault will follow.


The venue for this show was nothing less than perfect.  With the well lit and simplistic layout of the exhibit being surrounded on three sides by large glass walls, it was clearly visible to passersby’s, inviting them into a light space within the darkness of campus.  Even without actively stepping inside the Umma, students were able to participate in the exhibit to a certain degree by viewing it through the glass. Additionally those who  spreading word of the exhibit through word of mouth, making others aware of the exhibition even after the single day that it was displayed. What stood out to me the most was the clothes themselves, featuring trendy brands and styles and casual wear that I see daily walking around campus.  This drove home the fact that sexual assault can happen to anyone, wearing any possible item of clothing.  Below are some images from the exhibit and the clothing on display.

During the brief amount of time I myself was present at the exhibit, there was a constant stream of people trickling into the commons, hushed voices and quiet footsteps showing a shared sense of solemnity regarding the serious nature of the exhibit.  The visitors formed a sort of slowly moving conveyor belt and were able to quickly walk through the exhibit, shuffling along and taking everything in in about 10-15 minutes at max.  Despite not being very large, the exhibit was extremely powerful, and the fact that it takes such a short amount of time to take in ensures that many people can see and experience the pieces.  

When I asked about being able to possibly document the event for this very post, I was told by one of the coordinators that while I absolutely was allowed to further share the story they were trying to tell, he wanted me to make sure to put a trigger warning before I posted any of the details or stories from the exhibit themselves.  I appreciate the level of concern and respect shown by the coordinators and think that it came across well in the exhibit itself, with warnings posted on either side as shown at the top of this post.

REVIEW: Bodies of Michigan exhibit

The Bodies of Michigan art exhibit put together by Natalie Giannos in Palmer Commons is located along the walls of the Windows Lounge.  That immediately made it difficult for me to look closely at the images because in order to do so, I needed to navigate around all the people studying and invade their space.  It also gave me the impression that while the images were in a public space, not many people were actually seeing them because they were so immersed in their own projects.  That made me a little upset because I found a lot of the pieces rather striking.  Therefore, I think a different venue would greatly benefit this exhibit if it’s going to run again next year — maybe something a little more intimate where the images can actually be observed closely.

The exhibit featured six images (there is a spot for a seventh image entitled “He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not” Robin Rranza, but the picture looks like it was torn off the wall).  The collection overall was very colorful, with images like “Bad Boy Rebellion” also by Robina Rranza and “Alternatively…” by Sonalee Joshi.  I found this enjoyable because, despite the difference in medium, those two images captured two completely different types of people.  “Bad Boy Rebellion” could be representing more of a party scene whereas “Alternatively…” seemed a little more hipster and low-key.

Bad Boy Rebellion

While the majority of this exhibit was colorful, there was one photograph that stuck out to me.  Entitled “Loveletter” by Mackenzie King, it was a picture of a seemingly nude woman in monochrome.  I really enjoyed looking at “Loveletter” because the centralization of light silhouetted the model’s body in such a way that emphasized her curves beautifully.  The title of the photograph and its content really worked well together, and I enjoyed its simplicity.


Another image was “Goiters Caused by Coulrophobia” by Adrian Hanna, which presented a depiction of what looked like the interior of the human body.  This was an interesting piece because it had some 3-D elements.  The final image was entitled “I Know” by yours truly, a picture of my friends posed underneath a bridge in the Arb.

Overall, I think I would have enjoyed the exhibit a lot more had it been held in, for instance, its own room.  Despite that, I loved the concept behind it and all the different interpretations of the human body.

PREVIEW: Bodies of Michigan exhibit

The Bodies of Michigan art exhibit at Palmer Commons features a multitude of artists and their take on how they understand and interact with the human body.  Differing mediums, styles, and contexts convey everything from friendships to phobias.  I’ve personally been really interested in street photography lately, and the fact that this exhibit features photography as well as different styles is really fascinating.  I’m hoping to understand how other artists have chosen to represent their worlds.

It’ll be at the Windows Lounge until Thursday, and I’m excited to see it!  For more information, click here.

My contribution to the exhibit is also featured!

REVIEW: Japanese Prints of Kabuki Theater

Photo courtesy of the UMMA

Although the UMMA houses many intriguing exhibits, the Japanese Prints of Kabuki Theater has become a favorite for visitors of the museum. The art of kabuki theater, which is a classical form of Japanese drama that dates as far back as the 17th century, has been captured by colorful woodblock prints for the public to view. The exhibit currently showcases a collection of these prints, including those made by admired print-artists such as Utagawa Toyokuni and Toyohara Kunichika.

When I first stepped into the exhibit, I was greeted by oriental music and a large wall colored in blue, with text that described the art of kabuki theater. After reading the text, I make my way around the room—it was spacious, with clean white walls that had splashes of color from prints. These depictions of theater showcased famous actors and actresses in scenes from actual plays, as well as fictional ones. Some of the scenes included actors in disguise from enemies, lovers who were reunited, and battle scenes.

Photo courtesy of the UMMA
Photo courtesy of the UMMA

Among the collection of prints was a showcase for a bright red kimono with gold embroidery in the shape of various animals. This kimono was iconic for a specific kabuki actress, who was rarely seen wearing kimonos of other colors.
Next to the kimono was a TV that played a video recording of a kabuki theater performance from the late 1900s, a visual that seemed to bring the prints to life.

Overall, visiting the exhibit was a wonderful experience. I was enlightened of an aspect of Japanese culture that I did not know existed. Don’t miss the chance to view the exhibit for yourself—it will be at the UMMA until the 29th of this month, from 11AM – 5PM on Tuesdays through Saturdays, 12PM – 5PM on Sundays!

REVIEW: Tibetan Book Covers from the MacLean Collection

A Tibetan book cover featuring carvings of three divine figures and intricate decal, coated in gold-colored paint. Photo courtesy of the Crow Collection website

I had never thought of book covers as anything besides dusty, worn out blankets that hugged pages of a story together, but the special exhibit at the UMMA proved me wrong. Being the first ever exhibit in the United States to showcase Tibetan book covers, Protecting Wisdom: Tibetan Book Covers from the MacLean Collection, this collection is currently on display until April 2 of 2017, and so I took the opportunity to visit.

Expecting to see 8 x 11 cardboard covers encased in cloth or leather, I was greeted by wooden covers that measured two feet wide and about a foot tall; 33 or so of these were either situated on the gallery walls or in showcases. As I made my way through the gallery, I took in the intricacies of these Tibetan treasures: multiple gods were carved into these covers along with dragons, peacocks, floral decals, and so on. Paint in hues of gold, red, and green embellished the slabs of wood. Some of the detailing was so intricate that the cover was designed by several people.

Tibetan book cover
Photo courtesy of the Crow Collection website
Tibetan book cover
Photo courtesy of the Crow Collection website

The elaborate nature of these book covers is understood through its purpose. For Tibetan Buddhists, books are a divine presence where the Buddha lives and reveals himself, and so to honor him, detailed book covers were frequently commissioned. Tibetan book cover design has a history of more than a thousand years, and so these covers date back from anywhere in the 11th century to the 18th century. A gem of the exhibit is a wonderfully carved and painted book cover from the early 1290s.

I left the exhibit with a newfound respect for the art of designing book covers, especially the Tibetan book covers created by Buddhists. This exhibit is currently on display until the 2nd of April from 8:00am to 5:00pm from Tuesdays through Sundays, so please come out to view this gallery!

REVIEW: Florencia Pita

Florencia Pita

If you’ve passed by the UMMA in the past month, you’ve probably noticed an incredibly curious landscape looking out at you from the windowed, first floor  gallery. Bright reds, spinning blues, swirling shapes and swirling constructions fill the space, drawing the eye in, maintaing mysterious and fantasy  no matter how long the viewer looks. Florencia Pita’s designs are all about organic exaggerations and whimsical, barely  recognizable figures. The Argentine-born artist is trained as an architect but works with furniture, jewelry, graphic design, sculpture, and more. Many of her foliage-like  configurations are inspired by the feminine form. Yet these representations are complex: both her  large scale architecture installations  and her minute scrupulous  jewelry designs often represen the same, flowery  forms. In this way, her work confounds scales and draws the viewer in infinitely.

In an interview with UMMA Academic Coordinator  David Choberka, I learned more about Florencia Pita’s inspirations and styles:

“She makes these cool, whimsical, conceptual, digital designs that are really interesting because of how she plays with scale—her flowery, colorful treelike structures could be anything from buildings to vases, furniture, jewelry or tableware. She makes these large-scale wall hanging appliqués based on children’s stories—one is inspired by Alice in Wonderland. The exhibition features a couple of her installation pieces, as well as models and digital representations of her work. She is developed an original piece for this exhibition, which is exciting. She has won a ton of awards and been featured in exhibitions all over the world. Her work really blurs the boundaries between visual art, architecture, and design, and is definitely worth checking out.”

Click here for more about Florencia Pita and her studio FP/Mod. To read about the exhibit, look at UMMA’s website. The exhibit is open during museum hours until the middle of June.