REVIEW: Stamps Speaker Series- Joe Sacco

I had heard rumblings that the night’s guest would draw a larger crowd than usual but I wasn’t prepared for how large the crowd might be.  As we filed into the theater from the packed lobby area, it was difficult to find an ideal seating spot. This presentation was co-presented with the University of Michigan International Institute’s Conflict and Peace initiative, and the official Stamps website contains a full list of the sponsors for the night.

Tonight’s event was not a formal speech, but more of an open discussion between the guest Joe Sacco and a host from the International Institute’s Conflict and Peace Initiative.  As the discussion proceeded different images of Sacco’s work were projected onto the screen behind them, and while switching from photo to photo could be highly distracting it was a nice visual supplement to the presentation, and often was used as a conversation point.

Joe Sacco, as we gradually came to know throughout the course of the talk, had originally received a degree in journalism at the University of Oregon, before finding that creating comics was both a way to indulge in his passion for art and to reach a wider audience that are put off by long history books and dense articles.  He approaches his subject matter in the same way a war correspondent might.  He traveled the world, and his very first comic, Palestine, was directly based off of his personal travels through Israel and the West Bank.  Some of his award-winning works include Footnotes in Gaza, Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt and Safe Area Gorazde.  He is highly regarded by comic lovers and news junkies alike for his careful research and thoughtful approach to delicate and politically charged subjects.

When asked what inspired his work and the topics he chooses to work on, Joe Sacco responded quite succinctly that anger above all else was the driving force behind his comics.  He looked for topics that created a sense of frustration or injustice in him, and just as importantly ones that he would maintain a passion for the many years that it takes to finish a single piece.  He also discussed his dislike of the word “graphic novels,” because of how his works are not novels despite fitting under that subcategory.  He admits, however, that the word is here to stay and will use it himself when describing his occupation to others.

One of the very first panels from “The Great Wall”

One piece that was discussed quite thoroughly was Sacco’s 24-foot-long graphic tableau “The Great War.”  Sacco spoke briefly about how fascinated he was with World War I while growing up in Australia, where that war takes up a large part of their cultural identity.  His inspiration for this specific piece was The Bayeux Tapestry, and he wanted to create a similar narrative scroll that told a story when read from left to right.

middle segment of “The Great War”

As an artist, I also found the discussion of the artistic styles to be quite interesting.  Sacco talked briefly about his upcoming project and how he will be turning traditional comic styles on their head in order to better convey the meaning and message that he wants to.  He’s working on a project about the indigenous peoples of Canada, and as such is experimenting with creating comics with no borders and an aesthetic style that focuses heavily on nature and natural forms.  He believes this will better fit the ideology and tone of the work itself, as the groups he will be focusing on have a specific way of thinking about nature.

Panel from his book “Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt”

As the crowds streamed out of the theater and into the brisk night air, we were once again greeted with live music.  A long line of people waiting for autographs trailed up the staircase to the second balcony, further proving the popularity of tonight’s speaker.

If you would like to check out more of Joe Sacco’s work you can purchase many of his books from amazon here.  The STAMPS speaker series is free to the public and is free to the public and is offered every Thursday at 5:10 at the Michigan Theater.  You can find a full list of the upcoming speakers here.


pictures from- 1, 2, 3 


PREVIEW: Mary Mattingly- Stamps Speaker Series

As a special treat, the Stamps Lecture Series will be offering not one, but two lectures this week. Today, November 9th at 5:10 pm at the Rackham Amphitheater, the esteemed artist, Mary Mattingly will give us a personal glimpse into her creative process. You will soon be able to see her installation work either on the diag as a part of your daily walk to class, or at the Institute for Humanities. Tomorrow, November 10th, join us in the Michigan Theater at the same time to see a speech by the inventive and inspiring Athi-Patra Ruga.

a21boulder_textMattingly’s installation at the Institute for Humanities is entitled, “Objects Unveiled: Boxing, Rolling, Stretching and Cutting,” and it explores the use of cobalt as a pigment throughout the ages, and the social issues surrounding it. There will be an opening reception for this exhibit immediately following her lecture today. You can find more information about the event here.

Mattingly uses her work to explore ideas such as nomadic lifestyles and travel, connections and human relations, and exactly what it is that defines our home. Her work merges performance art, architecture, sculpture and more in harmony to make a bold statement.

Her project to design “wearable portable architecture,” and to create a “wearable home,” embody this melding of ideas perfectly. The contrast between fashion, and the most extreme form of function, is strikingly obvious in the following pictures.


One of her most exciting projects is the Waterpod Project, a livable floating platform that was docked outside New York and has housed many artists.  You can watch a video highlighting some of what made this project so special below.

Her “House and Universe” photo series is also strikingly resonant, and the photos featured here are just a small sample of those in the series.

Lastly, she returned to many of the ideas she has worked with on the Waterpod Project, in her 2014 project WetLand.  This work explored the responses to the changing environment and the future of the human race because of this changing environment. Mary and several other artists created and lived in this work as it floated along the Philadelphia river, making a statement about sustainable living.  I have included another video about the project below.

All images and videos are from

REVIEW: Penny Stamps Speaker Series — Performance Animation

One of the many wonderful things about new technology is that it can lead to entirely new genres of art. Performance animation is one of those genres.

First, we were introduced to two blank screens. Then, a flash of light and color as animated landscapes splashed across the screens. A silhouette stepped into view, and we watched it interact with the buildings and plants and animals that appeared. At times the message was a clear narrative, while at others it was more of a series of dreams transposed on top of one another. If that makes the show sound trippy in any way, then good, because it absolutely was trippy.

Miwa Matreyek is a multi-talented artist currently on tour performing the two pieces that formed this week’s Penny Stamps event. “This World Made Itself” seemed to be more of a love story, although love was by no means the only theme. The juxtaposition of her gigantic form with a city skyline, and her interaction with a tiny animated figure, had strong allusions to King Kong.


Her second piece, “Myth + Infrastructure,” dealt with the biggest themes possible: the birth and death of the world, modernization, death, life, and the interaction of mankind with the natural world.



Time and again we watched Miwa swirl through bodies of water, capture and free flying insects, blend in and become one with the Earth.

Several times it was like a magic show. The audience and I reacted with awe when Miwa sprouted wings out of thin air and her arm melted away into a swarm of white petals. “How did she do that?!” the people next to me exclaimed as they recorded the performance for their Snapchat stories. I wondered the same thing as I too recorded a clip for my story.

Shows like this are rare opportunities, and I strongly encourage you to see the show in Ypsilanti on Friday, October 7 if you can.

You can get a small taste of the performance in this TED video here.

PREVIEW: Penny Stamps Speaker Series — Performance Animation


What: The Penny Stamps Speaker Series Presents Miwa Matreyek’s Dreaming With Your Shadow, a piece that blends animation with a live stage performance. If the image above doesn’t convince you, I don’t know what will.

When: October 6th at 5:10 PM

Where: Michigan Theater

Price: FREE. This is one of the many wonderful opportunities you can and should take advantage of at U of M!

PREVIEW: Medium Rare – 2015 IP Exhibition 85 Undergraduate seniors in the Stamps BFA program

What: The IP (Integrative Project) Course Exhibition featuring art work in a variety of media made over the course of a year.

When: April 16- May 2, 2014

Where: Three different locations:
Slusser Gallery, Art & Architecture Building, U-M North Campus
Opening Reception: Friday, April 17, 6 – 9 pm
Gallery hours: Monday through Friday 9 am – 5 pm, Saturday 12 – 5 pm

Work Gallery, 306 S. State Street, Ann Arbor
Opening Reception: Friday, April 17, 6 – 9 pm
Gallery hours: Tuesday – Saturday, 12 – 7 pm

Argus II Building, 400 4th Street, Ann Arbor
Opening Reception: Friday, April 17, 7 – 10 pm
Gallery hours: Tuesday – Saturday, 12 – 7 pm

REVIEW: Jose Miguel Sokoloff (Penny Stamps Speaker)

Jose Miguel Sokoloff is many things; first and foremost, however, he is an advertiser who loves his home country of Colombia.

For roughly an hour, we experienced a condensed version of Colombia’s history and its war with the guerrilla movement. Beginning with the Cold War, Sokoloff laid the groundwork of the guerrillas’ ideological foundation, followed by a gradual shift to an economical role after the fall of the Soviet Union.

The key to ending Colombia’s war with the guerrillas, he stressed, was realizing that the members were as much victims of the organization as the general populace.

We watched the growth of the advertising campaign against the guerrilla’s–from it’s missteps at the beginning to the enormous successes it has achieved in recent years. Always, the message remained the same: “Demobilization is the way out” / “desmovilización es la salida”

What struck me most was how successful Sokoloff and the nation of Colombia was with its advertising campaign, and its intersection of art and politics. Realizing that genuine testimonies were more important than professional actors, the campaign would always “speak to the human” in an effort to convey the message that the war would eventually end anyway.

The government concentrated on Christmas and family, because that was when the members were most vulnerable. Soldiers decorated trees in the jungle with Christmas lights. Glowing balls with heartfelt messages floated down the waterways that the guerrillas used for travel. The military sent soccer balls all over the country to remind the guerrillas what they were missing.

Most touching of all was a campaign involving mothers, in which they stated “Before being a guerrilla, you are my son” / “Antes de ser guerrillero, eres mi hijo”

Eres mi hijo

Overall I loved this talk. This was explicit proof that we don’t need extensive peace talks or military campaigns to dissolve the potency of a violent movement. Instead, this advertising campaign appealed to the hearts and humanity of the guerrillas in the jungle, and it worked.