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: 26th Annual Exhibition of Art by Michigan Prisoners

This diverse exhibition is definitely worth checking out.

Themed art exhibition makes you form prior expectations before you visit the place. The exhibition of Art by Michigan Prisoners made me expect a heavy exhibition with a lot of social messages, life in prison, and emotions. This turned out to be a prejudice: the exhibition was full of diverse artworks using various mediums and exploring different themes and topics. This proved my prejudice to put their current location over who they were as an artist. As if the exhibition already expected people like me to have this prejudice, the exhibition emphasized and invited the viewer to see the people behind the artwork. The visitor could write on the guest book which will go straight to the artist. Also, a computer was placed so that the visitor could search the artist’s art statement. Every artwork is marked with a price that the artist had decided on and the visitor could purchase artwork on the spot.

Here are a few of the artwork that showed well the themes shared by some artworks. I chose them not because they were better than the others but because these are the ones that I spent more time viewing.

‘Living the Dream’, John Riley
‘Popsicle Stick Chess 2.0’, Ryan G
Left: ‘Identity’, Johnetta Sullivan                  Right: ”An Old Memory (from before worst decisions & mistake)”, L. Wheeler

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quite a few artworks showed the relationship between real or imagined spaces and the artist: it could be their dream houses like Joh Riley’s ‘Living the Dream’, or a scene from their memory. Some directly addressed their current state as being imprisoned: imagining freedom or reunion with their family. There were also portraits that seemed to be of the person that the artist know. Also, I was amazed to find out that wooden popsicle sticks could create amazing artwork-some of artwork had created highly detailed sculptures with popsicles sticks, like ‘Popsicle Stick Chess 2.0’ by Ryan G.

Another factor why I was aware of the artist behind the artwork more in this exhibition compared to other ones is because of the knowledge that the majority of the artists were not trained in art. This made me focus more on why the artist would have chosen this medium and topic as the focus of their art. If the artist is a professional artist, I think they will choose something that is closer to their professional identity as the topic of the art. However, if the artist is a non-occupational artist who produces limited drawings, then you start to link the meaning of that specific piece with the life of the artist, drawing from a broader area than just personal identity.

The exhibition continues until April 5th. If you can’t visit the Duderstadt center before that date, you can see the artwork online here.

REVIEW: Mission Improbable: Yotonix Spytacular

As the lights dimmed in the Lydia Mendelssohn Theater on Saturday night, a huge cheer went up from the crowd. As a senior, I knew why — we were back for an annual tradition that we hadn’t seen since our freshman year.

Yotonix is the annual show featuring a collaboration between two very talented student orgs on campus: Revolution and Photonix. Revolution is our Chinese Yo-Yo team. Photonix is known for their glowsticking and visual arts performances.

The 2020 Yotonix show was tragically scheduled for March 14, the day after things officially turned topsy turvy, and they had to cancel due to the pandemic. 2021 Yotonix was a brilliantly crafted virtual show . But nothing can replace a live, in-person arts performance. This year marked the return of the in-person version of the show, and everyone in attendance was ECSTATIC. It was a night full of amazing art and there wasn’t a dull moment.

The show was, as it promised, both “Spy-tacular” and spectacular. The performers made their craft look so easy, but that was just the mark of their talent and months of practice.

The Chinese Yo-Yo, or Diabolo, is not what most people picture when they think of a yoyo. It evolved completely independently of the Western yoyo in China and grew popular as a toy in Europe. It requires a lot of skill to do most Diabolo tricks because you need to constantly maintain a fast enough spin so it stays stable…while it’s being whipped around and jumped over and caught all over the place.

Glowsticking originates from poi, a performance art first practiced by the Maori people of New Zealand that involves swinging weighted tethers called poi in geometric patterns. Glowsticking evolved from this as a performance done in the dark while either swinging glowsticks attached to strings, twirling glowing batons, or “freehanding” it by tossing/spinning the glowsticks directly in each hand. Learning this also requires a great deal of skill because you need to swing the glowsticks at high speeds for them to trace continuous patterns in the dark and it’s easy for them to get tangled or smack you in the face in the process.

It makes sense why, in the weeks leading up to the show, I often saw both orgs practicing in Mason Hall late at night! They were not taking on easy routines. My photos really don’t do them justice.

I really liked the choreo both groups demonstrated this year. Most Yoyo shows I’ve seen tend to stick to the same high-energy EDM music that gets a little overused after a while. Revolution’s creativity really shined through in the routines they put together to all sorts of musical genres, both fast and slow. Photonix also came through, experimenting with innovative glow suits with lights sewn into them and adding hula hoops and music-synced lights into their performance. *applause*

I also want to write a little ode to an oft-underrecognized part of any performance: the audience. I love the energy of the crowds during these student shows. We’re not there to see a professional, polished thing – we’re there to cheer on our pals. When someone drops their Yo-Yo or tangles up their glowstick and has to dart offstage, we only cheer and clap even louder in support. Because everyone in that theater was there to celebrate the passion and creativity and camaraderie that these students poured into this show – for once, not for any resume or class assignment or final project – but simply to HAVE FUN and express themselves.

I give Yotonix 2021 five out of five stars 🙂

REVIEW: Real and Imagined: Fabric Works and Video Animations by Heidi Kumao

I walked into the gallery with a stomach ache, and walked out with an even bigger knot.

Heidi Kumao has put together an excellent portrayal of the gaps in justice systems in cases of sexual violence. It is often characterized as a short list of events, identifiable with clear beginnings and ends. We know who the players are (we call them aggressors, rapists, victims) and what should happen to each party after the event has occurred (getting fired, jail time, police report, testifying). We know what counts and what doesn’t, and what responses are valid. Of course, none of this is actually true; there are countless ways in which someone can be affected by sexual violence, and to reduce such experiences down to more easily digestible stories is a powerful insult, putting into question a violated person’s reality.

The layout of Kumao’s pieces is minimalistic on purpose, each stitch and fabric scrap made infinitely more intentional. And while the arrows on the floor (to direct single-direction traffic in the gallery, allowing for social distancing) were not a part of the exhibition, they fit the theme: there is one way to reconcile with and bring justice to sexual violence. It’s procedural.

A textile medium was an inspired choice: fabric is manufactured neat and orderly, but on close inspection it has a propensity to unravel, to knot, to incorporate impurities, to lasso in sharp burrs, to tangle. It has holes in it, all over the place, it’s easily pierceable, complicated, diverse in stitch and texture. Lint and fuzz make abrasion evident, stains remain embedded. It calls up thoughts of bedding and thus the fiction of dreams, as the exhibition title suggests. It’s also representative of traditional womens’ work: sewing, mending, weaving, embroidering.

Her motifs capture well the double-edged properties of gaining a platform for self-advocation. Thechair is a seeming promise of a seat at the table, but it always comes paired with a spotlight, and an audience (the Langston Hughes reference is intentional, given the added layer of opposition  that women of color face in their search for justice). Connections are tenuous threads, which grow into chaotic knots and simplify into lines, noting the difference between reality (complex stories, lasting results, diverse reactions) and the imagined (straightforward descriptions, single narratives).

The most poignant piece to me was one called “Reluctant Narrator,” a little square scrap of felt maybe six inches wide. One chair sits with another, a tangle of thread upon it, which the other chair is pulling into a thick, straight line. 

It’s become the norm to accept heroism only in those able and willing to share their trauma with strangers, putting themselves on a stage and accepting skepticism and hatred in exchange for benefitting the good of others. We welcome the poised, and lack respect for the silent.

The exhibition will be on display until December 4th. The gallery is open 2-7pm Tuesdays and Fridays to anyone with an Mcard; unfortunately, they’re not presently able to open to the public. However, they have a wealth of online resources like discussions with their featured artists and news about goings-on in the Ann Arbor art scene on their website, https://stamps.umich.edu/.

REVIEW: Real and Imagined

Professor Heidi Kumao’s solo exhibition features fabric works and experimental animations that capture ordinary conversations and relationships. What sets Professor Kumao’s work apart from other artwork exploring a similar concept is not only the unique medium, but also the fact her work is told from a feminist perspective. She explores underlying emotions and tensions in everyday interactions by representing trauma and power imbalance. The title, Real and Imagined, reflects public support for and backlash towards women who have spoken up about assault, harassment, and misconduct. A woman’s experience can be believed to be an honest account but dismissed as wrongly remembered or entirely made up.

Professor Kumao’s work is minimalistic, but her work is far from lacking meaning or appearing overly simplistic and therefore unclear. Her work is almost playful or childlike – the style is reminiscent of something you’d see in a picture book. However, the seemingly innocent appearance of Professor Kumao’s artwork is sharply contrasted by how effectively she is able to convey emotion in her work.

For example, in the above piece titled “Consultation,” we see what is unmistakably a gynecologist’s office, with the door, chair, and the exam chair with stirrups. Although there are only really three focal points in the piece, with the background being all white, Professor Kumao was able to clearly set the scene, as well as create an atmosphere of unease with the vivid red. Red, as we all know, is often associated with danger or a warning, but Professor Kumao deliberately created a sense of discomfort rather than immediate danger. The scene can be interpreted as simply unsettling, but also preceding or directly following the suggested danger.

The jumble of thread sitting on the chair appears multiple times throughout the exhibition, including in the below piece titled “Reluctant Narrator.” In this piece, the thread is being pulled at, hinting at the unraveling of a narrative. She once again uses red, but the thread is in more disarray than the thread in “Consultation.” This seems to directly reference the “Reluctant” part of the title, again creating a sense of unease. On the other hand, in “Consultation,” the thread is still entirely intact, suggesting that perhaps there is something that happened around the time of the scene depicted.

Obviously, these are just my interpretations of some of Professor Kumao’s work, but I find it so impressive how effective her work is. There is always some blank space in each piece, but rather than leaving each piece seemingly unfinished, she is able to tell a story without overcrowding the felt canvas. Furthermore, I can only imagine how long it took to create this exhibition. The felt cutouts have a sense of depth, and you can always tell which way a chair or spotlight is facing. Her shapes are very distinct and it’s clear why she chose to include them – office chairs to represent power imbalances and spotlights to represent public scrutiny.

Overall, Professor Kumao’s exhibition is very strong and very impactful. It leaves room for interpretation, but it isn’t needlessly confusing. It’s clear that she put in a lot of time and care into this project, and I would encourage you to see it in person.

Real and Imagined is currently on display at the Stamps Gallery, which is open on Tuesdays and Fridays to visitors with an M-Card and a mask.

PREVIEW: Real and Imagined

Until December 4, Stamps Professor Heidi Kumao’s solo exhibition is on display at the Stamps Gallery. In this exhibition, Professor Kumao features narrative fabric works made from fabric cutouts and machine and hand stitching on felt. Professor Kumao uses these fabrics and experimental animations to visualize the psychological and emotional undertones behind everyday interactions and relationships. The title, “Real and Imagined,” is inspired by the backlash to the #MeToo movement, and how a woman’s testimony can be accepted as reality as dismissed as fiction at the same time.

I am very much looking forward to Professor Kumao’s exhibition. Her featured work has a very distinct and playful style, contrasted by the serious subject matter. I’m already impressed by how strong the message of each piece is despite how minimal the style is. I can only imagine how much care and time went into this exhibition, and I’m quite excited to see it in person.

The Stamps Gallery, located at 201 S. Division Street, is open on Tuesdays and Fridays from 2-7 to visitors with an M-Card and a mask.