Study Hal: Week 7 – New Threads

Hal’s been making sure to cover his face when he heads out in public. He’s been using an old bandana because he’s stubborn and doesn’t like to buy new things, but a few weeks ago, he caved in and invested in a cloth mask for the school year. It finally arrived today! The only problem is that Hal didn’t think about the practicalities of wearing a mask with earloops when you don’t have any ears…

Don’t feel too bad for Hal! We’re gonna find something to hold the loops together in the back. Actually, tieing the earloops like that can take the pressure off your ears, making wearing a mask more comfortable over long periods of time. Very flexible wire is perfect for that kind of thing!

In case you haven’t met him yet, Hal is a U-Mich student who’s living at home over the summer of 2020. He’s back every week to share his experiences of living through this pandemic. If you want to see more videos, search the Study Hal tag.

“what is art?” #20 – Noah Caspar Interview

Noah Caspar is a rising senior studying fine arts in the Stamps School of Art & Design. As a freshman, they intended to graduate with a neuroscience major but transferred into Stamps after reigniting their artistic passion through a sculpture course in the residential college. Noah enjoys creating work that forces the viewer to interact with the piece and allows the space to take shape around it. As a queer artist, they also explore what makes a space exclusionary and how they can facilitate comfortable spaces for all. Noah gravitates towards sculpture because of the process and labor for its craft and hopes to branch off from these studies with their background in music to make more performative installation pieces. To learn more about Noah’s process, work, and their definition of art please take a listen to this audio interview and check out their website below.


Instagram: @noahc100

Kaleidoscope #1: Sunflowers

When I woke up to go to the Met with my brother over winter break, “Sunflower, Vol. 6” was buzzing in my ears. Harry Styles’ second solo album, Fine Line, had been released a few weeks earlier and the sunny, syrupy track had firmly stuck itself in my subconscious. That’s probably why Claude Monet’s “Bouquet of Sunflowers” caught my eye later that day. And looking at the painting, the song seemed to make a little more sense.

What is it about sunflowers that make them so inspiring? Monet’s painting, through the lens of “Sunflower, Vol. 6,” offers some hints. 

Sunflowers’ most obvious alluring quality is how interesting they are to look at. “My eyes / want you more than the melody” is how Styles describes his draw. The yellowy-gold of sunflowers’ petals is captured in Monet’s painting, contrasted with reds and blues. Sunflowers pop. They invite you to admire them.

The flip side to this is that they’re mysterious. “Wish I could get to know you” Styles croons. Everyone knows what a sunflower looks like, but it’s unusual to find one in a garden or a vase. Maybe that’s why Monet’s depiction of many sunflowers bunched together feels so unruly. Sunflowers are bold — what might they be hiding?

My favorite line of “Sunflower, Vol. 6” is probably the most telling — “I don’t wanna make you feel bad / but I’ve been trying hard not to talk to you / my sunflower.” This points to sunflowers’ importance in terms of their metaphorical potential. I’d like to think that maybe Monet was trying to capture the essence of a person he knew in his painting, or a feeling he had. Something or someone that felt simultaneously playful and serious.

Monet’s painting and Styles’ song seem to point toward sunflowers representing an almost. They are full of life — they way their stems curve in every direction in “Bouquet of Flowers” suggests that they are strong-willed. They’re good company — Styles repeatedly asserts “I couldn’t want you anymore” to his “sunflower.” But something’s missing. I’d be remiss not to account for how sunflowers act in nature. Their movement literally follows the sun. Sunflowers are always wanting, always reaching, always trying to get a little closer to their source of warmth. To no end. The floral representation of love is already taken by roses, sunflowers get something a little more complicated — complete adoration.

Subverting Expectations in Art

I’m always discovering more about why I love art and what makes a certain work of art stand out to me, and personally that’s one of my favorite parts about enjoying art. Over time I’ve found that I have really unique interests in the underappreciated areas of art, specifically the small details that often go unnoticed by others. I think these details often go unnoticed consciously, but have a huge impact on how we experience art, and that’s why I love to analyze and explore these details in order to better understand why a certain work of art feels the way it does. Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about art that subverts the viewer’s expectations, whether it be a movie breaking the fourth wall, a game that has an artistic twist, or a song that features variations on a theme that take the listener by surprise. Eventually I would love to explore these concepts in all forms of art, but first I want to start with great examples from two of my favorite games: Journey and Monument Valley 2.


I talked about Journey in a previous post, in which I emphasized it as a game of quality over quantity. It’s an overall spectacular game, featuring a gorgeous color palette, emotional story-line, and a beautiful orchestral soundtrack. I was playing through it again recently when I rediscovered one of my favorite parts, in which the game takes this beautiful breathtaking moment to break its format and reveal itself as the work of art it is. The entire game is from a third person perspective, mostly limited to the back of the protagonist, except in this short and surprising scene where you’re surfing down sand dunes and suddenly enter a tunnel, where the camera pans over to display you in profile with this gorgeous and mystical cityscape laid out under a looming mountain and fiery orange sun. It really is breathtaking when you play the game; it comes out of nowhere, and evokes this feeling of pure serenity and awe that is completely unique to this game. The visual nature is perfectly complemented by a reprieve in the music, featuring a bittersweet cello representing the solitary character. It’s an incredible game as a whole, but I think this moment itself characterizes the entire artistic feeling of the game. Art is an emotional medium, and understanding how that emotion is conveyed is essential to understanding what makes it unique. In Journey, it’s this subversion of expectations and a fleeting moment of calm that forces the player to step back and evaluate how the game conveys emotion.


Another great example of art subverting expectations is Monument Valley 2. I’ve discussed Monument Valley before, specifically how it stands apart as a mobile game and how the soundtrack itself is a great example of thoughtful and well made ambient music. However, Monument Valley 2 does something special that the first doesn’t, and that’s including a variation of the theme, essentially breaking its own rules and forcing the viewer to rethink their understanding of the game. The entire game relies on ‘impossible geometry’, level design that is impossible in the real world, but stunning and satisfying in the minimalist world of Monument Valley. It’s 3D and geometric as a result, using an isometric style to make the impossible geometry possible, which in turn defines it’s artistic style and sets the expectations on how the game is played. However, in one sub-level of the game, seemingly out of nowhere, the game breaks its own format and the result is another breathtaking moment (that may sound dramatic, but I’m not exaggerating when I say that these details make me pause with appreciation and respect). Instead of following the expected 3D style, the level is suddenly in 2 dimensions. But that’s not all: interacting with the puzzle reveals the hidden nature of the level, in which a combination of clever 2D design and classic 3D impossible geometry provide jaw-dropping illusions and solutions. Not only is this surprise fascinating enough artistically, I love the self-aware shapes in the background that reveal their hidden dimensions depending on how the level is rotated. The designers clearly knew what they were doing, and since this is the only time this is ever done in the entire franchise, it doesn’t come off as cheap or gimmicky, but instead as an amazing artistic choice that sets Monument Valley apart as a work of art.

Hopefully I was able to explain how important these small details and artistic surprises are in developing the style of a work of art, and hopefully you can appreciate them as much as I do. I definitely recommend keeping an eye out for similar subversions in all fields of art; I think you’ll find that many of your favorite and most memorable pieces feature some element of artistic surprise.

RC Players and Evening of Scenes: Playing a Diva

Residing in East Quad, RC Players is the Residential College’s own theatre group (though you don’t have to be in the RC to be involved). The organization is student-run, with new shows chosen at weekly meetings led by the executive board. Through RC Players, students get to direct, act, write, produce, and handle tech for various productions throughout the school year. These shows include full-length productions, Evening of Scenes, and Red-Eye, where a show is written from scratch and performed within 24 hours.

Evening of Scenes, or EOS, is a series of original short comedy skits. Like other RC Player shows, the pieces are written, directed, and presented by students. The sketch comedy show is performed at the beginning of each fall and winter semester. This semester’s EOS occurred last weekend, January 31st and February 1st. According to the performance’s facebook event description, the show included a variety of eccentric scenes, from “frat guys running the constitutional convention to the Adpocalypse.”

This semester, I decided to try out for EOS at the last minute, and I’m glad I did. Cast in “Open Call Auditions”, a parody on the Bachelor and its audition process, I played Giselle Evans. The character was a diva “straight off Broadway” who eventually lost her temper and caused drama onstage. Add sassiness, sexual tension, and a verse of “Memory” from Cats to make her character even more memorable. Giselle’s loud, confident demeanor was quite the opposite of my own; yet, that’s what made playing her character so fun. Another thing that I liked about my scene was the awesome ad-libbing that came from my cast mates. Thanks to the liberty granted by our director (you rock, Alexa!), some of the biggest laughs we received were due to witty one-liners not in the script. Whether for transitions or humorous reactions, the improvisation made for a different show each night, as per live theatre in general.


One thing I love about EOS in general is the flexibility. I’m currently not an active member in RC Players, but the show is one of many open to all for involvement. College is a busy time, and amidst classes, jobs, and other extracurriculars, it can be difficult to find the time to dedicate yourself to a full-length show. For someone who loves theatre but doesn’t have enough room in their schedule to take a ton of drama classes or frequently do said full-lengths, EOS is a good compromise. After auditions, there are only two weeks or so of rehearsal before the performances. The people in RC Players are hard-working yet fun and accommodating, so rehearsal times vary depending on the availability of the group. For any RC freshmen or sophomores, living in East Quad makes heading to rehearsal convenient, as you can just walk downstairs (as a reminder, RC Players is set in East Quad).

Prior to last weekend’s EOS, I have been an assistant director for one EOS show and an audience member for the others during my time at college. Whether behind-the-scenes, on-stage, or in the audience, EOS is a blast. I highly recommend to keep your eyes open to opportunities for getting involved or watching EOS and other shows by RC Players.

Want to get involved or learn more about the RC Players? Click this link for their Facebook page!

Photo Credit: Mitchell Salley and RC Players