REVIEW: “Tales Told in Brick and Stone”

Taking Time with “Tales Told in Brick and Stone”

This week I took a walk to The Argus Museum to check out “Tales Told in Brick and Stone” a photography exhibition centered on the emotional resonance of abandoned buildings. The show is a group exhibit featuring the work of Sophie Grillet, Susan Lawless, and Sasha Mykhailova. Themes of shadow, neglect, and decay bring our attention to what we abandon, and express reverence for the echoes of the past found in the structures of our present.

Sophie Grillet is an English artist turned Ann Arbor local.  Her collection “Shadows of the Past” reflects on impermanence. Often her compositions pair buildings with the shadows of figures, contrasting the fleeting nature of people with the intention of buildings to last.

“Orvieto Italy” and “Shadow on Glass”

Susan Lawless’ work is a photography essay titled “Asylum”. It features photos of the abandoned  Northern Michigan Asylum for the Insane. “Asylum” reflects on what it means to be on the outskirts of society. There is a haunting quality to a location like an abandoned insane asylum, and Lawless’s collection brings a respect to the place. We are asked to spend time with something that so often we turn our eyes and minds from, and in doing so we spend time with the memories of the people who once lived and worked there.


Sasha Mykhailova is a Ukranian photographer. Her collection is a series of photographs taken of the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. The photographs are of rooms abandoned and in states of disrepair, gymnasiums with floors warped beyond being a floor, dormitories with rusted out bed frames, papers yellowed and scattered across floors. The presence of disaster and decay warns us to turn away, go back, find another way to go. Mykhailova holds our hand and says, “It’s okay, look”.

“Chernobyl” 6-9

The stories that buildings tell are subdued and often quietly complex. To listen to them requires us to slow down and spend time with emotions that aren’t usually comfortable. We are eager to be distracted from the past, the marginalized, the fleeting, and the abandoned. Maybe in part because it puts our present moment into the context of history. After spending time with “Tales Told in Brick and Stone”, I felt like I had gained a reverence for the past, and an awareness of how the structures around me will continue on long after me. I looked around The Argus Museum with a new perspective, appreciating a space dedicated to remembering.

The Argus Museum is on the second floor of the Argus building on William Street, a few blocks away from the Ann Arbor District Library. It is a museum about the Argus Camera Company, which was founded in Ann Arbor in 1931. In addition to the current arts exhibition, the museum is full of old cameras and artifacts about camera making, documenting the history and development of the Argus camera company. The museum hosts photography exhibits and conferences throughout the year in their gallery space.

“Tales Told in Brick and Stone” will be available for viewing at The Argus Museum until April 5th.

REVIEW: Michigan’s Got Talent

Wolverine’s Prove “Michigan’s Got Talent”

On Tuesday February 20, I used my Passport to the Arts to attend Michigan’s Got Talent, a talent show for the University of Michigan student body. The event was hosted by MUSIC Matters, a student organization that organizes music events on campus. Performed for the Lydia Mendelson Theatre’s packed audience and a panel of three judges, the night was act after act of inspiring creative force.

The event was MCed by two members of student improv troupe ComCo and judged by former president of MUSIC Matters Anna Lair, as well as the University of Michigan’s Vice President for Student Life Martino Harmon, and Mark Clague, an SMTD musicology professor whose scholarly interests center on the role of music in community building.

Student Band “Mahogany”

The range and variety of talent in the Michigan student body was on full display, from the upbeat k-pop covers by Korean American band Seoul Juice to the rhythmic flair of the Michigan Ballroom Dance Team. Individual talents and student organizations alike shined their light on stage. The audience was moved by vocal performances by Jeheil Butt, who also performed with DJs Acapella, and singer-singwriter Jacqueline Dianis whose buttery smooth rendition of Tennessee Whiskey was powerful and sincere. Student jam band Toast gave a zippy and energetic performance, and nine man band Mahogany connected to the audience with upbeat grooves.

Apparently on a whim, the ComCo MCs asked if anyone in the audience had a talent they’d like to share, and a brave audience member climbed onto the stage to perform an impromptu tap dance. After that, several other audience members volunteered their talents at the piano during set changes. There was a magic in the air of rooting for someone to make the change from audience member to performer at a second’s notice.

Outrage Dance’s Final Pose

Outrage Dance gave an energetic and technically impressive performance that knocked the audience’s socks off, winning the Crowd Favorite Award. Trenton Michael (featured image) and his saxophone performed an upbeat, spunky, and honest original song that had the audience clapping along, winning him Most Original Performance.

My favorite act was probably Tola Kilian and Miguel Retto, who represented the Michigan Ballroom Dance Team with a performance of Pink Panther. The suave and sassy dance was truly a pleasure to watch, and reminded me of my days studying abroad and dancing the Tango in Argentina.

Tola Kilian and Miguel Retto of The Michigan Ballroom Dance Team

I left Michigan’s Got Talent moved by the talent of my peers, and glowing from the chance to catch and reflect the shine of my classmate’s creative expression. The opportunity to see students in the audience sit up from their velvet seats and show that they too had something to share, imparted a whispered awareness of the energetic creativity that hums in the people around you. Michigan’s Got Talent was a celebration of music, and of life. I think performers and audience members alike walked out of the theater feeling inspired, and a little more talented.

Music Matters hosts other events to promote the arts and music on campus. You can check out their instagram to learn about upcoming events like Spring Fest in April.

REVIEW: Alexandra Collins’s “Hyper Light”

Seeing Stars with Alexandra Collins’s Exuberant “Hyper Light”. 

On Friday February 16th, I had the pleasure of attending the opening reception of Stamps senior Alexandra Collins’s first solo exhibition “Hyper Light ”. The work is on display at The Common Cup, an Ann Arbor coffee shop on Washtenaw Avenue.  From still lifes of jello molds and glassware, to large zinging abstracts of flowers and shapes, the series is a colorful and bold exploration of the relationship between energy and tension.

“Red Jello on Purple Tablecloth”

Collins’s eye finds movement in stillness. Investigating the organic in the inorganic, she uses bold colors and streaky light to create energetic portraits of jello and glass. The tension between energy and stillness holds as a focal point in her still lifes like the horizon of a sea scape. The lively dynamic style contrasts and emphasizes the stillness of the subjects like a loud silence. Maybe you shouldn’t have ordered that second Mayan Mocha, or maybe you caught the jello jiggling from the corner of your eye.



Collins plays with the constraints of the canvas, in some works lining up several panels, in others tacking panels on in unexpected ways. The larger and more abstract pieces expand and challenge what can contain them. Pieces such as “Superbloom” are colorful menageries of plant life, bubbles and baubles, and streaks of light. Reminiscent of exploding stars and streaking galaxies, the arrangements represent a synthesis of color, shape, and form. The flowers are closed, and the paint around them vibrates and thrusts and sings like it just can’t be held anymore. Like the build up of a song with no release, we are held in those moments before explosion.

On a blustery February day, the basement location of the exhibition makes the colorful paintings feel like an underground secret, like spring charging beneath the earth. I felt a celebration and investigation of the feminine in the flower motifs and dining room still lifes. The celestial exuberance and energetic synthesis of shapes and color asking what feminine energy might look like, and where we could put it down. When I parked at a table for a few hours to sip coffee and send out piles of resumes and cover letters, I felt Hyper Lights hum resonating around me, not with the glory of the finish line, but with potential.


“Hyper Light” will be on display at The Common Cup on Washtenaw Avenue for about two more weeks, until March 2nd. The paintings are an energetic and possibility expanding presence in the cafe, which is a great place to study or meet with friends. You can find more of Collins’s work on her website and instagram, or by attending Commence, a graduating senior exhibition held at the Stamps Gallery in April.