REVIEW: 28th Annual Exhibition of Artists in Michigan Prisons

[Title photo: Kings Gambit by Marte’nez Sr.; Acrylic]

The Prison Creative Arts Project (PCAP) is an initiative through the Residential College at The University of Michigan with a mission dedicated to bringing those impacted by the justice system to the U-M community for artistic collaboration, mutual learning, and growth. The program hosts a variety of workshops in visual art, theater, choral music, photography, and more. The Duderstadt Gallery is hosting an exhibition of a year-long collaboration with PCAP featuring art by incarcerated artists.

To produce the gallery, the PCAP community visited 24 adult prisons throughout the state of Michigan to handpick the selection of art being presented. During their visits, the volunteers review artwork and have the opportunity to discuss and exchange insights with artists, fostering a profound understanding of the intent behind each distinctive piece.

[30 Animal Granny Square Blanket by Douglas Bail]

The gallery intrigued me with the inherent individuality behind each piece. There were paintings, pencil drawings, sewn creations and figurines—and more! There was truly a collection of artistic mediums and untold stories.

[Boxed In by THE TEXAN; Acrylic, Canvas]

The gallery is open until April 3rd, and the hours of operation are listed below. Much of the art is for purchase at a variety of price ranges, from $35 to well over $500. There are many resources located at the gallery with ways to get involved with PCAP and other community and outreach groups in Michigan at the University and beyond. I left the gallery with the quote from the welcome guide ruminating through my mind:

“Art has truly saved my life. It has broght light in a place designed to keep us in the dark. It allows us to tell our story, or express how we feel not having to say a word. Art gives voivce to the voiceless…”   —DaJuan



Gallery Hours:

Sun & Mon 12PM – 6PM

Tues – Sat 10AM – 8PM


More about PCAP here.





[Piano Jewelry Box with Drawer & Bench by Kimmy L. Emig; Wood]

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: 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.





Journey Crossing the Border – Leang Seckon

REVIEW: Angkor Complex: Cultural Heritage and Post-Genocide Memory in Cambodia

(In Thumbnail: Journey Crossing the Border, 2016 – Leang Seckon)

In the UMMA from Feb 3 to July 28, the Angkor Complex is a profound exhibit that displays the tragedies of lost cultural heritage, colonialism, genocide, and the rebuilding of the memories lost from the shards that remained from post-genocide Cambodia. Through a mix of cultural artifacts and contemporary pieces, the Angkor Complex dutifully shows the emotions inlaid in the terrible death, suffering, and fleeing that resulted from the Killing Fields and the Khmer Rouge.

Bomb Ponds, 2009 – Vandy Rattana Photographs of ponds in craters made from US bombing during the Vietnam War

Gaining independence from French colonial rule in 1953, Cambodia has had a tumultuous history with the oppressive Khmer Rouge regime from 1975-1979. Under the leadership of Pol Pot, millions of people were displaced, forced to work in labor camps, or outright executed in the Killing Fields in the name of the Communist Party of Kampuchea. In these labor camps, Cambodian citizens were subject to unending abuse from the soldiers: many died from disease, starvation, overwork, being forced to work through their infections, pregnancies, and sicknesses. The Killing Fields were where many were tortured, executed, and stuffed into mass graves; by any violent means men, women, and their children were slaughtered for their crimes against the regime. The regime also came with the destruction of traditional art, religion, and ways of life. By the end of the genocide most of the artists, buddhist monks, apsara dancers (traditionally female dancers that depicted classical/religious stories) and a quarter of the whole Cambodian population were killed. Due to the nature of these histories, it is absolutely imperative to understand the inseparable, lasting effects that the Khmer Rouge had on the Cambodian people to understand the sorrows and coping on full display throughout the exhibit.

Apsara Warrior, 2004 – Ouk Chim Vichet Displays an Apsara figure built of guns and metal tearing apart a rifle with its hands

While a few of the pieces on display date back to the Khmer Empire (802-1431) or during the time of the French Protectorate of Cambodia (1887-1953), most of the pieces in the exhibit are from contemporary Cambodian artists, many of which are members of the Cambodian diaspora—the dispersal of people from their homeland. These pieces provide the deepest insights into how post-genocide Cambodia copes with the loss of its culture with all of that they regain from the repatriation of colonially seized artifacts and the re-education of Cambodian traditions. My personal favorites are the pieces made  artists that lived through the Khmer Rouge’s regime. They tell their stories of which their pains sorrowfully resonated with the histories I was familiar with in my own Filipino identity. Though most of them regained hope of survival with their immigrations, it came with the loss of their newfound diasporic identities. Such complications become inevitable in the full extent of these tragedies, which shine through in their pieces that depict cultural and religious iconography juxtaposed with modern cityscapes (such as in the thumbnail of this post).

Full Circle, Unbounded Arc, 2015 – Amy Lee Samford A series of terracotta pots that have been broken and attempted to be reassembled with glue and string. It represents the difficulty in rebuilding what has been lost.

Overall, each and every piece of this exhibit carries unmistakeable weight in their messages, and I truly believe the best way to experience this exhibit is to read every piece’s plaque. Each of the experiences from the artists are on full display: their pain, their loss, their coping, their rebuilding. I hope that with this review, you are implored to see the exhibit for yourself and feel the emotions of each piece, for they should be grieved with just as they should be hoped with.

REVIEW: Concert Black

On Saturday I had the chance to go see a live reading of the first act of Concert Black, a musical written by SMTD student Mattie Levy. It was held at the Newman Studio on north campus. The musical itself represented the lives of three music school students, an oboe player (Played by Levy herself), a violinist, and an opera singer. The play was split three ways between them, so the audience had the chance to see the differences and similarities between each characters life and experience in music school.

The musical talked about a lot of different things including the everyday stress of being a college student, the added stress of being in music school, and the discrimination faced by many African American music students. It was also told in short pieces rather than one continuous storyline, which really gave the audience a full glimpse into the life of each character. I really admire her ability to showcase each perspective, while also telling a continuous narrative.

As someone in music school myself, I really enjoyed and appreciated the chance to see Concert Black. Some of the experiences the characters talked about were ones that I could also relate to. Especially one scene where the character who plays violin is stuck in the practice room, debating whether or not to go out with friends instead, and the inevitable feeling of guilt sets in. It’s something I’ve done so many times but never seen represented before. It’s also just a very weird and isolating feeling that not many people understand. There were so many moments like this in Concert Black, things about being in music school that tend to go unacknowledged, and it was very satisfying to see it described like that on stage.

The scene changes, crew, and instrumentalists were also a part of the show. Members of the crew and orchestra wore white, rather than black, which made everyone stand out against the backdrop. I thought this was so cool, and like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It made me think about how everyone in a production like this is equally apart of it, not just the people on stage.

Overall I really enjoyed Concert Black and I can’t wait to see act two!





On Thursday I had the chance to go see Pivot for free at the Duderstadt Center Gallery (which is located in the connecting hallway between Pierpont commons and Duderstadt library). The exhibit is the senior thesis of Rileigh Goldsmith, a dance student at SMTD. The exhibit combined dance with virtual reality, and it was unlike any dance performance I had ever seen before. The gallery itself was fairly closed off, and Goldsmith arranged the space in a way where curtains blocked off the performance space. It was almost laid out like a maze on the inside, which made the overall experience more private and gave the exhibit the feeling of going on a journey.

The exhibit featured the use of virtual reality, which Goldsmith took special care to fully explain at the start of the performance. She included a video on how to use all of the equipment, which made it all the more welcoming to someone like me who’s never used anything like that before. The performance itself was thoughtful, beautiful, and used dance in a completely novel way. Some major themes of the performance were transformation, reflection, and seeing things in a new way. Despite the fact that the performance was viewed through virtual reality, she also paid a lot of attention to the physical space itself, which was decorated in a simple but elegant way. Using virtual reality she was able to transport her audience to completely new places with each act. Including one act where she was even able to give the audience the feeling of being a part of the performance.

I saw the exhibit after going to class, it was open from 12-6, and I was able to see it before going home for the day. The performance only lasts for about 20 minutes, and because of it’s location, it’s easy to drop in and enjoy the exhibit during the work day. I was a little nervous going in, because it’s so unlike anything I’ve ever done before, but upon arriving I felt welcomed and everything was made accessible. Seeing the exhibit ended up being the highlight of my day, and I found myself thinking about it on my way home and the days since. It was a nice break from what I had going on, and a chance to reflect and enjoy the talent and hard work of everyone involved.

The exhibit is still happening, and stops running on January 21st.


Photo from the School of Music, Theater and Dance website.