REVIEW: Dopamine Dressing

2:00pm • Saturday, January 14, 2023 • UMMA

This Saturday, I visited the UMMA to take a closer look at YehRim Lee’s current installation, Dopamine Dressing. According to the exhibition’s description, Lee was inspired by chromotherapy and the “dopamine dressing” trend of 2020, in which individuals dressed in bright colors and bold textures as a way to boost their mood. In Dopamine Dressing, Lee explores the possibility of chemically altering the viewer’s brain using different visual stimuli to produce feelings of happiness.

 For me, when I initially saw Lee’s art in the window of the UMMA over the course of its installation, my reaction was negative. In passing, they looked haphazardly constructed, some appearing to collapse in on themselves under the weight of their many layers of sickly pastel glaze. During my time with the sculptures on Saturday, however, I had the opportunity to see how each piece was, in fact, meticulously crafted with different patterns and techniques reoccurring throughout the collection. Lee’s repeated use of patterns like grids, scallops, and interlocking circles, mostly carved into either triangular or semicircular slabs of clay, solidified an overarching theme for the exhibition. Certain glazing techniques also repeat, with some sculptures appearing as though thick glaze was applied with a piping bag, others as if the edges of the sculptures were repeatedly dipped in different glazes. In many places, glaze oozes down the sides of the ceramics, looking like massive, sugary dollops of frosting.

The effect was visual decadence. While the inspiration for the installation may have been fashion, the sculptures heaped with pastel-colored glazes brought to mind cakes piled high with buttercream. There was a sense of maximalism: on top of the already complex structures and their glazing, some featured gold leaf, or iridescent patches that mimicked mother-of-pearl. For me, the gallery somehow elicited a kind of greediness, the feeling I get when I’m shopping and walk past piles of fast fashion clothing and I have force myself not to buy everything I lay eyes on. In this sense, I connect with Lee’s intention for the work. In some notes on the exhibition, Lee writes that the technique she used in firing and re-firing the sculptures almost to collapse connects with the fleeting nature of the bursts of dopamine we experience while taking in the artwork. Similarly, the culture of waste inherent in the fashion industry from which Lee took inspiration offers us only momentary happiness.

PREVIEW: VOTE! 2018 Fashion Show at the Museum of Art

Where- UMMA

When- November 5th, 6-8PM


While my own absentee ballot has long been sealed, stamped and sent off, seeing how much fervor is building across campus for the upcoming election warms my heart in the chilly autumn weather. Whether it be posters, short comedic videos, or social media advertisements it seems like reminders are becoming a daily if not hourly occurrence, and for good cause.

Despite the ever-increasingly creative ways that I’ve seen companies and various organizations alike spreading the voting fervor, the last thing I expected to touch down on our campus was a fashion show dedicated to “what to wear to the polls” and how to exert your political influence through fashion. If you’re feeling a little uninformed on the eve of the election the Ginsberg center will be present to help talk through this year’s ballot as well. The project is a collaboration between various creative organizations and groups on campus such as SHEI Magazine, Bronze Elegance Fashion Show, NOiR Runway Fashion, enspiRED, Stamps School of Art & Design #VotingisSexy class, and the Ginsberg Center/U-M Big Ten Voter Challenge, so you know you’re in for a treat.

So if you’re passionate about fashion, exercising your right to vote, or just want some tips on how to roll up to the polls in absolute style, make sure to check out “Vote!” at the Umma November 6th.  The event will be free of charge and food will be provided so be sure to swing on by!


REVIEW: The Draft

I was first introduced to The Draft exhibition by African-Canadian artist Esmaa Mohamoud just around a year ago.  I was far from the familiar, quaint Ann Arbor, in the bustling international hub entirely different country to be precise!  While that statement exaggerates what was essentially a weekend jaunt to Toronto, there is no exaggeration when describing how impressive this series of work was when I first saw it.  Thankfully our campus was bestowed the privilege earlier this fall to host Mohamoud’s amazing series of work, and I was eager to compare my experience viewing it in a local setting to how it was displayed at the prestigious AGO in Toronto.

When I first arrived, although the gallery door was firmly locked, I was officially within the 10am-5pm time period that the gallery should be open to the public.  Thankfully after quickly asking the front office about gallery they were more than willing to unlock it for me, so don’t be discouraged if you find yourself in a similar position.

The pieces were spread out between two rooms, with the first room being a dedicated space to show the exhibit, complete with both  various sculptures and photographs. The second being a conference room with three of the large scale photographs hanging on the wall. The space in the first room was very well utilized, with a low sculpture placed in the middle activating and working in harmony with the pieces around the room. On the other hand, while the large-scale photography works certainly elevated the conference room they were hanging in, I couldn’t help but feel slightly disappointed at how these meaningful photographs felt relegated to the same level as the generic abstract paintings used to spice up mid-tier hotels.


While I wouldn’t have guessed many of Mohamoud’s intentions with each piece without reading the description, her passion for basketball shines through in the way she handles this series.  As for what I did glean from the description posted outside, the series meant to explore themes of “gender, race, empowerment and disillusionment” within the world of basketball. The white, deflated basketballs in the main sculpture are meant to represent the 30 NBA draft picks every year and the rusted chain hoop is meant to “suggest the weird allure and enmeshment of the past.”  The photos of men in basketball jerseys and large ballroom-esque hoop skirts is a representation of Mohamoud’s complex feelings growing up as a girl immersed and in love with what was considered a “men’s sport,” and I also argue could be a statement on perceived masculinity in today’s sports world as well.

When the work was displayed in the AGO in Toronto, Mohamoud had the original models from the photographs in the series wear the same outfits and perform in the space.  While I was not able to attend the performance itself, I did get a chance to see the dress in person, which we were not able to display here at UM. I found this to be truly unfortunate as the dress was, by far my favorite part of her work.  It’s sheer size and volume are unable to be captured by the cropped photographs shown in the exhibit. Below is an image of the models wearing the dresses so viewers can get an idea of what they were like. While I would have loved to see one of the dresses on display in conjunction with the other pieces, I know that there were probably a long list of complications that kept from UM being able to do so, and the gallery space itself would have nearly been dominated by the dress’s physical size and presence even if it was somehow able to be displayed.

The Gallery is often rotating new and exciting exhibits, available right on campus free to students and the general public alike. The exhibit is the first door to your left upon entering the South Thayer building, and the building itself is directly across the street from the MLB and North Quad. Be sure to check out the upcoming exhibition as well, as the gallery is constantly rotating shows. I highly recommend taking the five to ten minutes that it takes to hop into the gallery any any day you need a quick artistic pick-me-up or shot of inspiration while walking around campus. 

REVIEW: GLOSS: Modeling Beauty

Gloss: Modeling Beauty was a pleasant surprise. All I knew about this exhibit was that it “explores the shifting ideals of female beauty that pervade European and American visual culture from the 1920s to today,” which was the UMMA’s online description. I expected magazine covers of willowy, white women in the highest fashion from the early 1900’s and today’s fashion magazines with sleek, androgynous women. Maybe it was just me, but I found the theme of the exhibit to be different from what the online description conveyed. Rather than depicting shifting trends in actual beauty standards, I felt like the exhibition portrayed the photographer’s stance and mentality towards fashion and beauty in their time period.

For example, one of the first images shows a black women posing for an advertisement in typical Harlem 1920’s attire. The photographer, James Van Der Zee, tries to offer an alternative to the mainstream white models of the time. Another photographer had several images of women in more experimental, sexual clothing, but it was the 1970’s during the sexual revolution… so it’s not too out of place. The gesture of empowering women was appreciated. To be honest though, some of them I just didn’t “get”. According to the plaque, Paolozzi’s pop art photos were supposed to “engender comical and ambiguous analogies”. Yeah, I found them very ambiguous.

The work that stood out the most for me was a set of six photos from a clothing catalog for the store Bloomingdale’s. The set of photos are honestly kind of creepy more than anything else. Each photo has several women in the shot, but it looks like they are all doing their own thing and just happen to be in the same space. There is little interaction between them and their expressions are oddly intense. One woman sits on a couch and stares directly into the camera completely straight faced, which I actually found a little unnerving. Maybe that was the point…? I’m not sure. Each image also has a high contrast between light and shadow which heightened the bizarreness for me.

One thing did disappoint me a little. The exhibition was quite small– taking my time and reading every single plaque, I went through the two walls of photos in about twenty minutes. Overall, I appreciated the few pictures with women of color. I wish there had been more diversity but the absence makes sense since the exhibition is a reflection on whom society deems worthy of representing beauty.

Would recommend if: you have spare time between classes, you understand photography more than me, you want some insight into how photographers use media as a tool for communication.

PREVIEW: GLOSS: Modeling Beauty

Interested in fashion and photography? How about beauty and culture? If so, come peruse the photography gallery in the UMMA, right on central campus— for free.

GLOSS: Modeling Beauty examines how beauty ideals have changed in America and in Europe since the 1920’s. The exhibition features glossy images of female models from fashion magazines. Hanging along side these works are images from documentary photographers who depict the fashion of everyday life. Lastly, artists like Nikki S. Lee contribute photographs presenting alternative notions to mainstream beauty and fashion. Come see how beauty standards for women have evolved and, of course, for some fashion *inspiration*. After all, it’s only open until January 7th, 2018.

Time: Everyday (except Mondays). Where: UMMA. What: Awesome visuals by awesome photographers (~Andy Warhol~).

(Image: UMMA website.

Review- Maddman: The Steve Madden Story

I arrived early to the Michigan theater- nearly a full two hours before the event began- expecting the interest generated by this one of a kind experience to be more than overwhelming.  It was the premier of the Steve Madden documentary, “Maddman: the Steve Madden Story” by Ben Patterson featuring a live Q&A from the man himself after the movie was over.  Thankfully my friend and I got a spot near the front of the line, but as the line slowly grew and the drizzly rainy day chilled even further you could feel the sense of excitement mounting in the hubbub of the crowd outside.  I had been a long-time wearer of Madden’s shoes, coincidentally having thrown on a pair that very morning without realizing the connection.  Knowing next to nothing about the company or the man behind the company I was very excited to learn exactly how that well-loved pair of black “troopa” boots on my feet came into being.

Finally, it was time to file into the theater, walking by a mini photo op area where individuals dressed far better than I were taking photos, already making the event seem like the fashionable and flashy movie premier that I had expected it to be.  Generously, all attendees of the event receive free concessions (I picked some popcorn and a delicious mocha dark chocolate bar) along with a free goodie bag that featured a mug, a t shirt, stickers and much more.  For a free event this was far more than I expected and a more than welcome first impression. The screening room had a capacity of 200, and by the time the event was ready to begin nearly every seat was full.  A staff member told us to “pretend we were at sea world” and squeeze in so that no seat would be wasted

Finally the lights dimmed and the documentary began with snappy shots of the feet of New Yorkers as they bustled around the city.  The documentary itself was nothing short of fantastic. I thought the director did an extremely good job of capturing both elements of Steve’s life and career, and also the frenzied kinetic energy of the office.  Steve’s story  progressed naturally, one event flowing to another while weaving the overarching story of a dedicated and passionate man becoming the textbook example of “rags to richtes” through hard work and creativity.  They discussed sensitive topics, like Steve’s time in prison due to being caught up in the money laundering scheme made famous by “Wolf of Wall Street,” with special care,  while also maintaining focus on Steve’s dedication for his company and forward momentum.  I remember laughing out loud at more than one occasion and grinning from ear to ear by the time the movie was over.

Last but not least, it was time for the Q&A. Even from sitting near the back of the room, you could get a feel for Steve Madden’s natural charisma and force of personality.  He managed to exude an air of confidence without seeming haughty or arrogant, and seemed to earnestly answer all of the questions presented to him, even the less than comfortable ones about his time in prison.  I particularly liked that when asked why he chose Ann Arbor to premier the movie about his life story, he brought up that many people he know and a large number of people who work from his company were Umich alums themselves, and that the school had a special place in his company.  While the event was a once-in-a-lifetime experience I highly recommend the documentary to anyone interested in business, fashion or just an inspiring story of hard work and dedication.