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.





REVIEW: Here Nor There

Kristina Sheufelt’s Here Nor There effortlessly took me from place to place, conjuring up wilderness’ role in my own life, while simultaneously taking me into hers.


A Wind from Noplace Prototype I combined light-toned wood, metal, grass, and vials to create a “two-second line of data recording the artist’s heart rate in a meadow”. Although I didn’t understand the piece upon merely looking at it, reading that description produced an image of the artist laying alone in a meadow, grass hiding them from view, tickling the edges of their vision. I’d imagine their heartbeat at rest, slow-breathing. It felt like in a way, I knew her, distantly. I thought it was really creative how the artist combined nature with machinery. And yet, I didn’t really understand the piece itself. Were the blades of grass real, or fake? Was it wrong to take a living piece of the earth for our own creation? And why was one vial spaced out from the others? Perhaps the beat stuttering due to a bug in the grass? A plane whisking by overhead, the split-second alarm of engines and vehicles and being seen again?

I really enjoyed the intimacy of All I Have Left of the Mountains. Made of soil engraved with an excerpt from a journal entry following “a failed attempt to hike 500 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail,” again, I felt like Sheufelt was offering us a little window into her world. The mud was dried up, yet felt so visceral, contradicting the fading, fleeting words carved into the piece, oh so personal. Just hearing the word PCT stirs something in my heart, pumping extra blood and life into my veins. My first time backpacking – learning how to live out of a pack, in bare, desolate wilderness, traversing up and down mountains on my own two feet – crosscut that 2,650 mile trail. And I deeply relate – to the relief of going home, but also the ache of wanting to take the hills with you, of wanting to stay there forever. 

Mask III reminded me of something you’d see in the Upside Down in Stranger Things. The eery, gray lifelessness, the material looking like it could shrivel away at a brush of touch, from half-dead wildlife to ashy dust. Even the dried glue between each milkweed pod looked from the slimy, rotting material of the other Hawkins. 

Six attempts to remember Tinker Creek was probably my favorite. Smooth at certain angles and first look, each sculpture gets more geometric, depthy, and dynamic when you shift perspective, and move your head around the piece. This gives a sense that it’s not just a replica, nor a still scenery. I loved the pinkish-brown range, with all its glitter specked through the clay, reminding me of identifying quartz in countless rocks during my own summer, in the month I spent studying Geology at Camp Davis.

Surrogate is a wooden replica of the artist’s hand, carved in a way that makes you feel like the artist’s hand was just near, whittling away, just moments ago. As it stood suspended in the air, I noticed how it seemed to swing a little from left to right, and couldn’t tell if it was in my head or really doing a back-and-forth, but either way, it made it feel more real.

44 Days in Soil captured a wall full of forty-four soil samples gathered daily during a backcountry hike alone through the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia. The way the terrain from each day looks truly unique to each spot, unlike any other baggie taped to its left or right, was pretty amazing. It’s exciting to think that even a day’s worth of walking will get you to different lands of the Appalachians, dirt catching up the sole of your boot, old and new grains mixing and grotting together, holding onto you. There is a sense that the viewer can’t fully capture the weight of all that time laid before them, each really from a different day of her life, like the small, same squares on a calendar on a wall. 

The digital photo prints of Nest told such a story in a few images. A dent in the grass, a nude-hued body curled up in a ball, grass pillowing this person, hugging it in, those lines you only get after a really good nap, the slight give and redness to the skin. Laying in the lap of Mother Earth. 

After taking my time to take in each picture, project, and piece, I slowly made my way out, as if leaving the mountains. Heading out of the peaceful wilderness. There was one take-home card left on the table, and just like the rest of this exhibition, it felt like it had been waiting for me. 

Hidden Life of Trees

PREVIEW: The Hidden Life of Trees

I first picked up Peter Wohlleben’s book The Hidden Life of Trees over the summer of 2019 looking for something different to add to my summer reading selection. The book is a well-written exploration of the surprisingly complex social life of trees and forests and I couldn’t put it down. Even as someone who has spent a lot of time around trees, the notion of trees being able to “talk” to each other with such detail and depth and the concept of each forest acting as a community was surprising to me. Wohlleben did an excellent job conveying the majesty and scale of forests through the written word, but I think the big screen might be an even better medium to convey the awe they deserve.

Peter Wohlleben’s 2015 nonfiction masterpiece The Hidden Life of Trees has arrived for the big screen and will be showing this Tuesday (10/19) at 5pm at the Michigan Theater. This is currently the only showing scheduled in Ann Arbor, so grab your tickets now if you’re interested!