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.





PREVIEW: This Land – pastel paintings

Connie Cronenwett’s collection of pastel paintings, This Land, will be available to view at the WSG Gallery on 111 East Ann Street until Saturday, November 26!

The title “This Land” makes me think of the song This Land is Your Land, and of motifs like the American Dream, belonging, assimilation, discrimination, etc. I have no idea if that is what the paintings are about or meant to represent, but I think it will be cool to compare my expectations to the actual exhibit. I also can’t tell if the paintings are pastel hued / paletted which is why they’re referred to as pastel paintings, or if the medium is all pastel chalk. From the one image on the website preview, it seems like the latter, which is why it’s intriguing to me, that they’re still referred to as paintings. Either way, I’m expecting serene, muted landscapes that will hopefully give me some peace at the end of a long week!

Read more on the WSG gallery, the exhibit, and Cronenwett’s paintings here!

REVIEW: Pressed Against My Own Glass


Entering the exhibit felt like walking into a home. In the doorway, I paused and thought, should I take my shoes off? 

I walked in to look at the first painting, and backed up a little seeing how big it was. Am I allowed to stand on this carpet? I wondered. Knowing the reappropriated furniture had originally come from the artist’s own home, and being used to the etiquette of museums, Pressed Against My Own Glass was refreshing in its way of inviting you in to interact with the art. 

The first painting stares at you with a piercing gaze that scrutinizes you and feels alive. Looking into your soul without so much as a raised eyebrow or any tell of effort being put into making up their expression, makes the gaze all the more powerful and unnerving. So much that I forgot to photograph her. The subject is in an intimate space in the portrait, wearing just a shirt and no pants, sitting in an unmade bed. But I’m the one who feels stripped bare.

This theme of intimacy continued to bear itself through the rest of the room. There are diary entries on the wall on the same side as the door. Right away, you step into exclusive, individual territory. Anyone could have seen the murals, whether they wanted to or not, but those who have come to the exhibit have come by choice. Tatyana rewards and welcomes that. This sets the tone for the rest of the exhibit. 

To put your journal pages, scanned, then blown up on a wall is incredibly brave, I thought.

There were entries about accomplishments, revelations, longings, growing. I shared sentiments with all of them, but the final one I read in the bottom right corner is a moment I feel most women are familiar with. The chastising, the incredulity at our own selves, our own hearts. I’ve had the same feelings over feeling so much about a silly little man, so much that I write about them, and now it’s tucked in the pages here for anyone to read, forever. 

The cracked lampshade, the laminate album of rusted ink photographs; I was really coming into a home. How she could lay down something so personal in a public space, give it up for an exhibition, baffled me. I would want to keep those artifacts close, not letting them leave my bedroom bookshelf. Not even laying the photo album open on a table, only taking it out to indulge myself once a year or so. Tatyana’s courage to lay down so much of herself for others to view inspired me immensely to take more risks in my own art.


Something that especially delighted me was the writing. Since I was expecting pure visual art, I loved the poetry and journal entries and letters. Tatyana collages together a photo, mirror, sketch, earrings, and poetry on the second wall. I love the expression of the girl in the photograph because in its position of covering the poem’s body, her face says, I know you want to read this poem, but hahaha you can’t!

Following right after was the mirror where I fixed my headband. It surprised me to see myself while forgetting my existence, after a few minutes of just perusing through Tatyana’s world.

Just when I thought it couldn’t get more personal, I was brought to tears by Tatyana’s letter to her lifelong (lives long) friend who had passed away. It was while I was reading the letter that I ignored a call from my sister (probably exactly what Tatyana would have discouraged) because I was halfway through and wanted to see it to the end without interruption.

On the fourth wall, was a video projected over a large body of text. The audio included mellow and haunting hummings, the repeated chant of “I made / met peace up in my home,” and a woman in tears singing, “when I think of home, I think of a place where love overflows…”

The clips were calm moving stills. They displayed the motions within a home, like rolling over in bed, humming amidst housework. There were also home videos, facetime clips, a mother getting interviewed with a baby in her lap.

Beneath the projection, the piece reads, “despite the brutal reality of racial apartheid, of domination, one’s homeplace was the one site where one could freely confront the issue of humanization, where one could resist. Black women resisted by making homes where all black people could strive to be subjects, not objects, where we could be affirmed in our minds and hearts despite poverty, hardship, and deprivation, where we could restore to ourselves the dignity denied us on the outside in the public space of the world.” Put in context with the mural project, this exhibit demonstrated exactly that. The murals – all black and white, words bolded and illustrations blown up – were plastered high on buildings, yet, one could pass them without a glance. They resided in the outside world, where the weather’s starting to get colder, people are starting to rush, no time to take their time. The exhibit on the other hand, was lively with personality, colorful, secluded. A distinct sense of home: the oil paintings, personal artifacts, private words and stories. This is how it looks to see the full picture (even if we only uncover a small sense of a part of that person), while I understood the murals as how minorities are often perceived from the outside, paid attention to by onlookers: unsmiling, blunt, general statements, all grouped together. This makes spaces outside of the domestic household hard to feel truly like that of home, a sense of ease and comfort, “a small bit of earth where one rests.” Tatyana addresses this later in the passage: “An effective means of white subjugation of black people globally has been the perpetual construction of economic and social structures that deprive many folks of the means to make a homeplace.” The art was deeply personal and held many sentiments of loneliness, loss, and anguish, and yet, it definitely felt like a place of stillness, of silence, where one could “return for renewal and self-recovery, where we can heal our wounds and become whole.”

REVIEW: Journey of Self-Discovery

Journey of Self-Discovery was quite a journey, indeed. I spent a good forty minutes perusing the paintings, scoping out the sculptures.

Upon entering the gallery, I chatted with the facilitator, who told me that two-thirds of the art had already been sold, as Rich’s work at the Dude was for sale through donation, the proceeds of which went directly to support a local grass roots food pantry ministry that serves areas of Ann Arbor.

The whole gallery, every space in it, was filled with a rich arrangement of whimsical paintings and sculptures. (Pun slightly intended.)

Hallucinations made me a little sick to stare at, like an onslaught of auras about to precede a migraine. A dark, whirling enchanted forest; walk through the maze and you’ll get woozy.

In Ignite, some of the scratched-off paint and its meddled, worn-by-time quality echoed graffiti. “ROM” in the corner made me wonder what other words might be hidden. The piece had the playfulness of a childhood scribble where we’d take our nails to a paper of crayon and get wax curled beneath them, but also the mastery of someone whose paid years of practice.

Spark’s thin, intricate mess of scrapes creates texture and noise. Almost like nails scratching against walls, it feels chaotic yet harmonious. It is quite a feat to achieve a composition of random shapes and colors with no recognizable pattern, that doesn’t border on busy, or unbalanced.

Are you there? haunted me, just from the title. I looked into the abstract and tried to pull something out. It took a few seconds, but I couldn’t help seeing a baby in a womb, floating, unattached to an umbilical cord, living lost in the guts of a mother.

Balancing Act feels like a futuristic, hypertech playground world, or the next version of the board game Chutes and Ladders. 

Future Daze gave off the lonely monotony of a city. I got a glimpse into the banalities of the everyday life of a citygoer. Vibrating with texture and pulse, peering into the painting feels like getting caught in a daunting big place, where you feel like one of millions of others. But the muted palette gives a sense of calmness, dullness, of having gotten used to it, enough to call this bustling place home.

I can’t help seeing some kind of creature in Concentricity, like a silly red panda or raccoon, calling out to me with crossed eyes, just to make me double-take in disbelief.

Junk Drawer Wisdom – a very interesting title. As if claiming it may be messy, but it’s an organized mess, because you know where things are in the clutter.

Suspension feels cakey, creamy; I don’t rly have the words to describe it, but it’s my favorite thus far. Maybe it’s the colors on the left or the texture that I have no idea how Rich achieved, but it feels like a unique ROM texture – a little Jackson Pollock, but more smooth than spattered.

Sitting Meditation was interesting. Especially because the rounded pod-like windows resemble the little apartments in the graphic novel, Apsara Engine. I would think a meditation calm, and maybe this one is, despite the overwhelming cogs-in-machine way about it. Because puzzle pieces are slotting into place, blocks are getting put away into boxes, things getting maneuvered into their rightful place. Thoughts are being stored away, put to rest, so the mind can quiet and not have all these anxieties sitting around, waiting to jump in. The white outline is like the cable in Monsters Inc bringing doors back to their homes.

Blast felt kinda mischievous. There’s a lopsided smiley face at the bottom center and a rounder circle encasing it. It reminded me of those No, David! children’s books because of the one spike on its head, which is so characteristic of a trouble maker (also like Jack Jack from The Incredibles). The black squiggles in the second quadrant are as if he just took to his hair with a pair of safety scissors, and mom is about to come through that yellow door on the right and have a heart attack when she sees him and the mess he’s made.

Tongue in Cheek is a potato cornucopia. A little potato society. There is a potato statuette, like the potato is on top of the world, sailing on a boat.

Got Dopamine? is fun: I couldn’t stop seeing all these silly faces in it. Maybe not all particularly happy or pleased expressions, but they gave me little bursts of dopamine.

Emerge looked like a mouth full of teeth and gums and bacteria, in full sickness. When will you emerge from your room? Pop off your bed? Not today.

I like the way Hanging ‘Round moves as you shift around it. This was just one of the many wood constructions and carvings, which all had so much movement for such a dead thing as the innards of a cut tree.

In Equine Driver, I see a sassy cat and a skirting teacup, like that of Chip from Beauty and the Beast. He is pretending to be a sailboat. Is the cat’s eye slanted at him, or the judgers?

Rhythmic Reverberation felt like it touched directly into my chest. I could hear the soundscape of nostalgic beeps and boops, glowing notes shooting through wires.


Forest For The Trees was fun. I had to wait to have my turn with this one. I witnessed a professor-like observer, an older man with glasses and a tweed coat, humming a sound of playfulness, of delight, humor, at shifting his perspective and seeing how the forest moves, like the whole swath of trees is turned on its side.

If there’s anything I’ve learned from walking around Rich’s gallery, it’s that the aesthetically pleasing – the ones that are easy to look at, that I’d be more inclined to buy or hang up in my house – are not the ones that tell a story, as much as the funky friends, the outcasts.

When I got home, my roommate saw Rich’s card on my desk and burst out in an accusatory smile, because apparently she worked there, at the Dude gallery! She had met Richie, his wife, and his family members who stopped by the exhibit; I had just missed her. I asked what he was like. She said Rich acts like his art. He talks with his hands, and does this thing when he talks, where he moves his head in a looping motion as if he’s drawing infinities with his ears. My roommate delighted in his art because she feels happiest when art, especially her own, is playful. I agree. Journey of Self-Discovery felt like a joyful, eccentric playground that you could dance through, get lost in.