The annual Stamps School of Art and Design “2022 Undergraduate Juried Exhibition” opened last week to fully display the variety of talent at the art school.
Kicking off with an open house the evening of Friday, Feb. 4 and an artist walk-through the following day, the Stamps Gallery is welcoming patrons and artists alike to engage with art in closer proximity than we have been accustomed to in recent times. After hosting mostly virtual exhibitions throughout the latter half of 2020 and a majority of 2021 — notably a virtual “2020 Undergraduate Juried Exhibition” in late 2020 — the “2022 Undergraduate Juried Exhibition” makes an exciting return to an in-person format.
The exhibition’s panel of jurors consists of artist-in-residence at the Cranbrook Schools Senghor Reid, deputy director of Kresge Arts in Detroit Katie Grace McGowan and writer/photographer/artist Sarah Rose Sharp. The three jurors select the works of art appearing in the exhibit and choose exemplary pieces for distinguished awards.
All of the work displayed in the exhibition is created by undergraduate students from the Stamps School of Art and Design. The exhibit accurately represents the broad range of artists that Stamps supports. From fashion to sculpture, traditional oil paintings to photography, video and digital art, a diverse class of artists are given the opportunity to showcase their talent and individuality. The exhibit truly encapsulates a cross-section of the diversity and creative expression trademark of the University of Michigan’s art students.
The beauty of this collection of creative works is that there is no unifying theme, but rather each individual artist is given the breathing room to express their own voice. A variety of pieces in the gallery tackle issues ranging from pollution to growing up. Some can be taken very literally, while others invite an intimate viewing that involves observers engaging with their own experiences.
Stationed to instantly catch the eye at the entrance of the gallery, artist John Cooper’s oil painting The Oval investigates the implications of a recent bombing in his hometown of Nashville, Tennessee. Cooper investigates the societal issues underlined by the tragedy through the lens of real-life 1970s car salesman Roy Maynes. The painting explores themes of masculinity in Maynes’s life with bold colors and stark images divided onto a collection of wooden canvases. The technical skill displayed made this undoubtedly one of the most stunning displays present at the exhibition. Cooper’s work received the John H. McCluney Memorial Achievement Award.
Equally inquisitive of societal issues, albeit with a much different lens, was Samuel Turner’s acrylic and oil pastel painting The American Experiment. Turner’s collage of cardboard paintings tackles consumerism in American culture with eloquent use of symbolism and familiar pieces of American culture. The painting’s overstimulating nature fittingly matches the consumptive and contorted values that it aims to critique, making it notably insightful and particularly striking.
Nicole Kim dissects the unsettling statistics behind plastic bottle pollution in the United States through a series of graphic posters, Numbers Against Bottles. The harsh realities of pollution, carbon emissions and consumptive water use are surely both familiar and hard to digest, but Kim delivers the gut-wrenching statistics with a fresh design and a determination that expresses the urgency of the crisis. Kim’s posters received the Alice Elizabeth Kalom Award.
Perhaps one of the most immaculate and conspicuous additions to the exhibition was Grace Klein’s fabric garment and accompanying performance video, Vignette in Motion. The crafted piece consists of a large oval with handles on the back, allowing the wearer to be lifted by the handles when lying down, attached to a two-piece front exposing the arms and legs of the wearer. Klein’s garment and accompanying performance were given the Robert D. and Betsy D. Richards Memorial Award.
Mellisa Lee’s six-page accordion booklet, Flora of Indigenous Cultures, contains a series of watercolor paintings displaying the relevance and use of medicinal and dietary plant in various indigenous cultures around the world. The painting draws from Lee’s own experiences coming from the Hmong/Miao ethnicity indigenous to Southeast Asia and uses this personal connection to ground the piece in her investigation of diverse cultures. Lee’s booklet is the perfect combination of informativeness, relevancy and skillful technique and care woven into every aspect of the paintings. Lee’s work won the William A. Lewis Watercolor Prize.
In addition to boasting the multiplicity of talent, backgrounds and personal experiences that Art & Design students weave into their work, the “Undergraduate Juried Exhibition” also highlights the rich community of artists as a whole. The crowded open house was filled with a blissful cacophony of people talking. Artists mingled and engaged with each other’s works, quietly whispering about future collaborations. Friends gathered in groups to congratulate and revel in the art. Family members took pictures to express their pride and capture the achievements that these artists have accomplished. Witnessing the extent to which the Stamps community forms such close bonds and supports each and every artist on display was as impactful and lasting as any work in the gallery itself.
The “Undergraduate Juried Exhibition” will be open at 201 S. Division St. until Feb. 26. The Stamps Gallery is open every Wednesday through Saturday for public viewing.
Daily Arts Contributor Connor Jordan can be reached at email@example.com.