A pair of black, feathered wings suspended in midair. A ceramic vase decorated with the words of the Quran. The story of a dedicated environmental activist told through paper animation. These are just some of the deeply personal works displayed at the Stamps Undergraduate Juried Exhibition.
The exhibition, which is on display from Feb. 10 to March 4, 2023 at the Stamps Gallery, is an annual tradition of the school, showcasing exceptional pieces from Art & Design students. Jurors Helen Gotlib, Parrish Hanna and Carrie Morris awarded several prizes to artists whose work was deemed particularly excellent. Winners this year include Art & Design freshman Catherine Ramsey, Art & Design sophomores Yasmine Safadi and Siyu Zhong, Art & Design juniors Allison Crawford and Brianna Fox, Art & Design senior Paige Gilstad and Art & Design and Music, Theatre & Dance senior Elle Schwiderson.
As guests walk through the Stamps Gallery located in the School of Art & Design, they are met with pieces reflecting skills in a variety of media, from digital animation to ceramics to gouache. While no theme unites the exhibition other than the artists being Art & Design undergraduate students, one thing is clear: Each piece represents the deepest inner passions and identities of its artist.
Many Stamps students used this opportunity to showcase their most niche interests. One piece by Annika Smits, entitled “No. 55,” showcases the artist’s love for Formula 1 motorsports. Smits took inspiration from a recent media campaign and a photograph of their favorite driver and painted them in acrylics to showcase their passion for the sport.
Another piece, “Entomology Board” by Mimi Hourihane, represents the artist’s love for “subject matter that tends to be considered beautiful only as illustration, but not reality,” like insects, in this case. Even the artist’s punny description (as the artist says they were particularly “drawn” to the medium) gives the viewer a candid look at the personality behind the artwork. (Who knew that some artists, like Hourihane, choose a medium like a burning pen on wood because “it smells damn good”?) Works like these are infused with the personalities of their artists and provide a glimpse into their joyful inspirations.
Other pieces on display reflect the variety of identities within the Art & Design student body. One particularly striking piece by Madeline Leja, entitled “‘Fallen Angel’ Realized,” hangs suspended in the middle of an exhibition room. A large pair of black, feathered wings reflects the artist’s experience with her identity as a woman and relationship with the concepts of scopophilia and voyeurism from onlookers.
Another piece by Elsa Olander, entitled “Trust the Process,” embodies the phrase “Black Girl Magic,” depicting the artist’s identities as a Kenyan, a student at the University of Michigan, an artist and a black woman. Constructed from multiple mediums including acrylic paint, yarn and ink pens, the piece represents the convergence of different worlds in an intriguing and intimate way. These pieces serve as a reminder of the deeply personal nature of the visual arts and the identities expressed through the medium.
Others express a dedication to current events and causes like bodily autonomy and environmental activism. One piece by Rachel Grabow, entitled “Planned Parenthood Fundraiser T-Shirt,” hangs freely from the wall, and showcases detailed illustrations of a range of naked female bodies. The artist designed the shirt after Roe v. Wade was overturned, as the title explains, for a Planned Parenthood fundraiser (an organization that provides education on a range of topics such as safe sex, STDs and gender and sexuality, as well as procedures such as abortions and STD testing). The shirts quickly sold out, and Grabow donated more than $400 to the organization.
Another unique piece by Madison Grosvenor, entitled “Luna: The Julia Butterfly Story,” plays as part of a series of different animated artworks from undergraduate Art & Design students, and tells the story of Julia Butterfly Hill, an environmentalist who spent over two years living in a redwood tree in order to protect it from being cut down by a lumber company. Grosvenor used their film “as a facet to spread awareness of her legacy and bring the joy of Julia Butterfly Hill to the art community.” These pieces demonstrate the importance of artistic expression in promoting world-altering causes and the connections artists feel to these causes.
The exhibit provides a glance into the diversity and passion of the Art & Design undergraduate student body and provides a reminder of the talent housed at the University’s Art and Design School.
Daily Arts Contributor Quinn Newman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.