The Dopamine Dressing exhibit at the UMMA Friday afternoon. Jose Brenes/Daily. Buy this photo.

The University of Michigan Museum of Art installed a new exhibit, entitled “Dopamine Dressing,” which aims to highlight the neurological relationship between art and positive emotional responses.

Featuring an array of brightly colored clay and metal sculptures, Dopamine Dressing is modeled after the 2022 fashion trend of the same name. From Tik Tok to the runway, following pandemic-related restrictions, the trend encouraged people to dress up in extravagant, brightly colored clothing as a way to bring joy to their day. With that general concept in mind, ceramic artist YehRim Lee told The Michigan Daily she was inspired to create ceramic pieces that would use various colors and textures to create a positive, dopamine-inducing exhibition.

Lee has showcased her works internationally for several years, however, Dopamine Dressing is her first museum exhibition in the U.S. She said being able to showcase her art at the UMMA was an exciting opportunity, especially since the exhibit was supported by a variety of departments at the University, including the Nam Center for Korean Studies and the U-M Department of History of Art. 

“The fashion trend of dopamine dressing is to dress in bright colors to stimulate the mind into positive feelings,” Lee said. “In terms of the exhibit, I was thrilled to work with (the) UMMA to create a dynamic environment of play with color, space and shape. I (also wanted) to create a conversation between fashion and art.”

Lee was born in South Korea where she earned her B.F.A in ceramics at the Korea National University of Cultural Heritage. Lee said she uses traditional ceramics techniques to sculpt her works by hand. However, she uses new, bright glazes as a way of keeping her art current. With her artwork, Lee said she strives to provide an experience that celebrates extravagance, which often heavily relies upon the exhibit space itself. Lee said she aims to bring together a cohesive array of colors and shapes to instill a sense of harmony and happiness in visitors. 

“It is through this excessive process that I’m able to achieve the feeling of overabundance in my work,” Lee said. “I strive for a vibrancy of too muchness.”

Xiao Xiao Wen, Rackham student and an UMMA staff member, said when she first saw the exhibit, it exceeded her expectations in terms of its emotional impact. 

“She combines clay and pottery skills to essentially draw from fashion,” Wen said. “It really reflects this in her work as well through the weaving patterns appearing in her pottery. The exhibit has a lot of energy and honestly does make you feel happy being there.”

Grace VanderVliet, UMMA curator for museum teaching and learning, told The Daily that while she enjoys looking at the different art pieces, she is not fully convinced that being in the exhibit has any visceral emotional benefit. 

“I think the sculptures are excessive,” VanderVliet said. “It is so overabundant and sweet that it almost looks like cake. Being there makes me question its positivity effect. It maybe feels a little bit too much. However, I love the displays. The stands are really beautiful and they make the work stand out too.”

Lee will be doing a Q&A at the UMMA about the exhibition on Feb. 21. It will remain up for visitors to enjoy until August 2023. Lee told The Daily she hopes students and community members will enjoy immersing themselves in the positive environment the exhibit provides, especially during the winter as a way to combat seasonal depression.

“I like to create conversations between fashion and art,” Lee said. “The trend is to dress in bright colors to stimulate the mind into positive feelings. This felt like a good project during the pandemic, and I’m glad the show opened in the winter when people might need a burst of color in their lives.”

Daily Staff Reporter Maddyn Shapiro can be reached at