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U-M Stamps student Sabrina Kliza participates in ArtPrize 2021

By Lilian Varner

U-M Stamps student Sabrina Kliza posing in front of the Michigan Wings Mural.

ANN ARBOR—Stuck in her dorm during the pandemic and bogged down from coursework and chronic migraines, University of Michigan student Sabrina Kliza decided to reroute her anxiety and restlessness into an art piece made from the materials around her—disposable utensil packets. 

A 12x12 square created of rolled up brown napkins. Glued to a board to create line patterns.

U-M Stamps student Sabrina Kliza’s work, “Fig­u­ra­tively Glu­ing My San­ity to Card­board Lit­er­ally Glu­ing Nap­kins to Card­board,” is featured in ArtPrize 2021.

Highlighting both sustainability and her struggles during the COVID-19 pandemic, Fig­u­ra­tively Glu­ing My San­ity to Card­board Lit­er­ally Glu­ing Nap­kins to Card­board” is one of Kliza’s recent works that will be on view at Brush Work Stu­dio in Grand Rapids, MI as part of Art­Prize 2021, which takes place Sep­t. 16–Oct. 3.

ArtPrize is an open, independently organized international art competition that takes place for 19 days each fall in Grand Rapids, MI. Since its inception in 2009, millions have participated in ArtPrize, displaying their work, opening their spaces to artists and visitors from around the world, and sparking countless conversations about what art is and why it matters.

Kliza, who has dabbled in art in high school, took an observational drawing class on a whim her freshman year at U-M. Upon receiving positive feedback from her professor, she ended up transferring into the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design ​​in her junior year and hasn’t looked back. 

Often working in a variety of mediums such as watercolor, marker, pencil, digital art and acrylic paint, Kliza enjoys experimenting in different materials and creating work that carriers a larger message such as participating in U-M Arts Initiative’s “Travel Guide for Talking Hearts,” a project that works towards a greater goal of healing and uniting U-M students during the pandemic.

“I was feeling under the weather and wasn’t able to put much energy into my 2-D design projects or any of my other class work,”  she said. “Due to COVID-19, the cafeterias were giving out uten­sil packs with our carry out meals. This left my roommates and I with more nap­kins than we could ever dream of using.”

Sabrina Kliza with her ArtPrize work at the Brush Studio Gallery.

That’s when she decided to transform those disposable packets into something new.

“It was then around that time that I hit my roughest patch. Yet, when I glued those rolled up pieces of napkin onto the cardboard it was like I was anchoring myself in this world. That is why the first half of the title is called Figuratively Gluing my Sanity to Cardboard because that is what it felt like to me,” she said.

The result is a brown, textured artwork on a 12-by-12 inch canvas. Through the monotone appearance of the recycled napkins, viewers can still see a glint of movement as the texture of the material swirls together. 

“A friend of mine once said that hav­ing some­thing to do with your hands helps relieve anx­i­ety. With this art­work that is true,” Kliza said. “It is a piece that demon­strates how lit­tle and some­times ridicu­lous things can keep you sane in times of despair and hardship.”

Other works by Kliza on view in the region include “Waggle Dance: A Call to Come Together” at 22 North Gallery in Ypsilanti, MI, and “Facing the Abyss Truth” at Ford House for Biophilia

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