Arts & Resistance theme semester to engage campus, community
By Lilian Varner
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.
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.”
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.”
Jamie Sherman Blinder