U-M's sustainable material, color garden in bloom
Jamie Sherman Blinder
Safa Hijazi, Molly Schwartzberg
Core to the University of Michigan’s belief that the arts have a place in all disciplines, visitors to the U-M campus can observe art in many unexpected places. From the school of dentistry, to the business school, even at Michigan Medicine’s hospital locations, art is used to deepen experiences and make meaningful connections in areas of study and research one might not expect.
The Ross Art Collection—Ross Business School
At the Ross School of Business, the Ross Art Collection consists of over 250 pieces and contemporary works on paper and sculpture including abstracts, representational works, and landscapes. According to their website, “business doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It exists in the real, complex world of people with an infinite variety of experiences and perceptions,” and the Ross Art Collection intends to reach these real people through thoughtful art. A few key pieces include:
Human Structures #1:
Jonathan Borofsky is known as a pioneer in site-specific art, like large installations and enormous sculptures. Interestingly, his pieces would not have his signature on them, but rather a number. Borofsky would count every day so he would sign his work with the number he reached that day.
This print, “Human Structures #1” is a gift from the Global MBA class of 2006. “Human Structures #1” is related to Borofsky’s installation called ‘Human Structures,’ which was completed in 2006 at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh. The installation includes various colored male and female structures made of Lexan (an industrial-grade plastic), interlocking with each other. The print, ‘Human Structures #1’ is inspired by this installation, utilizing the same bright colors and shapes as the physical structures.”
Christopher Brown is a longtime painter in the Bay area, active for over two decades. One of his notable pieces, titled “Velazquez Hands,” draws inspiration from the renowned Spanish baroque artist Diego Velazquez. Velazquez’s royal portraits often featured women with relaxed arms resting on side bustles beneath voluminous dresses, typically holding fans or embroidered handkerchiefs. Conversely, men in these portraits would typically clutch a letter or note.
Brown’s study adds an air of mystery as he repeatedly depicts a cropped figure inspired by Velazquez’s works. However, the figure is not a direct replication but rather a creation from Brown’s own imagination. Furthermore, unlike Velazquez’s portraits, Brown’s figure is a woman holding a folded sheet of paper instead of a man’s. The hands of the figure display various postures, with four of them surrounded by blood-red haloes. The message conveyed through the note or hand gesture is unknown. This piece was a gift of William J. Lutz and Karen Wicklund Lutz (MBA ’78).
Howard Ben Tre is one of the most renowned artists in the contemporary glass movement. His piece “Suspended #2” (from Five Prints) was gifted by the artist himself (along with the rest of the collection. Ben Tre earned his M.F.A from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1980. Ben Tre’s glass art reflects his interest in early architecture, as a result of a trip to Greece in the mid-1980s.
“Suspended #2” is part of a portfolio of five monotype prints related to three-dimensional vessel forms. Each piece includes shapes that are thick and sculptural, and they have a grainy green pattern that resembles his cast glass pieces. The shapes look like ancient jars, bottles, and other Greek containers. They are placed in the center of each sheet and appear to be “suspended” because they don’t have any bases to support them. They could only be stabilized if placed on a tripod or hung from the ceiling.
The Art & Environment Gallery—Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability
Within the School for Environment and Sustainability lies the Art & Environment Gallery.
This gallery is located in the Ford Commons on the first floor of the Dana Building and exhibits rotate regularly. The gallery opened in February 2012 to underscore the influence of art in shaping the collective understanding of science and nature featuring work of local and national artists.
Some past exhibits include:
Lost and Found
“Lost and Found” is a multi-piece show by Middy Potter. Potter is a self-taught artist, with his formal education including a degree in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering. Potter says this about his art: “ When composing a sculpture, I add a dash of humor, a bit of whimsy, and a pinch of wonderment. Self-taught as an artist, I have always realized the connection between science and art.”
Potter utilizes wood, cloth, metal, and other found objects in his sculptures. Lost and Found in particular, features new or used objects. The show includes metal people and other various sculptures. The metal people, in particular, are made of used objects, and these sculptures are an example of how a sculpture can be conceptualized by assembling used objects together; something Potter knows well.
“Compromised Beauty” by Jenna Steensma Hoag is a collection of photos in which traditionally beautiful landscapes are interrupted by figures in Hazmat suits, which implies contamination of the scene. Through her photographs, Hoag investigates the beauty of the natural world around us and human beings’ role in its contamination.
Jenna Steensma Hoag is a professor and artist who mainly works with photography and video. She received her M.F.A in Imaging Arts from Rochester Institute of Technology.
Sindecuse Museum of Dentistry—Michigan School of Dentistry
The Sindecuse Museum of Dentistry is part of a rare breed of museum, with only a small number of museums in the world dedicated to dentistry.
The Museum exhibits and preserves a historical collection of over 25,000 objects focused on the history of dentistry with particular interest on dental practice and technology and global dental trends over the years. From the history of teeth whitening in the United States, gold teeth in Tajikistan, and the prevalence of tooth gems in the Western world, the Sindecuse museum dives into these unique trends.
Through 2024 the museum is featuring their Artistry/Dentistry: Passions of a Creative Mind exhibition of artwork by the faculty, alumni, students, and staff from the U-M School of Dentistry. This exhibit aims to express the connection between dental specialties and how the dental community at U-M contributes to the world of art.
Artwork at the SSW—School of Social Work
The School of Social Work carries a collection of art reflecting its mission to improve the well-being of disadvantaged and vulnerable populations through research and an innovative curriculum. These diverse artworks displayed around the School aim to convey their shared goal to advance a more just, healthy, and productive society.
Before entering the School of Social Work, one is greeted by Bill Barrett’s bronze sculpture, “Kindred.” Commissioned and dedicated in 2002, this 10-foot artwork stands proudly at the entrance of the School’s Educational Conference Center. Barrett’s abstract composition symbolizes the connections and shared spirits of humanity. The sculpture’s presence serves as a reminder of the School’s mission to foster relationships, inclusivity, and the importance of human connection in the field of social work. Generously facilitated through a gift from the estate of Dorothy Deile Purdy and Clinton Edward Purdy, “Kindred” stands as a significant and impactful addition to the School’s artistic landscape.
The Real Blue
Welcoming visitors as they enter the building is Sam Gilliam’s “The Real Blue,” a captivating four-piece installation in the School of Social Work’s lower-level atrium. As a Black artist who came of age during the civil rights movement, Gilliam faced pressure to create narrative or symbolic art centered on his identity. Gilliam’s artistic journey serves as a testament to his unwavering commitment to transcending societal expectations and limitations. Commissioned as a centerpiece of the original art collection, “The Real Blue” carries deeper significance and embodies Gilliam’s approach to painting, which has redefined the boundaries of the medium.
Silence = Death
Among the diverse artworks adorning the rooms of the School of Social Work, Keith Haring’s “Silence = Death” holds a profound significance. Haring, influenced by the media and crises of his generation, utilized subway advertising panels as his canvas in New York City. This particular artwork emerged during the devastating HIV/AIDS epidemic, symbolizing the urgent need for unity and action within the gay community. Through bold colors and powerful symbolism, “Silence = Death” confronts the consequences of inaction, making it a poignant reminder within the school’s art collection.
Arts in Health-Gifts of Art Program—Michigan Medicine
Michigan Medicine has six new exhibitions focusing on a diverse range of artistic expressions as part of their Arts in Health-Gifts of Art program. Among them is “Cotton & Silk” by Katie Mongoven, featuring hand-dyed and hand-stitched embroideries that explore the intersections of past and present. “Mixed Media” by Ladan Bahmani and Brian Patrick Franklin presents designs inspired by Persian and Irish illuminated manuscripts, incorporating language and mass communication. The exhibition “Backstitch” by Speicher-Willis & Barnes reimagines home, landscape, and the history of painting through individualized approaches to motifs and surface.
Devi Palaniappan showcases her intricate quilling and origami artistry, using delicate strips of paper to create lightweight yet detailed compositions. “Transcolorations” by Jon Malis translates digital color science into physical form, creating visually captivating and thought-provoking sculptural pieces. Lastly, Cheryl Gould’s “Native Wildflowers in Watercolor” brings the awe-inspiring beauty of nature to life, capturing the intricate details of wildflowers found in their natural habitats.
These exhibitions offer a diverse and enriching experience, showcasing the talents and creativity of these artists. Each artwork invites viewers to explore different themes, materials, and techniques, providing a unique opportunity for reflection, appreciation, and connection within the Michigan Medicine community.