The Art of Artificial Intelligence: Exploring the Future of Creative Expression

LIMBSHIFT from April 20 to May 19, 2023 at The Stamp Gallery | University of Maryland, College Park | Written by Noa Nelson

During the 19th century, the invention of photography brought about an automated way of capturing detailed images which previously required human intervention. Although photography was praised for its precision and elimination of human error, debates emerged on whether machine-made images could be considered art and how human creativity played a role in the process. Today, similar debates have arisen with the emergence of artificial intelligence (AI)-generated art, which is raising questions about the nature of human expression and agency in a technology-mediated environment.

Featured in the Stamp Gallery’s current exhibition LIMBSHIFT, Dan Ortiz Leizman includes AI-generated videos and artwork within their showcase.  Leizman employs AI tools to generate images in DESIRE.propaganda prints, as well as for her short film, NUKESOUND. These are just a few ways in which AI is being used today by artists. 

AI has become an increasingly popular tool to push the boundaries of what we consider to be art. One of the most popular uses of AI in art is generative art, in which algorithms are used to create new artworks. This can include everything from abstract designs to realistic images, and even music or videos.

Another use of AI in art is in the analysis and interpretation of existing works. For example, AI can be used to identify patterns and themes in large collections of artwork, or to analyze the use of color and composition in individual pieces. This can provide insights into the artistic process and help to identify trends and influences in the art world.

Dan Ortiz Leizman, DESIRE.propaganda (2023), DALL-E, prints on paper

AI can be used to enhance the creative process for human artists. Some artists are using AI tools to generate new ideas and explore different creative possibilities. Others are using AI to automate repetitive tasks, such as color selection or the placement of objects in a composition, allowing them to focus on more creative aspects of their work.

However, there are also concerns about the use of AI in art. Some critics argue that the use of AI technology reduces the value of human creativity and skill, and that generative art lacks the emotional depth and intentionality of human-created art. Defining what is considered “real” art is a complex and subjective question that has been debated by artists, critics, and scholars for centuries. While there is no single definition of what constitutes real art, there are some general characteristics that are often associated with it.

First and foremost, real art is typically seen as a product of human creativity and imagination. It is an expression of the artist’s unique perspective, experiences, emotions, and ideas, and it often reflects the cultural, social, and historical context in which it was created. This means that real art is often seen as having a certain level of originality, authenticity, and personal meaning.

For the traditionally-minded, real art is also typically characterized by a high degree of skill and technical mastery. Whether it is painting, sculpture, music, or any other art form, the artist must have a certain level of training and expertise to create a work that is aesthetically pleasing and effective in conveying their intended message or emotion. This skill and mastery can be achieved through years of practice, experimentation, and study of the principles and techniques of the particular art form.

Art should also have the ability to evoke an emotional or intellectual response in the viewer. Whether it is a sense of awe, beauty, sadness, or contemplation, real art has the power to move us and make us think. This emotional and intellectual engagement is often what separates real art from mere decoration.

Ultimately, the question of what is considered real art is a subjective one that is shaped by individual tastes, cultural values, and historical context. While there are some general characteristics that are often associated with real art, it is important to remember that art is ultimately a reflection of the human experience and the infinite variety of ways in which we can express ourselves creatively.

Whether art generated by AI can be considered “real” art is a matter of ongoing debate. Some argue that the creative process of AI itself can be considered a form of art, and that the resulting works are valid expressions of creativity. Proponents of AI-generated art argue that the creative process of AI itself can be considered a form of art. They point out that AI algorithms are capable of generating surprising and unexpected results, and that the process of training an AI to create art can be as creative and experimental as any other artistic process. They also argue that the resulting works can be just as aesthetically pleasing and thought-provoking as human-created art.

Ultimately, the question of whether AI-generated art is “real” art may be less important than the fact that it is generating new and interesting forms of creative expression. While there are concerns about its impact on human creativity and the potential for misuse, there is also great potential for AI to push the boundaries of what we consider to be art and to enhance the creative process for human artists. As AI technology continues to develop, it will be interesting to see how artists and audiences alike respond to the new possibilities that it creates.

Dan Ortiz Leizman’s work is included in LIMBSHIFT at The Stamp Gallery of the University of Maryland, College Park, from April 20th to May 19th, 2023. For more information on Dan Ortiz Leizman, visit For more information on LIMBSHIFT and related events, visit

Related readings:

Exploring What AI Means for Humans

LIMBSHIFT from April 20th to May 19th, 2023 at The Stamp Gallery | University of Maryland, College Park | Written by Ellen Zhang

The word “AI” or “artificial intelligence” seems to be the center of focus in our everyday lives. Turn on the TV, and you’ll hear about the next big company integrating ChatGPT capabilities into its products. Open up social media, and you’ll find thousands of content creators promoting ChatGPT alternatives. While many have quickly jumped onto the AI bandwagon, some have raised their concerns over the ethical implications of using AI. From replacing jobs to perpetuating bias to lacking accountability, the moral dilemma of AI is multi-faceted and boils down to the question of how AI integration impacts what it means to be human. 

LIMBSHIFT features the work of University of Maryland second-year MFA students Dan Ortiz Leizman and Kenneth Hilker, both of whom delve into the body and its constraints in relation to the world. Leizman’s work utilizes a combination of AI tools such as ChatGPT and DALL-E to convey a post-nuclear future where human asexual reproduction is a reality. Leizman uses DALL-E, an AI system that creates artistic images based on a description, to generate the images that can be seen in their DESIRE.propaganda prints.

Dan Ortiz Leizman, DESIRE.propaganda (2023), DALL-E, prints on paper.

Another way in which Leizman has used AI is in NUKESOUND, a film that resembles an evacuation notice and breaking news report. The background music crescendos and decrescendos, filling the listener with a sense of impending doom. This elicitation of strong emotions – fright, suspense, and nervousness – emulates the intended effects of historical propaganda. Complementing the music is a robotic voice that informs UMD students to evacuate in order to escape a nuclear disaster. Despite the fact that the script, and the voice itself, are AI-generated, the message induces fear. Leizman’s explorations of how AI integration affects humanity are intricately woven into each body of work. In observing NUKESOUND, the question of what makes us uniquely human becomes extremely blurred. Most will answer by pointing to a human’s ability to communicate and express emotions, but this argument is compromised by NUKESOUND’s ability to convey and evoke intense feelings. Looking at AI’s intellectual capabilities, NUKESOUND also proves that the people that are involved in the development of propaganda – spokespersons and script writers – are no longer needed. So, then, what becomes of humanity when our intellectual and emotional abilities can be replaced?

Dan Ortiz Leizman, NUKESOUND (2023), Film, 9:50.

Hilker’s works respond to this question by touching on the idea of human transformation in relation to space. He engages with woodwork by painting, utilizing steel and acrylic, and burning wood to transform it into complex bodies of work. In Emotion Without Language, each piece of wood is imperfectly shaped but collectively creates a sense of fluidity. Some wood pieces are more charred than others, some have slanted tops, and some are slightly chipped. By putting them together, however, Hilker creates a mesmerizing, semi-spiralized structure. Each piece of wood supports one another, creating the illusion of a structure that is growing upwards. His work leaves you with the hopeful feeling that there is still room for growth in the structure and, consequently, in humans. In a world where cognitive and affective capabilities can be replicated by AI, Hilker’s work engages with a uniquely human quality: the ability for individually imperfect humans to continuously and collectively transform into something beautiful. In contrast to AI’s coherency and absoluteness, human imperfections lead to diverse perspectives, creativity, and connection. For example, our flaws allow us to empathize, enabling us to emotionally connect and form deep relationships with others as well as ourselves. As a result, there is unlimited space for us to grow emotionally, creatively, and socially. AI certainly has the potential to develop, but it comes in the form of flawless data, models, and training procedures. Whereas AI requires a perfect foundation to expand on, humanity learns from and thrives on incongruencies.

Kenneth Hilker, Emotion Without Language (2023), Repurposed burnt wood, steel, acrylic.

I see Leizman’s and Hilker’s works within a question-reply relationship, where each artist provides their unique perspectives on what humanity means in light of momentous innovations. Their works are in conversation with each other, filling the gallery with insightful dialogue on what humanity is and how we can understand humanity’s progression amidst rapidly changing surroundings. 

Dan Ortiz Leizman and Kenneth Hilker’s works are included in LIMBSHIFT at The Stamp Gallery of the University of Maryland, College Park, from April 20th to May 19th, 2023. For more information on Dan Ortiz Leizman, visit For more information on Kenneth Hilker, visit his Instagram @kenneth.hilker. For more information on LIMBSHIFT and related events, visit

An exploration of memory and emotions in the body in Kenneth Hilker’s work

LIMBSHIFT from April 20 to May 19, 2023 at The Stamp Gallery | University of Maryland, College Park | Written by Reshma Jasmin

“Hair holds trauma” is a phrase that people often use to justify their mental-breakdown-fueled impulsive haircuts. While this context of the phrase seems to discredit it, the reality is that memories are not just stored in the hippocampus or neocortex. Neuroscientists and psychologists alike will agree that the body keeps track, as seen in muscle memory, behavioral patterns, and trauma-related disorders or dysfunctionalities. But, as time moves on, so do we. It is rare to take a pause in the chaos and/or rigid structure of our lives to reflect on our memories and emotions, which are also physiologically related (the neural networks for memory formation include the limbic system, or the emotion centers of the brain).

Art therapy is one form of treatment in some cases of trauma and mental illnesses, but it serves as a powerful tool for processing and expressing emotions for all people. Not only is the construction of art healing; viewing art can help people connect to their emotions and memories. Kenneth Hilker’s artwork in LIMBSHIFT not only evokes emotional responses, but also questions the relationships between emotions, memory, and the body. 

Kenneth Hilker, “Alterations” (2023), [reclaimed burnt wood, steel, black ink]

In “Alterations,” pictured above, the textured burns and ink on reclaimed wood are reminiscent of scarred or discolored skin. The pseudo-skin wood provokes an awareness of the feeling of being in one’s own body and the texture of their own skin. The presence of imperfections and scars lead the viewer to consider their own body for its current or past wounds, how they healed, and how their bodily encounter with injury and healing affected their experience.

Another image that comes to mind from the highlights and shadows in the pattern of the wood is a blurred crowd of people where the ends of one being are indistinguishable from the edges of another. The burns, however, disrupt this otherwise peaceful image. The steel border adds an element of violent confinement and claustrophobia to the mix, resulting in a visceral feeling of being trapped in a crowd or in one’s own body.

Kenneth Hilker, “What One Should Know” (2023), [repurposed burnt wood, acrylic]

“What One Should Know” appears like lungs expanding in an inhale, or like hips or shoulders as legs or arms spread out. This piece reminds one to breathe, to be cognizant of the movement of their body, and to breathe again. Unlike the reflective stillness “Alterations” encourages, “What One Should Know” evokes an almost undulating motion, similar to a heartbeat or breathing. 

The title of the piece is ominous, and for an audience of students (as LIMBSHIFT is an exhibit in a college campus building), anxiety inducing. But in the context of meditative breathing, the title fits the calming nature of the piece. “What One Should Know” is a gentle reminder that what is ultimately important is to breathe. Then one can take note of what is happening in their body that informs their experiences and memories. 

Kenneth Hilker’s work is included in LIMBSHIFT at The Stamp Gallery of the University of Maryland, College Park, from April 20 to May 19, 2023. For more information on LIMBSHIFT and related events, visit

OPEN CALL: Redefining Beauty After Human Asexual Reproduction

LIMBSHIFT from April 20th to May, 19th 2023 at The Stamp Gallery | University of Maryland, College Park | Written by Isabella Chilcoat

Beauty exists in every age of human history. Classically, “beauty consists of an arrangement of integral parts into a coherent whole, according to proportion, harmony, symmetry, and similar notions” (Sartwell, 2022). By this metric, where there is harmony, a divine order, or a mathematical formula for aesthetic proportion, there is beauty. In every monumental human transition, humanity follows or creates beauty. Philosophy fails to provide a concrete answer that encapsulates the entirety of what beauty is, though. Therefore, beauty is a fluid thing, neither wholly subjective nor wholly objective. But when a new order appears, what is beauty, what becomes beautiful? 

The Stamp Gallery’s exhibition, LIMBSHIFT, is not only contemplative on beauty, it is challenging.

LIMBSHIFT features two second-year University of Maryland MFA candidates’ mixed media, multi-dimensional artworks that highlight the capacities of the human body and its limitations. One of the artists, Dan Ortiz Leizman, grafts emerging AI technology to tactile mixed media. Through their art, they hypothesize the possibilities of human asexual reproduction in the aftermath of nuclear destruction. Ortiz Leizman’s projections obliterate the present framework for gender, sex, and social identities, leaving open the space for considering beauty in an alternative landscape. In this hypothetical, asexual reproduction carries specific Darwinian hopes for eliminating some genetic diseases, altering public health, and mitigating gender discrimination (Jose de Carli, 2017). But while asexual reproduction eliminates a significant physical divide between people, it erodes individuality by limiting the gene pool in future generations. 

Imagine that there is no longer male or female, only human. There is no more variation in appearance as there is no more variation in ability. There is a new sense of sameness in reproductive ability which extinguishes distinctions in physical appearance. 

There is a new order to physiology, a new formula for evolution. Traditional sexual reproduction becoming obsolete means stripping “being sexualized” from the standard of beauty because there is no need for it. This dawn of asexual reproduction calls for a reconsideration of beauty from how it looks to how it feels, how it sounds, how it operates. How is it recognized? Moving away from the physical body and from reproduction, beauty can exist on an abstracted plane unencumbered by corrupt standards or social doctrine. Beauty detached from sexualization, objectification, and gender is open and free to shift into a new meaning. 

Beauty detached from sexualization, objectification, and gender is open and free to shift into a new meaning. 

Dan Ortiz Leizman’s work is included in LIMBSHIFT at The Stamp Gallery of the University of Maryland, College Park, from April 20th to May 19th, 2023. For more information on Dan Ortiz Leizman, visit For more information on LIMBSHIFT and related events, visit


Post-Apocalyptic Worlds: The Science Behind How AI and Asexuality Could Function In Maryland and Their Social Implications

LIMBSHIFT from April 20th to May, 19th 2023 at The Stamp Gallery | University of Maryland, College Park | Written by James Cho

Laying on glass panels suspended from the ceiling of the Gallery, and plastered to the walls of the latter half of the Gallery are Dan Ortiz Leizman’s CONCEPTION.specimens_spells and DESIRE.propaganda. Through both CONCEPTION’s use of miscellaneous materials and DESIRE’s advertisements and explanations, Ortiz Leizman explores how AI like ChatGPT might envision a post-nuclear future where radiation from the Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant has mutated humanity in such a way that we have the ability to reproduce asexually in DC and Maryland. Specifically, through either an agamous reproductive method of parthenogenesis, or self-fertilisation. Their work also brings forth an interesting parallel between the controversy about the use of AI in creating art, and the controversy about the use of gene-editing technologies like CRISPR that in the future could be used to create “designer babies”. But what does that mean, and how is AI related to the future of human reproduction and our perception of self? 

Dan Ortiz Leizman, DESIRE.propaganda, 2023. DALL-E, prints on paper.

Well, in the case that the radiation somehow changes human anatomy to the point that it allows for the changes in our reproductive organs seen in Ortiz Leizman’s incredible work, human women would become obligate parthenogens, which in simple terms means that women would only be able to reproduce by themselves through oogenesis (a form of meiosis, specific to the development of female’s egg cells, the ovum). This raises some issues in terms of genetic variation since it’s essentially cloning yourself, but the social implications would importantly provide lesbian couples with the ability to have children of their own besides adoption or the use of sperm banks. For men post-radiation, this could mean developing hermaphroditic traits or the ability to reproduce through facultative parthenogenesis. This second method of asexual reproduction through parthenogenesis is one in which the individual can reproduce both asexually and sexually, making men gender fluid. With this hermaphroditism, there would be a stronger genetic variation to guard against diseases wiping out entire populations of “cloned” humans that came from obligate parthenogenesis (whether male or female). At the same time, it would shatter traditional perceptions of gender identity by way of forcing us to experience the world through both sexes. Gender norms and identities that are currently only shared within the LGBTQIA+ community would be expanded to a much wider part of society in Maryland, allowing for widespread acceptance and possible push for legislative or institutional assistance for health within the state. Issues such as the gender pay gap, traditional gender roles surrounding the nuclear family (jobs, at home, in public, etc.), Men who have sex with men (MSM) blood donation discrimination, trans representation as not just “transparent” but as trans parents as depicted in CONCEPTION, and so on would finally be put at the forefront of problems discussed statewide, and with enough of a push, nationwide.

However, there are still some downsides from the use of obligate parthenogenesis set up in CONCEPTION and DESIRE in regards to cloning. As seen in the 60s with the “Big Mike” or Gros Michel strand of bananas, cloning by itself (which is what obligate parthenogenesis boils down to) shows how it’s biggest advantage – that of mass reproduction of individuals along the same genetic line –  is also it’s biggest downfall when getting sick. In the case of these bananas in the 60s, the tropical fungus Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. cubense (TR4) caused a widespread wilting of bananas by spreading a strain of Panama disease that nearly wiped out the entire population of this kind of banana. Replacing that kind of banana today is the Cavendish, which itself is beginning to suffer from the same issues due to it’s own lack of genetic variation. On top of that, issues with pure oogenesis instead of hermaphroditism pose a problem, since sperm cells are the ones that contain the genetic code for the formation of the placenta (and umbilical cord) which embryonic development needs to function. This is why (at least in the first few decades of Ortiz Leizman’s futuristic scenario), sperm would still be incredibly important to the development of the embryos seen in CONCEPTION, represented below as the green strands in CONCEPTION and the honey-milk spatters under the plexiglass. Knowing this, in the case that this scenario for humans that ChatGPT conceived occurs, would women and men face the same possible fate if faced with a disease (bacterial, fungal, or viral) that could kill us all like the bananas, despite hermaphroditism helping to reduce this risk? The answer to that question right now is yes, but as Ortiz Leizman’s work importantly discusses, AI and the advancement of technology may be what saves us if this futuristic scenario occurred. 

Dan Ortiz Leizman, DESIRE.propaganda, 2023. DALL-E, prints on paper. On the left is a poster about the aftermath of the shift to asexual reproduction in humans and on the right is a poster about the monetisation of a baby formula for these designer babies.

As the other incredibly important factor that Ortiz Leizman discusses in the blurbs that one can read throughout the posters that make up DESIRE and in her use of AI like ChaptGPT, we might be able to find workarounds in the future for this issue. Current experimental gene editing technologies like CRISPR or at the very least use gene sequencing technologies like Genome Wide Association Studies (GWAS), WGS (Whole Genome Studies), or Sanger sequencing. Because despite them being collectively being quite expensive when looking for genetic issues for one person’s entire genome (Sanger sequencing being incredibly cheap for small sequences but expensive when trying to sequence the 3 billion nucleotides in our DNA and GWAS and WGS both being around $400-600+ on top of being much less accurate than Sanger sequencing), in the future as technology improves, the accuracy and cost of these technologies will become much more affordable. With CRISPR, we also still need humans to work alongside AI, but given how we know that CRISPR can artificially create humans due to the highly ethically controversial case of the Chinese CRISPER twins from 2018 who had their genomes supposedly edited when artificially conceived, we know that in theory humans in a century or so may be able to edit the entire genome of babies/their children to better survive. Resistance to genetic diseases, height, hair colour, and other physically-related traits (depending on the person’s inherited genes) could be fitted to whatever the parents want. Most importantly, we would (possibly) be able to circumnavigate the need for sperm by extracting and copying different samples of the genetic code needed for placental development. With this kind of technology, a world where humans become hermaphrodites or capable of asexual reproduction would be much safer (as it could incorporate the DNA of both parents, avoiding the banana cloning issue), though the concept of the “designer baby” today through AI or human experimentation is one of the biggest ethical dilemmas that we face. Similar to the way that Ortiz Leizman describes CONCEPTION’s use of plexiglass suspended over the viewer as a parallel to being under a microscope, the thought of designing or editing human babies in a lab is incredibly dangerous as many equate it to playing god. This is on top of possibly creating new social inequalities between those who can afford the designing process and those who cannot, which can be reflected in  Ortiz Leizman’s baby formula poster, where this development is monetised. 

When talking about a possible scenario in the future decades like in Ortiz Leizman’s works where these techniques and CRISPR which seem grim from DESIRE’s ominous propaganda, there truly is hope behind it. In a similar way to how researchers like Henry Jenkins see newer generations of people use media and the internet to create hypothetical scenarios or entire worlds to make functioning societies and work backwards to make them a reality, Ortiz Leizman has used AI to create artwork that represents a magnificent starting point to work on into the future as we learn to become more accepting of each other, using science to support such endeavours. 

Further Reading About the Science:

Facultative Parthenogenesis: 

Obligate Parthenogenesis:

Parthenogenesis in Humans (issues):,lizard%20species%20of%20genus%20Lacerta

Red Cross (MSM) Discrimination:,between%20biological%20sex%20and%20gender. and

Banana strain/cloning disease threat: and 


CRISPR/He Jianki controversy: and and

Genome Sequencing Costs: and,available)%20subject%20to%20budget%20constraint. 

Dan Ortiz Leizman’s work is included in LIMBSHIFT at The Stamp Gallery of the University of Maryland, College Park, from April 20th to May, 19th 2023. For more information on Ortiz Leizman, visit For more information on LIMBSHIFT and related events, visit

The Artistic Body

LIMBSHIFT from April 20 to May 19, 2023 at The Stamp Gallery | University of Maryland, College Park | Written by Oliver Foley

Art is transformation. At the most basic level, a work of art transforms materials from their raw forms into something new and beautiful. Over the course of these physical changes, the artwork undergoes intangible mutations, as well: the artist imbues thoughts, feelings, and meanings into the object. Through this alchemical process, the artist alters not only the physical work, but themselves. In LIMBSHIFT, an exhibition rife with parallelisms between body and artwork, we see into the heart of these transformations. 

This process of material and personal transformation is especially visible in Kenneth Hilker’s works “Increments of Time” and “Emotion Without Language.” Both pieces are large works of wood and steel, each constructed out of repurposed materials from various on-campus sources. For Hilker, the artistic process begins not with a concrete thought or idea, but a “feeling, or connection to the material.” From the very beginning, a sense of self is injected into the selection and collection of the scrap metals and woods. Plucked from their refuse piles, the objects begin their metamorphosis. The medium moves Hilker, inspiring Hilker to inscribe his own feelings onto the medium. 

The parallels between transformation of self and transformation of substance in Hilker’s work move beyond symbolic: the cooperation between self and art manifests in the work tangibly. “Increments of Time” was the first work in LIMBSHIFT that caught my eye. The eye-catching oceanic blues and burnt blacks combined with its large scale make it hard to miss. As the name might suggest, the piece itself represents a process through time. “I started with the left side, and you can kind of tell because it opens up to the right,” said Hilker about this piece. The form of the artwork evolved as Hilker’s perspective evolved. Like a relationship between two people, the artwork and artist transform each other through the course of the artistic process. From left to right, as “Increments of Time” develops from tightly-joined to more spacious and organic, we can see the art-artist relationship bloom.

Close-up of Increments of Time, Kenneth Hilker, 2023

The self is a fluid, fluctuating thing. “Emotion Without Language,” in particular, is a tangible artifact of the volatile nature of the self. In fact, “Emotion Without Language was actually a different piece up until about a week ago, when [Hilker]  took a pry bar to it and pried it apart.” Hilker “just didn’t relate to it” anymore, a simple feeling which reflects both personal changes within Hilker and the unpredictable course of the art-artist relationship. Sometimes you need to cut a piece down with a bandsaw to relate to it; Hilker’s unafraid approach to connecting with his work is central to the ideological and physical beauty of the pieces.

An artist’s body of work is an extension of their organic body. As materials become art, they are transformed, too, into the artist. Few things are more uniquely human than the ability to infuse the self into the inert, and few artists are more effective at displaying this reciprocal process than Kenneth Hilker. 

All quotes are sourced from a conversation between the author and Kenneth Hilker.

The folding up of UNFOLD: The Art of Clothing 

UNFOLD from January 30 to April 1, 2023 at The Stamp Gallery | University of Maryland, College Park | Written by Noa Nelson

Clothing has played an important role throughout history. Think of the Black Panther movement easily identified by their leather jackets and berets. Maybe you remember seeing AOC’s “Tax the Rich” dress at the Met Gala in 2021. Or perhaps hats and shirts endorsing specific political parties or leaders. 

Fashion can traditionally be used by people to fit in with a group, while usually also defining hierarchy and social structures. In the Stamp Gallery’s current exhibit, UNFOLD, clothing is also used to express individual beliefs. 

The clothes that we wear have deep underlying meanings beyond what is visible in plain sight. Our clothes speak louder than words. Clothing can be a reflection of social changes in our society. The work in UNFOLD brings overlapping perspectives about the ways in which our clothes display or voice a message. Clothing is not only about fashion or what is aesthetically pleasing. The art on view encourages visitors to ask themselves what the clothing they wear means to them. How does something seemingly meaningless carry lots of weight?

Elliot Doughtie, Sock Pile 3 (Laundry Day Dubuffet series), 2022.

Elliot Doughtie’s sock sculptures from the Laundry Day Dubuffet series play into the idea of using clothing as a means to fit in with the larger group. The plaster casts of red-stripe athletic socks are strong, muscular, and solid. They are repeated, grouped together, and intertwined with one another. With their repetition and stiffness, they speak about group identity regarding gender performance masculinity. Generally worn by men, these vintage-inspired socks give off an inherent masculine energy. They jog our memory of sweaty gym days in middle school. The Sock Pile sculptures and Doughtie’s drawing of socks titled  Group Activity feature an overwhelming number of socks. They show the socks enveloping each other, making it hard to pick them apart from one another. It is difficult to distinguish where one sock ends and begins. The socks in the middle are barely visible to the eye. This draws into the idea of group identity and performance. There is strength in numbers but no individuality or space for people to pave their own path within a group. 

Alongside Group Activity is another drawing by Doughtie of one singular sock entitled Solo. This lonesome sock reminds the viewer that there is an advantage in being in a group. Socks are meant to be in a pair and when we lose that one sock while doing laundry our once powerful pair of socks now becomes useless. Doughtie speaks about the power and danger of group identity, but also the importance of being a part of something larger and the ineffectiveness of complete solitude and lonesome behavior.

HH Hiaasen, Ventilated Workwear: GRIDsuit, 2016.

On the other hand, HH Hiaasen’s Ventilated Workwear seems to be representing the beliefs that we hold as individuals. The coveralls are from Hiaasen’s line of “anti-uniforms.” Simply by reading the name we can already get a sense of the message that Hiaasen wants us to walk away with. Uniforms link us to a group identity. Uniforms can give us a sense of belonging but also ask us to conform to the desires and needs of the group at large. Uniforms have the power of making us one of the many. The “ventilated” protective wear that Hiaasen has created directly fights the idea of a uniform. Their pieces force us to question the forms of clothing that we put on our bodies to guard ourselves. They do this by using conventional articles of protective wear such as coveralls, goggles, gloves, and masks with holes cut out in them. The holes in the coveralls work to expose ourselves and make us stand out as individuals. These forms of protection symbolize the ways in which we mistakenly believe that we are protecting ourselves, but also how we test the limits to form our own identities. 

So the next time you put on any article of clothing, ask yourself what is it about this shirt that I identify with or how do these pants represent my beliefs? How can I use a piece of clothing as an instrument for change? Allow your entire outfit to speak words for itself and to speak words for you.

Garment Identity

UNFOLD from January 30 to April 1, 2023 at The Stamp Gallery | University of Maryland, College Park | Written by Oliver Foley

Every day, before you enter the public eye, you select an outfit. Whether by instinct, intentionality, or necessity, you make a choice. Sometimes, you just throw on what is most comfortable. Other times, you carefully craft your outward appearance. But no matter how you choose, the clothes you wear shape your identity for that day. UNFOLD, the show currently on view at Stamp Gallery, explores how the garments we choose for ourselves can be used as a tool to modulate identity. Four different artists provide four different takes on how our clothes define us. Through these four stories, the viewer learns, chapter by chapter, how essential clothing is to our own humanity. UNFOLD asks the viewer “What function do your clothes serve?” To help the viewer find their truth, Elliot Doughtie, HH Hiaasen, Mojdeh Rezaeipour, and Hoesy Corona each bring their own answer to the table.

Elliot Doughtie, Solo (detail), 2023

Although clothes may not constitute an entire identity, everyone is evaluated by their attire, whether they like it or not. In order to control the external perception of one’s self, one must fashion their outfit like a tool. The purpose of this tool? To take what is inside and make it visible. Our internal lives are locked inside of our minds, and only through outward expression do we free it from the confines of our psyche. Our choice of garments allows us to broadcast this internal life to anyone and everyone. In a way, this is the same role that art plays in our society. We use art to convey thoughts and feelings which otherwise would necessitate intimate conversation. In UNFOLD, Elliot Doughtie calls attention to the group mentality of performative masculinity through the repeated imagery of the athletic sock. The inadequacy of the unpaired sock takes the intimacy of hushed discussions and the unspoken hang-ups of inner life and puts it on display. The clothes we wear expose our insecurities as loudly as they champion our prides. Garments and undergarments are not simply tools to display what we want to be seen, but to veil what we want to hide. Sometimes, caught up in our performance, we are betrayed by our outfits.

The outward expression of identity can also trap the true self within. The uniform, mandatory and standardized by definition, connects the individual to the system, the greater organism. These outfits serve as a label of function, identifying the wearer by their use as a tool, concealing the human underneath. The bus driver, fast-food employee, metalworker, and mechanic may wear the garments of their function, but they are far more than a cog. HH Hiaasen acknowledges and refutes the role of clothing as a “reducer” of identity in their series “Ventilated Workwear. Cut-out grids puncture through the outfits, opening the uniform to reveal the person underneath. Through these modifications, Hiaasen helps the individual survive their time as a uniform. 

HH Hiaasen, Ventilated Workwear: GRIDgloves, 2019

The judgmental perception of our appearance is inescapable, and our clothing is one of the few tools we have to control our interactions with strangers. In order for our garments to convey our true identity, rather than a false one, choice is necessary. Yet, in Iran, this mediation is enforced. Mojdeh Rezaeipour’s untitled works in UNFOLD draw from the ongoing movement in Iran to free the women of the nation from the restrictive law regarding dress. These clothing laws serve as a symbolically rich focal point in the movement’s battle against the oppressive policies of the authoritarian regime as a whole. Covering oneself is a common religious practice in Islam, but clothing turns from a tool into a weapon when it is forced onto others. Rezaeipour’s artworks demonstrate the need for the autonomy which transforms clothes from a destroyer of identity into a blooming flower of individual expression. 

It is often said that one’s actions define one’s character. If we were to apply this standard to humanity as a whole, we are beyond unforgivable. Even ignoring our actions towards one another, the extent to which we have ravaged our home planet is tremendous. Our species is unavoidably defined by our treatment of the Earth. The final chapter in UNFOLD’s exploration into garment identity is Hoesy Corona’s “Climate Ponchos.” Although most fashion is designed to mediate the reception of our identity, Corona’s “Climate Ponchos” mediate our identity with nature itself. The poncho is a tool to protect against the elements, and in that way it is a communicator between the individual and the natural world. This earth which we have destroyed now rejects us through natural disasters of our own creation. There is little that our clothing can say or broadcast to walk back these transgressions, but acknowledging our failures and wrongdoings is one step towards inspiring change. By wearing clothing which champions the environment, we interlink our own identity with our identity as a planet. Strengthening this bond on an individual level is an important step towards repairing our relationship with the Earth. Corona uses the connective qualities of clothing to bring awareness to our part in the greater organism of the Earth.

The way we perceive others, the way we perceive ourselves, and even the way that we guide our actions is brought about by that seemingly small choice we make every day before we leave our room. For better or for worse, our clothing makes us human.

UNFOLD will be on view in The Stamp Gallery at the University of Maryland, College Park from January 30 through April 1, 2023. 

Unfolding Ventilated Workwear by HH Hiaasen

UNFOLD from January 30 to April 1, 2023 at The Stamp Gallery | University of Maryland, College Park | Written by Ellen Zhang

In the Stamp Gallery’s current exhibition UNFOLD, HH Hiaasen has graced the walls with their collection of Ventilated Workwear. For the first time, these uniforms have been displayed off the body and, instead, on two peg boards typically found in toolsheds. Simultaneously, the displayed Tyvek suit, coveralls, gloves, ear plugs, face mask, and goggles have transformed from “garments” to “tools.” By doing so, Hiaasen opens a new door for their audience to observe and ponder their art. 

When looking at Hiaasen’s artwork, some interesting observations can be made. Rather than imitating the appearance of tools, Hiaasen uses actual objects typically found in a toolshed. By following a uniform grid pattern, Hiaasen has hand-cut most pieces, which leaves little “garment” left. Each garment is then traced with a black outline, containing each object in its own space. As Hiaasen explains, the rectangular cut-outs also represent a “standardized mode of containment.” Despite the underlying meaning behind the pattern of choice, there is less containing and more opening. Through those openings, the audience gets a greater view of the pegboard, which enforces how these garments should be explicated as tools. Since most of the pieces on display were created between 2016 and 2019, the edges of the cutouts have also become frayed. This can be best seen in the denim GRIDsuit. Since the project’s inception in 2018, the GRIDsuits have been worn for display, leading to apparent wear and tear. Microthreads of denim poke out from all directions, marring the appearance of the standardized rectangles. 

HH Hiaasen, Ventilated Workwear: GRIDsuit, 2018. Hand-cut coveralls.

Hiaasen’s deliberate usage of empty space, pattern, and time tie into a broader message of their own “experiment in queer survival.” Due to the rectangular cut-outs, the tools lose their prescribed purpose of protecting the wearer. Take the GRIDgoggles for example. What is supposed to be a tool that protects the eyes becomes a mere ornament that exposes the wearer to surrounding danger. In other words, when tools deviate from their conventional purpose, the wearer feels vulnerable. While not explicitly expressed by the artist or the artwork, this could be indicative of how dangerous conformity is. Conventional definitions of gender and sexual orientation are most often binary and straight. This singles out individuals who don’t identify with these conventions, making them feel defenseless to social isolation, discrimination, and much more. As seen in the wear and tear of the GRIDsuits, time plays an important role in exacerbating this issue. As conformity continues to draw its power from numbers, the exposure to these encircling risks is heightened. 

Garments that serve as protective gear can also “contain” the wearer. As garments diminish, there is greater visibility for the wearer. This effect could also enable the wearer to better express themselves. However, the separation between self and other is still stark. As the black outline of each piece suggests, the wearer is subject to their own space. Even as clothing loses its purpose of protecting or containing, the isolation of the wearer remains stagnant as ever. 

What’s interesting is the vehicle HH Hiaasen has chosen to embody this message. By displaying the garments as tools in a toolshed, Hiaasen’s work is able to express a dual purpose of protecting and containing. Rather than using garments as a whole, Hiaasen takes a specific type of clothing—protective gear—to convey their message. 

Hiaasen’s work delves into the connection between self and other. In exploring this connection, their work touches on conformity and queerness, and how these two subjects interact with each other. As a result, Hiaasen has truly explored the possibility of garments beyond their conventional manner, thus unfolding the layers of meaning we would have never imagined.  

UNFOLD will be on view in The Stamp Gallery at the University of Maryland, College Park from January 30 through April 1, 2023. For more information on HH Hiaasen and their work, visit

Binary Socks

UNFOLD from January 30 to April 1, 2023 at The Stamp Gallery | University of Maryland, College Park | Written by Isabella Chilcoat

I first encountered artist Elliot Doughtie’s work last November of 2022 during my Contemporary Art Purchasing Program cohort’s visit to his studio in Baltimore City. We arrived early in the morning (in a university van) for a full day of gallery and studio visits, and Doughtie was first on the docket. He greeted us outside of Area 405, the historic Baltimore warehouse that houses a number of working artists’ studios and emits the familiar musk that so many historic properties possess after sheltering decades of dust from the bustle of busy humans. Surrounded by the energies of creatives past and present, my team members and I were eager to explore the brick-walled universe of expression and curiosity.

Enter Doughtie’s studio. The floors are gray wooden boards met by drywall panels in between exposed brick. The drywall patches are covered in graph paper sketches of concepts, ideas, and the two sock drawings that now hang in the Stamp Gallery as part of the group exhibition UNFOLD. There are two rooms, one main studio space testing the display of sculpture and installations followed by a narrow hallway to a smaller workspace. Throughout the studio are socks. Not real socks, but heavy, brittle sculptures and mock-ups capturing the exact texture of fabric created through an all but easy process of pouring plaster into molds cast from bulk-buys of generic gym socks. Inside the smaller workspace room resides a circular saw, molds, and other scattered tools. Imagine a public education shop class room, then make it half the size, then fill it with various sizes of plaster fragments, pipe, and little empty replica bottles of Testosterone.

Just as the plaster fragments spread across the floor of the studio, Doughtie’s finished sock sculptures rest on the wooden floors in the Gallery. What most visitors do not know is that they weigh around eighty pounds, can shatter, and are not, in fact, real socks. The closest element they bear to the fabric socks used to create their molds is the red striped detail above the ankle. The red dye in the original sock transferred to the absorbent plaster during casting.  An expert dupe, these conceptual socks would likely crush under the weight of a foot, which is what makes them so fantastic as works of art! They subvert any ordinary conception people hold about socks; Doughtie’s are not the resilient little things we banish to hampers, closet floors, or washing machines every evening. Instead the art socks on the floor are metaphors for the crushing weight of our society’s masculine stereotypes. 

Further exemplified in the diptych drawings of socks on the gallery’s first wall, the illustrations oppose each other by contrasting a picture of many socks crowded together with a picture of just one sock in isolation. Despite what initially feels like a playful subject, the illustration with only one sock is chillingly lonely. The single sock floats at the bottom of its page as if staring at the crowd of intertwining socks separated by two frames. Socks come in pairs, like binaries, and can only fulfill their prescribed purpose if  they are together. The idea of losing one sock from a pair likely raises neck hairs for anyone who has scoured a house in search of that elusive piece of polyester-blend hosiery. It also highlights the devastating pressures to conform to a stereotype or standardized identity for belonging. Focusing on a single, separated sock from the cluster really spotlights the metaphor for stereotypical masculinity and exposes its weaknesses beyond the safety of sameness. These all-but-essential unspoken codes dictating binary gender expression inflict droves of problems, and Doughtie’s single sock captures some of the feelings associated with rejecting the standard. 

The lonely sock suggests dual ideas that the pressure of assimilation  is crushing, and, ironically, so is the isolation. I am grateful for the physical space in between the picture frames, however, because I needed it to remind me about the gray area. Our world is frequently so suffocatingly black and white, but life is much more complex and colorful beyond the binary. 

Elliot Doughtie’s work is included in UNFOLD at The Stamp Gallery of the University of Maryland, College Park, from January 30 – April 1, 2023. 

For more information on Elliot Doughtie, visit

For more information on Unfold and related events, visit 

Climate Ponchos: The Human-Environment Binary

UNFOLD from January 30 to April 1, 2023 at The Stamp Gallery | University of Maryland, College Park | Written by James Cho

Draped over hangers suspended from the Stamp Gallery’s ceiling, Hoesy Corona’s Climate Ponchos display multiple scenes of different biomes across the Earth. Made from digital and hand-cut collages on leatherette, vinyl, and silk jersey fabric, the collective works in the series Climate Ponchos explores the relationships between humans and their environments—specifically, how our presence often affects ecosystems within them, calling for humans to act as stewards of our environment instead of our current path that claims ownership of the world we live in. Corona describes the figures depicted on the ponchos as “the archetypal ‘traveler,’ [with] the subjects portrayed while in unilateral transition, wearing backpacks and hats, carrying suitcases and holding children.” These travelers and the surrounding biomes—whether it be plains, mountains, or fields—serve to collectively display immigration instigated by the degradation of nature, emphasizing how climate change affects both nature and humans alike, giving us all the more reason to help prevent global warming and work with nature instead of against it. On the other side of the ponchos, the figures reappear as anonymous blue and orange silhouettes, representations of a collective of immigrants from around the world, creating a sense of wonder as they traverse the diverse multicolored foliage around them and march towards a new home. 

Gardens by the Bay, A Unique Experience (OCBC Skyway, SuperTree Grove), 2022

In my own experience growing up as an immigrant across different countries, I can relate to Corona’s message, especially from living in Singapore, a country that wants to become a “City in Nature” by 2030 as part of their Singapore Green plan. Unlike many modernized cities, Singapore itself is surrounded by natural rainforests often right next to residential areas, and has places like the Botanic Gardens which preserve the island’s natural beauty, and the Gardens by the Bay’s famous Super Tree ecosystems. Acting as their own ecosystems and powered by solar energy, which are also used for music shows at night, these trees are a prime example of the stewardship of nature that Corona is calling for. Through these efforts, alongside Singapore’s diverse population of immigrants from around the world, Corona’s advocacy for greater care toward the land and all of its inhabitants becomes a reality and a guiding principle. Where instead of the multi-colored floral patterns resembling comic book or manga-like anger marks that animated characters sport when angered – used here on top of the plant life, perhaps to symbolize its discontent with humans’ actions – hearts or another symbol take their place, as an indication of the naturalization of the world. Much in the same way that Singapore as a city forms a sense of unity between humans and the tropical ecosphere that coexist on the island. In essence, the Gardens by the Bay represent the first step toward fashioning a human-made world that allows for harmony between human and non-human life. Though like any other city Singapore may not be in perfect symbiosis across the country, Singapore still acts as a near-perfect example of the kind of stewardship and respect for nature that Corona is trying to emphasize, which in turn nurtures human lives as well. 

Swan Lake at Singapore Botanic Gardens, 2023

As a collective from all over Asia and the world, citizens in Singapore share in the anonymity of the human subjects in the Climate Ponchos as well. Millions of people from all walks of life live or pass through Singapore. Whether it be because of environmental degradation like in Climate Ponchos, political or social instability, or other reasons, Singapore acts a cultural hub of stability, where immigrants might either stay because of the environmental and cultural harmony that exists there, or use as a place to collect themselves and all that they carry with them from their country of origin. Immigrants like the camouflaged individuals and blue and orange-outlined humans from both sides of the ponchos can rest from carrying their bags, suitcases, and children, and blossom like the camouflaged humans’ flowery hair.  No matter what kind of dress they wear, everyone can express themselves and take a break from moving across different environments. And just like how ponchos themselves physically embody this immigration from different parts of the world, Climate Ponchos serves as a reflection of the experiences of immigration depicted on them, as a reflection of human to environment relationships throughout our lives and from our native environments. 

Singapore not only represents a first step towards human-to-non-human harmony, but also reflects the larger message of human-to-human connections that the current UNFOLD exhibit strives to convey to visitors. As we address issues like climate change, we must also turn our attention to improving LGBTQIA, racial, gender, and ethnic harmony, and other socio-political causes for immigration that hinder our inter-human relationships. 

The Hijab Untitled and Unfolded: A Dual Symbol of Empowerment and Oppression

UNFOLD from January 30 to April 1, 2023 at The Stamp Gallery | University of Maryland, College Park | Written by Reshma Jasmin

According to the curatorial statement for the Stamp Gallery’s current exhibition,  UNFOLD, the artwork on view explores the function of clothing to “mediate connections between public and private, human and non-human, self and other” in a way that “[complicates] these binaries.” This power of clothing is readily apparent in the work of Hoesy Corona, Elliot Doughtie, and HH Hiaasen. These three artists use modified clothing or sculptures of clothing as a medium to comment on prevalent issues, social phenomena, and injustice; their work is a clear “unfolding” of clothes. 

But UNFOLD houses another artist’s work: Untitled (۱۴۰۱ Series) by Mojdeh Rezaeipour. Rezaeipour’s work differs from the work of the other artists in the exhibit as her individual pyrographic collages on wood contain no textile work or sculpture of textile. The series of panels is titled ۱۴۰۱, or “1401,” which likely stands for the year 2022 according to the Persian calendar. This is likely because the content of her work focuses on the protests in Iran which began in 2022.

In Iran, the government requires that women cover their hair with a hijab. In September, a young Kurdish woman named Jina (Mahsa) Amini was murdered by Iranian police for failing to comply with this gendered law. In response, a series of feminist protests were mobilized by Iranian women in and outside of Iran. Four out of eight of Rezaeipour’s pieces on display at the Stamp Gallery involve women holding their fists up. The raised fist is used in a lot of movements and protests, notably in Black Lives Matter and Black Power movements, but also historically in socialist, feminist, anti-fascist, etc. demonstrations and protests. The nineteenth-century French artist Honoré Daumier shows a man with a raised fist in the c. 1848 painting The Insurrection, which is commonly thought of as the first documented depiction of the raised fist as a symbol of resistance and rebellion. The icon of a raised fist represents resistance, solidarity, and power— all aspects of the ongoing protests in Iran that Rezaeipour highlights in her series.

Mojdeh Rezaeipour, Untitled (۱۴۰۱ Series), 2022-23

In conversation, Rezaeipour pointed out the context of the scenes in some of her pieces. What I thought were pretty shades of blue and yellow that made the black and white grainy image of a woman rock-climbing stand out was actually a poignant moment of civil disobedience. In October, Elnaz Rekabi represented Iran in a climbing competition without her hijab, breaking Iran’s strict law. According to IranWire, Rekabi’s brother was held hostage by the Iranian government, so she was forced to apologize for her lack of hijab during her climb, and afterwards her family home was destroyed.

Rezaeipour moved on to describe the significance of the hijab as a dual symbol of freedom and oppression. In one of the two pieces below, Rezaeipour depicts two women, one with a chador (full-body and head covering garments) and one with uncovered hair and three-quarter sleeves, holding their enjoined hands up in front of the Iranian flag (left). Rezaeipour asserts that there is solidarity between women, that feminism is the empowerment of the choice to wear a hijab or not, and that the protests in Iran were a demonstration of said solidarity. In the other panel on the right, a woman with uncovered hair stands with a hijab in her hands in front of the historic Azadi Tower, also known as the Freedom Tower, which is located in Tehran, Iran. When the woman raises the currently controversial piece of clothing to the Freedom Tower, she is actively taking her right to choose; the tower in the background stands as evidence that as an Iranian, regardless of law, it is fundamentally her freedom to choose what to do with her hijab.

Mojdeh Rezaeipour, Untitled (۱۴۰۱ Series), 2022-23
Mojdeh Rezaeipour, Untitled (۱۴۰۱ Series), 2022-23

Rezaeipour focuses on a piece of clothing that traditionally speaks to faithfulness of women. When clothing, something so close to the body, holds such spiritual significance, it becomes sacred. As a sacred cloth that speaks to the wearer’s personal experience of faith, modern Muslim women wear the hijab to feel empowered by their religion. When covering of hair is made mandatory, the hijab is weaponized to oppress women, an act that is even sacrilegious by virtue of disrupting a woman’s choice to express her faith freely and sincerely. In Rezaeipour’s Untitled (۱۴۰۱ Series), it is seared into wood that when it is a free choice, the sanctity of the hijab remains intact.

A Reflection to Remember: Teach Me How to Love This World

Teach Me How to Love This World from October 19 to December 10, 2022 at The Stamp Gallery | University of Maryland, College Park | Written by Ellen Zhang

Bold red streaks, ominous ringing, whirrings of rotating projector shutters… each piece in Teach Me How to Love This World plays an integral part in illustrating a past, present, and future world grappling with violence and peace. What I like about Kei Ito’s work is that it’s direct and straightforward without undermining its complexities. As a viewer, I am amazed by how he has balanced artistic choices, abstract themes (like the meaning of peace), and the factuality of the impacts of nuclear war. Together, these three elements create the necessary experience of being caught off guard that precedes a stage of reflection. 

Stepping foot into this exhibition for the very first time, the piece that caught my attention was Teach Me How to Love This World: Sacrifice. The immediate appearance of a blood-red peace sign dripping down the canvas is jarring, intimidating, and contradicting. The perception of tranquility, from the peace symbol, is intruded by the blood-red color, enhancing Ito’s message that peace doesn’t come without fatal sacrifice. Ito reflects the destructive nature of war weapons through artistic choices that don’t sugarcoat and, instead, speak volumes on how nuclear war is a source of fear and intimidation. For those that are conflict-avoidant like me, an initial glimpse is enough to instill a sense of trepidation and uneasiness. 

Kei Ito, Teach Me How to Love This World: Sacrifice, 2022. Unprimed canvas, spray paint, print on aluminum dibond, 36x48x3 in.

The question of “whose peace, whose sacrifice” splattered across the top and bottom of the canvas adds to the power of the piece. It’s a transparent move that introduces perplexing questions between humanity and war, unlike the sanitized version we often get from the mainstream media. By proposing the question of “whose peace, whose sacrifice,” Ito also eases the viewer into a stage of reflection: Who are the victims of nuclear war? Who benefits from it? Is there even a clear distinction between the two or are we all unknowing victims of nuclear war? While I haven’t found the answers to these questions, I appreciate how Ito’s work is centralized in questions rather than statements. Nothing is definitive and, perhaps, this is on purpose. Ito breaks the stigma of reflecting on war by encouraging us, the viewers, to weigh on an integral theme of conflict: someone’s peace is brought through someone else’s suffering. During Ito’s artist talk, he even encouraged his audience to consider everyday life through the lens of sacrifice, war, and peace. For example, he mentioned how fast fashion is one of many suppressed examples of those benefiting from another’s exploitation. 

Situated in the center of the canvas is an inverted photograph of a goat receiving a blood transfusion by three masked doctors. Here, Ito adds additional layers of identity, fact, and questioning. The presence of a goat pays homage to the significance of animals ingrained in Japanese culture. At the same time, the photograph is rooted in factual evidence that depicts the devastating effects of atomic bomb testing. The original photograph was taken by George Skadding in 1947 and captures the moment when a goat, exposed to radiation from an A-bomb test on Bikini Atoll Island, receives a blood transfusion as it lies strapped to a surgical table at the Bethesda Naval Medical Research Institute, MD. Reflecting on the photo with its historical backdrop in mind subjects the viewer to numerous questions: Why did Ito choose a historical moment that took place in Maryland? Why is the photograph placed where it is? Why is it inverted? With no answers in plain sight, we are encouraged to ponder the artistic choices Ito has made. To me, Teach Me How to Love This World: Sacrifice is a piece that embodies reflection. And quite literally, the contents on the canvas are mirrored, portraying the interdependent relationship between those who enjoy peace and those who sacrifice. At the same time, the viewers can reflect on how power and politics determine who is impacted by war. The photograph alone is a testament to how some, if not all, can have their peace stripped from them at any given moment and with no say at all. 

Despite the way Ito explores the dichotomy between peace and war, his exhibition is certainly not despairing in nature. By balancing the factual and the abstract, he breaks the silence on taboo subjects and builds fruitful conversations, open to anyone regardless of their background, belief systems, and ideas. Ito brings a sense of vulnerability into the gallery, graciously inviting us to explore, and prompting reflections to remember. 

Teach Me How to Love This World: Kei Ito will be on view in The Stamp Gallery at the University of Maryland, College Park from October 19 through December 10, 2022. For more information on Kei Ito and his work, visit

Teach Me How to Love Myself

Teach Me How to Love This World from October 19  to December 10, 2022  at The Stamp Gallery | University of Maryland, College Park | Written by Isabella Chilcoat

My typical approach to articulating each exhibition by the Stamp Gallery over the past year and a half has involved a level of formal artistic analysis and critique. However Teach Me How to Love This World: Kei Ito plucked a chord in my being that I feel calls for a more intimate reading. Ito’s current solo exhibition manifests not only a physical presence, but also a profound psychological phenomenon of deep empathy and contemplation. His works plunge my own mind into an abyss of chilling curiosity – they cast a red-hued light of extrospection on my own inner tribulations. Themes of generational trauma, visible and invisible wounds, violence, destruction, rebirth, and peace radiate from the six works on view, and each piece contains a piercing capacity to connect its viewer with a larger history surrounding them. Ito’s work certainly has prompted me to deepen my inward self-exploration as it connects to generational wounds that bleed into my present.

Aptly titled, Into the Abyss (2022), a unique C-Print of sunlight developed film, hangs on the Gallery’s entrance wall, a rectangular plate of aluminum dibond emblazoned with blood-red word pairings against its smooth black surface. The text couples a pronoun and a noun, pronoun + noun, pronoun + noun, pronoun + noun… endlessly in columns that eventually obscure toward the bottom. These groupings compose a solemn poetry to ponder while sojourning through and beyond the gallery walls with phrases pertaining to: “their + war,” “his + war,” “his + weapons,” “your + weapons,” “your + peace.” With a repetition that references an obsessive compulsive sequence of words, Into the Abyss forces me to recall my own journey through healing the consequences of generational trauma.

Though different circumstances, Ito’s encapsulation of heirloom agony, or legacies of passed down emotional damages, is something that resonates in a myriad of settings yet lacks the recognition and understanding it deserves. I particularly love this print because it echoes a period in my early childhood where I would repeat a list of the same, completely arbitrary “safe” phrases in instances of high anxiety in a set numerical quantity. As a child the specific recitation of my “safe” words calmed my autonomic nervous system as an act of defense in a situation in which I felt my safety or autonomy was compromised. In retrospect of more than fifteen years (and with professionally guided coping strategies) I can still remember my “safe” phrases – no longer with a feeling of desperate relief, but a feeling of grief for a waning childhood of which I had little concept at the time and a stronger desire to console my child self and restore a sense of security. Ito’s phrases, while clearly intentionally correlated, illustrate the sequences of inner thoughts in an ordered but increasingly blurry image synonymous with memory. Memories of my “safe” words, survival mechanisms, and certain traumatic instances of my life flicker through my mind like an orderly reel of film or text until the clarity vanishes in a manner similar to the visual qualities of Into the Abyss and other works in the Stamp Gallery, including a dual Kodak slide projection piece titled Teach Me How to Love This World (2022), in which the same pronoun + noun couples project on the wall.

Kei Ito, Teach Me How to Love This World, 2022. 35mm slide, Kodak carousel projectors.

Ito’s exhibition has offered a narrative and a solidarity to trauma by employing the acute dichotomy between war and peace. His work in the gallery also translates the severity of war and of peace individually. If I relate these concepts to my own journey with mental health I can visualize how my mind and my body have at times existed at war with one another, both seeking the same peace from trauma, but disconnected. The lack of harmony enables a cascade of conflict, confusion, and fear. Being at war with the self or warring (in survival mode) against a harmful situation unfolds in a complex manner, especially if that trauma is carried through multiple generations. The devastations of war can bare themselves physically, but often, as the scars fade, the invisible wounds, emotional traumas, anxiety, trauma-induced ADHD, PTSD, and cPTSD rage more severely. The sinister aftermath of battle (both literal and metaphorical), when the dust has settled, too often leaves the survivor’s remaining injuries unrecognized, unfinished, on the inside, and sometimes resurfacing as panic attacks, racing heart rates, an urge to flee—the list goes on. There is seldom peace immediately after a trauma. Without proper time and care for wounds to heal, injuries can fester and compound. War and peace are not black and white; the space between is easier to leave hidden, but that gray space is also the only ground for true healing. The path to peace can take generations, making “peace” no easy feat. Accordingly, some of the world’s best efforts at “keeping the peace” do little more than apply palliative bandages after onslaughts of violence to cover a deadly (unsightly) injury. 

Occupying the floor with ash on a panel of wood, Riddle of Peace/War (2022-ongoing) considers these layered topics by questioning who will ultimately be sacrificed for either “war” or “peace.” A misconstrued conception of the means by which to secure peace tips a violent scale for which humanity will always pay the price. Additionally, the individual handling of “war” and “peace” can also stand as a microcosm for the global struggle. Seeking peace internally can create desperation as it does within larger politics with fear and anxiety at their core. This desperation, anxiety, and fear screams, “seek peace BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY.” However, speaking from the individual level, I have only been able to grasp authentic peace within myself through a place of care and unconditional love for the covered parts of myself deemed unfit to express in the open. Releasing blame, shame, and fear and growing in empathy for the parts of myself and my childhood that I was conditioned to keep hidden have been the only ways to work through the traumas in my own story and continue growing from a stronger foundation. Aptly constructing and simultaneously destroying the distinctions between “war” and “peace,” Ito’s exhibition demonstrates the necessity of considering life from multiple angles and reveals that nothing is truly black and white. Furthermore, my “path to peace” is an evolving effort, but at its center I have been learning to remove the shame in an effort to understand all parts of myself, just as Ito removes shaming from his exhibition for those who inflict violence in their efforts for “peace” recalled in his works. Even the title of the exhibition, Teach Me How to Love This World, acts as a macro glance for the core requisite of my inner healing, which could read: Teach Me How to Love Myself

Kei Ito, Riddle of Peace/War, 2022-ongoing. Ash, wooden platform.

Though somber, Ito’s exhibition is not hopeless. On the contrary, his work is full of hope. Nothing difficult disappears by ignoring it; peace is not possible without confronting daunting realities and pushing through them with eyes and heart wide open. Ito’s work does just that. It is bearing the face of questions the world is afraid to ask, and bravely calling for healing in the gray areas. If nothing else, Teach Me How to Love This World has inspired a level of self-reflection and further affirmation of the importance of empathy and love toward myself and in confronting the world around me. Ito’s exhibition implores, “teach me how to love this world.” I suggest that a place to start is learning how to love ourselves.


Kei Ito’s work is included in Teach Me How to Love This World at The Stamp Gallery of the University of Maryland, College Park, from October 19 – December 10, 2022. 

For more information on Kei ito, visit

Gone But Not Forgotten: Kei Ito’s “Riddle of Peace/War” as a Reflection of the Past and Warning for the Future

Teach Me How To Love This World from October 19th to December 10th, 2022, at The Stamp Gallery | University of Maryland, College Park | Written by James Cho

Emblazoned on the floor of the gallery lies Kei Ito’s Riddle of Peace/War. Made solely of loose, stenciled ash on a wooden platform, the work not only physically presents viewers with the dichotomy between World War II and the ensuing peace for America, but also guides viewers through the bombing. 


Kei Ito, Riddle of Peace/War. 2022 – ongoing. Ash, wooden platform.

By asking viewers these two questions, Ito creates this “riddle” about World War II and its aftermath. Despite the war having ended and peace being restored to the US, Japan was left in ruins and Europe alongside the rest of the world would soon face the Cold War between the US and the USSR. For Japan, the end of the war, signalled by warning sirens similar to those playing from the radios in Ito’s sound installation Talking Heads, left its mark on Ito’s grandfather, who witnessed the bombing of Hiroshima firsthand. Much like how his grandfather’s family, friends, and colleagues in the city left only outlines of where they stood when the nuke exploded, so too does Ito’s Riddle of Peace/War

Riddle of Peace/War (detail)

In tandem with the rest of the exhibition, Riddle of Peace/War serves as Ito’s way of performing the scene at Hiroshima that his grandfather experienced. Even though Ito himself isn’t present to act in this performance, he has extracted key parts of that day and placed them into the exhibition for all to see as if he were. The direct aftermath of what Ito’s grandfather witnessed at Hiroshima is dashed across Riddle of Peace/War as a warning for future generations against repeating this tragedy, as Ito explained during his artist talk at the Gallery on October 20. Going further than Japan, however, Ito uses Talking Heads to further his “universal” dichotomy of war and peace across time by sounding nuclear sirens from Hawaii and Japan during North Korean nuclear testing in recent years and Ukrainian sirens after an air raid by Russia from the radio on the right while peace messages emanate from the radio on the left. In this way, the central theme of the dichotomy of peace and war comes to fruition in both Riddle of Peace/War and Talking Heads. When addressing Riddle of Peace/War during his talk, Ito continued to stress the connections between generational trauma worldwide, suggesting that 9/11 in the US paralleled the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as events that were not only “delicate” but so “fuelled by the idea of national identity that it became so taboo to talk to the victims” of the Cold War, 9/11, the war in Ukraine, and for Ito, the bombing that his grandfather witnessed. 

But let’s get back to the physical organization of Riddle of Peace/War instead of its psychological organization. The ephemerality of the text, which can be deformed by a slight unsettling of the ash, serves as a reminder of the fleeting quality of both life and memory. The outlines of those vaporized from the bombings in Japan slowly fade, while new buildings rise from the ashes of those destroyed, sacrificed for “peace in our time.” Just as the ash stenciled into Ito’s questions can be easily blown away by a simple sneeze or brisk walk over the course of time, the victims of the wars of the past and of ongoing conflicts today, coupled with the renewed threat of nuclear warfare with Russia, are also delicate. While decades have passed since these events and their outlines are physically gone, they will never be truly forgotten, as a kind of psychological object permanence. If we forget, we are doomed to repeat an endless cycle of sacrifice for the sake of war and peace, reducing the magnitude of these tragedies and their aftermath to nothing more than a couple of lines in a history book. 

Installation and Impermanence

Teach Me To Love This World by Kei Ito, October 19 to December 10, 2022, at the Stamp Gallery | Written by Oliver Foley

When you think of an art gallery, what first comes to mind? For many, the mental image consists solely of paintings upon a blank, sterile wall. Yet, in Kei Ito’s new exhibit at Stamp Gallery, we find ourselves breaking out of this often limiting preconception. Ito’s Teach Me To Love This World is a work of installation art: the individual pieces are designed specifically for the space that they inhabit in the gallery, creating a unified sensory experience beyond that of traditional framed artworks. Ito constructs a chaotic audiovisual environment of multimedia artworks which immerses the viewer in the “liminal space between peace and war,” as he describes it. “I started as a photographer where I had this idea that photography can exist beyond a ‘frame on a wall,’ where art can be activated by the inclusion of audience and space,” Ito said. “Thus it was natural for me to dive into the world of installation art.”

Inherent to the art of installation is the theme of impermanence. The experience of an installation is unique to the space and time it is designed for. Although many philosophies regard change as a problem to be solved, Ito adopts it as a means of artistic expression. Every component of this exhibit accentuates the underlying impermanence of art, war, peace, life, death, time, space, and sound. One piece in particular, which highlights a very distinct take on the theme, is Talking Heads

Kei Ito, Talking Heads (2022). Analog radio, two-channel audio, media player, radio transmitter, acrylic paint. 9-minute loop.

Talking Heads consists of two radios, each playing a different channel. Yet, these are no ordinary radio stations: Ito broadcasts his own audio through the airwaves. A transmitter sends two different signals to each radio, named Peace Radio and War Radio. “I want the audience to place their head between the two radios, getting disoriented by the bombardment of audio … when the audience places themself in the middle of these two radios, the positioning becomes the metaphors of the liminal space we as society exist in right now,” Ito replied when I asked him how he intended the piece to be experienced. Just as war and peace are fleeting things, so too is the auditory experience of this piece: the chaotic mix of passing words, sounds of war, and analog static puts the listener in a trancelike state. 

“Who will be the next sacrifice for war…” the radio says. As if caught in a disagreement, the parallel radio replies, “who will be the next sacrifice for peace?” They argue atop the slow hum of wind, as tension rises. Air raid sirens begin as the urgent, foreboding tones of news broadcasters creep up from the static. The anxiety builds to a horrific crescendo as the sounds of war fill the room. Then, as suddenly as they began, the sirens cease, and the broadcast returns to a quiet hum, only interrupted by the refrain, “Who will be the next sacrifice for war… who will be the next sacrifice for peace.” But this peace is only transient, no matter how comforting it may feel. 

When I first placed my head between the radios, I was surprised by the altered state of sensory perception it provoked. During the “wartime,” I could hardly recall the sense of calm that the peaceful, churning static inspired. This piece encourages the listener to notice themselves becoming “trapped in the moment” and become aware of  their unconscious fear of change.

Talking Heads is just one of many pieces in this exhibit which exemplify impermanence. Elsewhere in the gallery, Ito presents the audience with text made of loose ash, infinite permutations of projected text, relics of the past and forecasts of the future. All of reality is governed by change, and Ito’s embrace of change in Teach Me To Love This World results in one of the most compelling installation exhibits you will have the pleasure of visiting. 

Teach Me How to Love This World: Kei Ito will be on view in The Stamp Gallery at the University of Maryland, College Park from October 19 through December 10, 2022. For more information on Kei Ito and his work, visit

Shadow-Forms in Hae Won Sohn’s “Unspoken Volumes”

Unspoken Volumes from August 29th to October 8th, 2022, at The Stamp Gallery | University of Maryland, College Park | Written by Oliver Foley

The Made Maker (top) with Risk Dawn (bottom) (both 2022)

As we enter the final week of Unspoken Volumes, Hae Won Sohn’s show at the Stamp Gallery, I find myself considering the effects that this art has had on me through hours of sitting with it. Although the impressions of gallery visitors, curators, critics, and contemporaries often define the written legacy of a work, many fascinating perspectives are held by the humble docents and guards of the art. Sometimes spending longer hours with the art than the artists themselves, art attendants are seldom without a unique take on the works which they oversee. In my hours of sitting at the desk, walking through the gallery, and gazing at the beautiful forms of Sohn’s sculptures, one specific theme repeatedly came up: shadowplay. The shadows of Sohn’s artworks were as tangible and concrete as the three-dimensional works of plaster, clay, and paper.

In addition to simply providing an exhibit’s worth of art for the Gallery, Hae Won Sohn played a large role in the installation of the exhibit. As a result, every decision of the gallery’s flow contributes to her great design. The lighting design, in particular, captured my eyes through my days in the Gallery. The angling of the lights and placement of the pieces resulted in stunningly complex shadows, such as The Made Maker.

“Blurry objects,” a concept Sohn developed through this work, is exemplified in the play between the tangible and intangible objects of the show. Shadows take the form of transition, blurriness of the hard-edged spaces we inhabit; potential beyond what is defined by the physical and temporal world. Shadows define and defy our brain’s understanding of the world, of the three dimensional, and even of the passage of time. By constructing objects which exist simultaneously in two- and three- dimensional worlds, Hae Won Sohn communicates the incommunicable blur of space through the “gray areas” in between. Shadows depend on the three dimensional to exist, but objects in space depend on light and shadow to be observed. These were the recurring thoughts in my mind all throughout the time I shared with these pieces.

Growing Thin (2022)

Sometimes, the ornaments and subtle architectures of the spaces we pass through go unnoticed. Perhaps this subconscious “smudging” of landscapes is the blur which Sohn pursues. Yet, even more than the architectural thresholds, edges, and accents, the most subconscious element of our day-to-day perceptions is the shadow. We train ourselves to ignore it, just like we ignore the trim of the rooftop, the rosettes and finials of our furnishings. By leaving nothing but the liminal form, the ornament and its ever-constant shadow, Hae Won Sohn gives the viewer the eyes to see what their brain blurs. One particularly beautiful example of this theme is the piece Growing Thin. My hours at the desk provoked thoughts of chicken-and-egg games between the illumination and the illuminated. Magic is alive within the plaster-cast object and its own light-cast into the two dimensional. I found myself profoundly affected by Sohn’s installation.

With only fours days left to see Unspoken Volumes, I encourage anyone to come give it one last look!

Beyond Words In Unspoken Volumes: Motifs of Duality and the Conceptual “Double”

Unspoken Volumes from August 29th to October 8th, 2022 at The Stamp Gallery | University of Maryland, College Park | Written by Hannah Zozobrado

How is it possible for the complexities of freely expressed art to be effectively labeled, when they can only be limited through the confining medium of words? In my eyes, words of finite interpretations hold nearly no significance against the boundless expositions of art; in my eyes, to find the right words befitting of the entity that it describes is a mission in itself. 

Yet, the New York-based artist Hae Won Sohn beautifully, all-encompassingly captured the essence of her solo exhibit through her title “Unspoken Volumes,” in which her work ironically does speak volumes. A deep dive into the morphological anatomy of the two-word exhibition title may look like this:

Unspoken (adj):

1. Quiet; silent    2. Not communicated; not expressed; no wall labels    3. Tacit; “as if…”

4. Figurative.

Volumes (n.):

1. The space within or occupied by a form 2. The power of sound 3. Individual books in a series.

4. Physical.

Hitting the mark across all meanings of each word, “Unspoken Volumes” has the perfect telltale title to accurately embrace the environment in this exhibition: 

Sohn’s art resides in a quiet room of homely, charming set-up, in which her digital media and horizontally-aligned works – all comprising and occupying their respective spaces – either adorn the walls or stand upright in different sections of the gallery, as if they are continuations of one another; as if they are to be explored like separate parts of the same series. Her art sits naturally in its space, comfortably bare without wall labels as though without a name, only casually existing between the Figurative and the Physical — between the Unspoken and the densely Voluminous.

Beyond a lesson in semantics, “Unspoken Volumes” is more than just a flexible name; in the same way that words can have multiple meanings, and in the same way that the words “Unspoken” and “Volumes” have connotations nearly opposite of the other, each seemingly singular piece by Sohn can be interpreted to have more than one layer – more specifically, two. It is, in fact, Sohn’s intention to “[outline] blurs and [trace] gray areas in between… material and form; subject and object.” Finding the middle ground between the two calls for their distinction, first. Here is where Sohn cleverly uses the concept of doubles to emphasize blurriness.

When I first arrived on campus and had the chance to walk through the gallery, what first struck me was Sohn’s way of working with the gallery space; light and shadows, as well as color, seemed to be a medium for her to further explore the blurry middle between the metaphysical and physical.

For example, the image to the left is a photo of Sohn’s plaster piece, situated in one of the more hidden and overlooked spaces of the gallery solely due to the fact that the area is blocked off by a bench and projector; even I, myself, nearly missed this piece due to the plaster’s color sneakily blending into the wall. 

However, upon closer inspection, the light and shadow —  two generally rivaling concepts — merge at some point along the body of the crescent-looking plaster. Given that the piece’s title is “Luna,” which is the Spanish translation of the English “Moon,” this is a reference to the two sides of our moon — the illuminated side that we always see, and the dark side that we never see. Interestingly enough, the line at which light and dark meet is not vertically straight throughout the entire piece, as though there is no clear center; a blur.

Rather than only the lighting helping scope the bounds of this conceptual blur, Sohn uses color. The image to the left is a photo of another one of Sohn’s works titled “Owl,” which was made with plaster, gypsum cement, and oxide pigments.

As I thought about what it meant to give this two-piece work a singular title, I realized that this ostensible ‘split’ between the coupled left and right was a red herring. For this particular piece, it took having to discover the title “Owl” and ridding my earlier notion of duality in order to see that opposing color schemes served to distract from the bigger picture of an owl staring back at me. 

Upon first looking at the concept behind “Unspoken Volumes” and walking through the art on display, I couldn’t help but remember an exhibition I loved and got to see a few weeks prior over the summer in Washington D.C.’s National Gallery of Art; I took the following photo of the exhibition outline in awe of the concept: 

That had been my first time internalizing the purpose behind doubles and dualities in art. Having Sohn’s work now displayed in the Stamp Gallery is a pleasant treat to expand my thinking of how art’s engagement with doubles can be delivered through various means in order to produce different meanings in ways that often cannot be described with mere words.

Sohn’s art once fueled an interesting conversation I had with my friend. My friend, who stopped by the gallery to see the Unspoken Volumes exhibition, had asked me: “Which do you think is more important in art, intention or craft?” 

I think I must have said something along the lines of: “Maybe somewhere in the [blurry] middle.”

Unspoken Volumes: Hae Won Sohn will be in The Stamp Gallery at the University of Maryland, College Park from August 29th to October 8th, 2022. For more information on Hae Won Sohn and her work, visit

Lion Heart: More than Just a Name

Unspoken Volumes from August 29th to October 8th, 2022, at The Stamp Gallery | University of Maryland, College Park | Written by Ellen Zhang

Protruding from the white walls of the Stamp Gallery is Lion Heart – a small yet powerful sculpture. Despite the fact that it is the size of my hand, artist Hae Won Sohn has fit in a plethora of sharp edges, rounded surfaces, and all sorts of visual textures. With a somewhat rounded top and pointed bottom, the contours bear an uncanny resemblance to an actual heart. Aside from its physical similarities, Sohn’s sculpture also resembles the metaphorical meaning of a lion heart. From a denotative perspective, a lion heart is someone who is courageous and risk-taking. In Lion Heart, I see an artist who exhibits these qualities. 

Shifting your position to the right of Lion Heart, you’ll notice two interesting choices Sohn has made in her creative process. First, a rigid edge that cuts through the piece like a shard of glass penetrating the heart. It protrudes out at an angle, obstructing the viewer’s ability to see the entirety of the piece from one position. Through this bold choice, Sohn exemplifies the concept of boundaries – something that forces us to look at things from different angles (almost literally) to find our answers. As a viewer, I find myself viewing her art from all sorts of directions and viewpoints to answer my own questions about the connection between the sculpture and its name. 

Then, shifting your position to the left of Lion Heart, you’ll see a different concept embodied by the sculpture’s forms. From this perspective, the lines are soft and well-blended into flat surfaces. Everything seems blurred, but this is on purpose. Once again, Sohn has cleverly incorporated a way to express the metaphorical themes of her exhibition through the sculpture. The practice of blurriness, as described by the artist herself, is based on the notion that “some ideas and forms seem to become clearer in the blur.” According to Sohn, “This perhaps comes from my understanding of blurriness as more embracing of intrusions and embodying higher potential than what appears to be more defined.” The contrast between the smooth, flat surface and sharp ridges on the right side indicates that Sohn is “embracing intrusions” during her creative process. As a result, her work leaves viewers with an understanding of the nuanced meanings behind her work. When observing Lion Heart from the right, you can see qualities of bravery and confidence through the jagged and well-defined edges. From the left, you can see qualities of calmness and simplicity through the blunted surfaces. The duality in the interpretations of her work emerges because of Sohn’s own ability to embrace intrusions while creating her work. 

Sohn is certainly an artist with a “lion heart.” She welcomes disruptions in her own thinking process, thus enabling her to incorporate bold contrasts in the forms and shapes of her work. Through Unspoken Volumes, Sohn is even able to challenge her viewers to include boundaries and blurriness in their own thinking. She encourages us to surpass boundaries and look at questions from all angles. She also encourages us to embrace intrusions in our own thought processes, sparking internal conversations provoked by gray areas – terms, subjects, and objects that do not conform to a singular category. 

Lion Heart is included in Unspoken Volumes at The Stamp Gallery of the University of Maryland, College Park, from August 29th to October 8th, 2022. For more information on Hae Won Sohn, visit For more information on Unspoken Volumes and related events, visit

A flower in plain sight: Connections between Hae Won Sohn’s “Wallflower (orchid)” and the Papilionanthe Miss Joaquim of Singapore

Unspoken Volumes from August 29th to October 8th, 2022, at The Stamp Gallery | University of Maryland, College Park | Written by James Cho

Resting on the floor of the Gallery sits Wallflower (orchid), a mixed-media sculpture by Hae Won Sohn, among the other wondrous pieces of the Unspoken Volumes exhibition. One of three artworks titled “Wallflower” in the gallery, (orchid) was born from Sohn’s desire to create artwork that stands by itself without a pedestal or wall, while the other two sculptures, Wallflower (thatch village) and Wallflower (King Moth) occupy wall space. Moreover, though it may not seem like it, Wallflower (orchid) is made of cardboard collected from boxes of shipments to Sohn’s studio that she folded repeatedly, as well as tape, pushpins, acrylic, and plaster painted over with a coat of light purple. Like a real orchid, visitors can distinguish the smaller petals flanking the mouth of the orchid and the third, larger petal behind the mouth of the flower. But if you kneel down and take a closer look at Wallflower (orchid), you can see how this blur of materials comes together to create not just the general form of an orchid, but also the organic folds and even the veins of the flower. This speaks volumes about the unity Sohn is able to achieve in juxtaposing both geometric and organic forms through materials of unique origins.

Hae Won Sohn, Wallflower (orchid), 2022. Cardboard, tape, pushpins, acrylic, plaster.

It also speaks to the very essence of what orchids represent in places like Singapore, where I grew up. Notably, the national flower of Singapore is the Vanda Miss Joaquim orchid, hybridized by the orchid’s namesake Agnes Joaquim in 1893, itself underwent a rebirth recently. The recategorization under the Papilionanthe genus acts as an apt development in the context of the “blurriness” concept that Sohn expresses in all her artwork in the Gallery. For reasons besides this name change, the Miss Joaquim orchid was chosen as the national flower because: 

“As the flower most associated with hybrids, the orchid is also a symbol of our multicultural heritage. It is representative of the harmony among our ethnic communities, as well as with our many foreign visitors.”

A bouquet of Papilionanthe Miss Joaquim orchids, originally bred in 1983 by Agnes Joaquim.

Mr. Mah Bow Tan, Minister for National Development, at the Singapore Orchid Show, 2006

Through this symbolism, Wallflower (orchid) serves as a manifestation of Mr. Tan’s belief in the harmony of the Singaporean people, in the very same manner in which the mix of cardboard, plaster, and other materials come together in Wallflower (orchid) today. Like Singapore, the artwork as a whole blurs the lines between its materials to become a single being. Just like how the hybridized shape and color of the Miss Joaquim orchid carry this message of cultural unity, Wallflower (orchid) carries the stories of its individual parts that have blurred together into this new design. 

The choice of giving the title of “wallflower” to this piece is quite puzzling, though, when compared to the other two works in the gallery that bear the same title. The formal definitions for a wallflower is that of a European flower that is either yellow, orange, or brown in nature, or when describing a person characterized as being shy or awkward. But unlike Wallflower (King Moth) and Wallflower (thatch village), which are both situated on walls facing away from the gallery’s windows and in indirect light as their name implies, Wallflower (orchid) does not live up to the definition of a wallflower. Instead, it basks in the direct light of two overhanging spotlights on the open floor of the Gallery. Because of this stylistic choice in (orchid)’s presentation that contradicts the concept of a wallflower, visitors may wonder as to why Sohn chose to do so, especially since the other two Wallflower artworks are of similar proportions to Wallflower (orchid).

Regardless, both Wallflower (orchid) and the Miss Joaquim orchids illustrate how a simple yet beautiful design composed of materials with differing origins together represent the many “unspoken volumes” of their past and future. Whether that be the materials of the Wallflower (orchid), or Miss Agnes Joaquim’s hybridization of orchids into the Papilionanthe Miss Joaquim, both capture the essence of harmony and unity in their current form. 

Hae Won Sohn’s work is included in Unspoken Volumes at The Stamp Gallery of the University of Maryland, College Park, from August 29th to October 8th, 2022. For more information on Hae Won Sohn, visit For more information on Unspoken Volumes and related events, visit

An Introduction to Hae Won Sohn’s Solo Exhibition; Humbled by Unspoken Volumes

Unspoken Volumes from August 29 to October 8, 2022 at The Stamp Gallery | University of Maryland, College Park | Written by Isabella Chilcoat

Hae Won Sohn, a New York-based artist and craftswoman, has graced the Stamp Gallery with a new art presence that straddles the unspoken and the overlooked crevices between shape, color, and space. Dovetailing three-dimensional objects and multimedia work, Sohn’s minimalist creations consume the gallery’s white walls in a breathy pastel mirage that I desperately want to consume. I cannot describe her palette better than melted ice cream colors complete with an offering that ranges from neapolitan to mint chip. After visiting this exhibition viewers will leave wanting at least two scoops. 

Hae Won Sohn, chocolate milk cow milk, 2022. Plaster and oxide pigment. Currently on loan at the Stamp Gallery, College Park, MD.

But the real scoop is better than everyone’s favorite creamy delight. Take chocolate milk cow milk, 2022: Made of plaster and milk chocolatey brown oxide pigments, this triptych (collection of three) and a half cast sculpture set blooms from the gallery’s main wall. Parallel to the exterior windows, chocolate milk cow milk is visible to any person perusing the hallway, but it is worth moving closer. From a more intimate distance, one can examine the swirled pigments within each object’s silky crescent surface. Chocolate milk cow milk exemplifies Sohn’s conception of “burry objects,” a phenomenon she describes as both a “physical and metaphorical quality of [her] work in [her] vision which occurs as a result of exploring and adjusting distances through(out) time.” None of her works are detached from their origin, process, or the space they occupy. Accordingly, each of the works in Unspoken Volumes encompasses the cooperation of every contributing source which ensured the presence of the objects in the room. This includes the personal and the material antecedents that work together to make her art making possible – initial inspiration, the sources of material, molds, media, availability of exhibition space, reception of the work, and individual response to name a few. Through an appreciation of each work’s origins coupled with the present viewing moment, Sohn’s art grows in complexity while appearing as a simple form. In essence, the space feels complete. Her art is so inclusive to process and presence that walking into the gallery translates a deep calm or inner satisfaction. 

” Some ideas and forms seem to become clearer in the blur. This perhaps happens from my
understanding of blurriness to being more embracing of intrusions and embodying higher
potential and energy compared to what appears to be more defined. “

Sohn, unspoken volumes artist statement, 2022.

An all-encompassing blurriness arises through observation of Unspoken Volumes from a macro and micro perspective. The space as a whole breathes as if every object pumps in a synchronized heartbeat while the individual pieces still emit a cadence of their own. I can relate to the idea of blurriness in my own attempts to grasp the origins of each piece of art and my present interpretation at the same time. These lines of comprehension become fuzzy the harder I ponder over one of Sohn’s smooth sculpture surfaces and the shadows cast between objects in a set. I am overwhelmed by the compositions Sohn has crafted through fundamental art elements juxtaposed with their conceptual depths that exceed the places from where I stand to observe them. Even the best images fail to capture the multitudes Sohn’s works contain; something as simple as an alteration to lighting or angle of viewing reveals a whole new landscape for each piece. I argue the modesty of abstracted forms alone attests to the beauty of contemporary art as a whole, and Unspoken Volumes is no exception.

Come visit the Stamp Gallery to explore this existential landscape cast by Unspoken Volumes for yourself, and tune in to hear from the artist herself on Thursday, Sep 8, 2022 during her artist talk in the space from 6:30-8:00 pm.

Hae Won Sohn’s work is included in Unspoken Volumes at The Stamp Gallery of the University of Maryland, College Park, from August 29 to October 8, 2022.

Sohn will deliver an artist talk on Unspoken Volumes in the Gallery on September 8, 2022, 6:30-8:00pm. For more information on Hae Won Sohn, visit .

Just a Shirt: of Stripes and Haunting Memories

Distinct Chatter from April 8 to May 20, 2022 at The Stamp Gallery | University of Maryland, College Park | Written by Hannah Zozobrado

Along one of the walls of the gallery hangs a black-and-white striped shirt, cut into curved strips that defy the thin, horizontal stripes. The slits on the left and right side of the tee curve symmetrically in opposite directions. The work is Charlotte Richardson-Deppe’s Just a Shirt (2021), which also has multiple colored pins poking into each strip of material, sticking out of the shirt and giving the piece overall dimension. For Richardson-Deppe, the chopped piece of clothing is a reminder of a bitter story.

The story that accompanies Just a Shirt is as follows:

It is the spring of Richardson-Deppe’s senior year of college, and she and her friends are spending a night in a Chicago hotel. They encounter a middle-aged man in the elevator, and he strikes casual conversation with them. They all arrive at their hotel room soon after; the hotel room’s phone begins to ring and Richardson-Deppe’s friend answers the phone – the caller is the man from the elevator, asking if the girl in the black and white shirt is in the room. Richardson-Deppe is the girl in the black and white striped shirt.

The friend lies and hangs up the phone. They are all scared, and they call their male friend – “tall and strong” – to request their room change at the front desk. They finally change their room, but the fear and paranoia does not depart as they ensure that the doors are locked.

While the title is Just a Shirt, the material is more than that to Richardson-Deppe. It is, in fact, just a shirt in its appearance, but this shirt is a reminder of a chilling dilemma that she had to experience as a woman and had to resolve with the help of a man. It is a reminder of the feeling of hopelessness that comes with knowing you are being surveilled by an unknown man with unknown intentions – something that many women experience in a patriarchal society.

Charlotte Richardson-Deppe, Just a Shirt, 2021. Shirt, pins, 16” x 18”.

The cuts that curve outward from the shirt’s middle center look as though they take the form of the female reproductive system. This piece is representative of what it means to be a woman in a society where men can be either predatory or heroic – and either way, the woman is to succumb and yield to man, whether that be as their prey or damsel in distress.

The shirt is formed by these symmetric slits in the material, and the rightward and leftward curve of these cuts on the shirt cause a split in the overall work. With this, the tee represents womanhood while also drawing a literal and metaphorical line between the experiences of women and men.

The pins on this work, which are typically used to help in mending rips and tears at cloth, only jab into the material with an ostensible purpose of pinning the strips to the wall. The pins also make the shirt feel unmoving; this is to say that the sentiment of reinforcing society’s rigid social and patriarchal structures are to remain unchanged, or at least difficult to change.

Just a Shirt shows that objects, contrary to their simple appearances, can often take up the space beyond their physical composition. They encompass the memories that evoke strong emotions, like disgust and fear, while also becoming a symbol and motif of lived experiences; this piece, in the context of what had happened as the shirt was worn, is critical commentary on what it is like to be a woman: having to keep an eye out for our well-being and, like Richardson-Deppe, even sleep with one eye open.

Just a Shirt tells a story that many women are able to relate to – no matter the shirt they choose to wear.

Charlotte Richardson-Deppe’s work is included in Distinct Chatter at The Stamp Gallery of the University of Maryland, College Park, from April 18 – May 20, 2022.

For more information on Charlotte Richardson-Deppe, visit the University of Maryland’s Department of Art.

For more information on Distinct Chatter and related events, visit the Stamp Website.

Face Me: Self Portraits of Hosna Shahramipoor

Distinct Chatter from April 18 to May 20, 2022 at The Stamp Gallery | University of Maryland, College Park | Written by Isabella Chilcoat

You’d be surprised by how many people have asked me who Hosna Shahramipoor’s model is for her photographs in the gallery and are shocked to learn that they are self portraits.

To me, their confusion speaks volumes about how necessary her portraits are.

Hosna Shahramipoor, Video Arts, 2022, digital media 0:30s.

A second year MFA candidate in the University of Maryland Department of Studio Art, Shahramipoor already holds BA and MFA degrees both from University of Art, Tehran, and she has been photographing professionally since the early 2000s. Now her recent collection of self portraits occupies the walls in our Stamp Gallery as she wraps up this year’s MFA portfolio. Following a trend of distortion, marring, and fracturing, each portrait exhibits some degree of manipulation to the face or the throat applied directly to the surface of the image with various materials. Shahramipoor employs herself as the subject of each photograph, challenging viewers to look beyond implicit biases that often accompany first impressions – @ my confused gallery attendees – about race and identity based on her appearance. She, as an Iranian woman, is inevitably a member of an often harmfully miscategorized community of people who do not always appear the way others expect, especially in the U.S. Her physical appearance contradicts the Western stereotype that prescribes dark hair, eyes, warm, tanned skin, and a hijab as the standard for Middle Eastern women.

She, distinctly, is not white, as portrait I Am Not White (2022) aptly asserts through a glossy archival paper printed photograph with pins filling the box letter shapes of this phrase over her distant countenance. Furthermore, the gaze of the subject peers straight through the viewer with a mix  of severity, solemnity, and exasperation that harmonizes with the portrait’s color palate of rosy browns and taupes. Hung at just the right height, Shahramipoor’s gaze pierces at eye level to reiterate “I AM NOT WHITE,” undoubtedly  a worn-out phrase, spoken so often that each utterance, every situation urging that clarification, conversely pierces into the skin like a sharp needle. This piece is not the only portrait intoning a theme of false assumptions, but it is perhaps the most obvious rendering of the concept.

Hosna Shahramipoor, I Am Not White, 2022, glossy archival print on paper.

Video Arts (2022), by Shahramipoor, on view in the second half of the gallery, may easily read as a feeling of fractured identity or wounding. The thirty-second clip features a still portrait of the artist that is progressively obscured by jagged, triangular incisions that resemble pieces of a broken mirror. Starting in a haloing progression around her face, the incisions continue and grow longer as they slice into her seated body covering her entire being until they disappear and the video loops to the beginning. The artist’s act of visceral mutilation through delicate, meticulous execution creates portraits that are nothing short of poetic.

Shahramipoor’s focus on self portraiture and the cool intensity of her stare speak to the viewer beyond archival paper and a projected screen as if saying “face me.” I urge anyone to visit the gallery to witness these portraits in person and to confront their own internalized biases.

Hosna Shahramipoor’s work is included in Distinct Chatter at The Stamp Gallery of the University of Maryland, College Park, from April 18 – May 20, 2022.

For more information on Hosna Shahramipoor, visit the University of Maryland’s Department of Art.

For more information on Distinct Chatter and related events, visit the Stamp Website.

An Analysis of En Sonido: Faces, Tactility, and Hauntings

Distinct Chatter from April 8 to May 20, 2022 at The Stamp Gallery | University of Maryland, College Park | Written by Fiona Yang

En Sonido is easily the most striking piece in Distinct Chatter. Created by Argentinian-American artist Mercedes, En Sonido — translating to Sound Loop — is a metal basin that sits in the back of the gallery. Printed on the floor of the basin is a picture and accompanying biography of Jaime Jose Colmenares Berrios, an artist and photographer who disappeared into the Rio de la Plata during Argentina’s infamous “death flights” in the 1970s. A thin sheen of water fills the basin. Viewers are encouraged to move a pair of hydrocontact microphones around the floor of the basin to “find the heartbeat of the image.” When the “heartbeat” is found, the basin vibrates, creating unexpectedly beautiful patterns in the water and sending tremors through the hands of the viewer.

En Sonido by Mercedes

With En Sonido, Mercedes invokes a brutal history: a period of state terror and political repression across South America called Operation Condor, during which hundreds of thousands of people were kidnapped, tortured, and killed. She is one in a long line of artists trying to contextualize and memorialize “the disappeared.” This tradition is brilliantly examined in the catalogue for the North Dakota Museum of Art’s exhibition Los Desaparecidos (The Disappeared), which appears in the gallery’s pop-up library next to En Sonido. In the book, curator Laurel Reuter draws comparisons within a collection of works from artists in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Uruguay, all centered around the disappeared. En Sonido must be analyzed within this context. Among the work of her peers, the thematic similarities in Mercedes’ piece are thrown into sharp relief.

In the introduction to the catalogue, Lawrence Weschler notes in particular the use of faces, especially those of the victims. He quotes the essay “The Face” by Jean-Paul Sartre: “A bit of the future has now entered the room: a mist of futurity surrounds the face: its future.” In contrast to Sartre’s future-centered interpretation of the face, he writes, “For time and again in this show, we are being confronted with a squandered and truncated gaze, a forward looking, future-tending gaze that has nevertheless been interrupted, cut short, cruelly severed… It becomes up to us to reach out, to gaze back, to fulfill and redeem that haunted gaze.” Indeed, many works in Los Desaparecidos feature faces — to memorialize a loved one, to overwhelm with the sheer number of victims, to provoke recognition.

30,000 by Nicolás Guagnini

En Sonido features a stark, large-scale, black-and-white photograph of Berrios that stares up at the viewer from the bottom of the basin, underneath the rippling water. His expression is inscrutable, allowing viewers to interpret as they wish: depending on who’s looking, he could be seeking recognition, acknowledgement, or justice. Literally interpreted, the symbolism becomes morbid. The viewer, in searching for the “heartbeat” of the image, essentially plunges their hands into the Rio de la Plata to find Berrios himself. A parallel can be drawn to the installation piece 30,000 by Nicolás Guagnini. The sculpture is a fragmented black-and-white photo of the artist’s father, which appears and disappears as the viewer moves around it. The viewer, with both pieces, bears the responsibility of searching for and bringing the victim back to life — visually with 30,000, and tactilely with En Sonido. In both pieces, the victim gazes back. 

Touch and tactility — brought to the forefront of the viewer’s awareness through the hydrocontact microphones and vibrations — also serves to ground viewers firmly in the present moment, in reality. As some viewers discover right away, placing the microphones on the right spot creates a loud, disruptive tremor. That jolt incentivizes viewers to slow down, move the microphones more slowly, and pay attention to smaller vibrations. Attention and care, in the context of this work’s history, are valuable currencies. In her artist statement, Mercedes writes, “The artist reflects on an ongoing violent, unacknowledged history that the post-memory generation must keep alive.” The greatest enemy for Mercedes, and indeed many of the artists in the Los Desaparecidos collection, is a lack of awareness, a lack of attention. Similarly, in Oscar Muñoz’s Aliento (Breath), the viewer must come close enough to breathe on a steel disc, engraved with the face of a dead person, for the face to become visible. Reuter writes, “The viewer’s breath brings life. Only through paying very close attention can one both see and know. Only then can the numbness be defeated.” 

Aliento (Breath) by Oscar Muñoz

The overall effect of En Sonido is haunting, almost ghostly. Even after the viewer puts down the microphones, the vibrations linger on. The water clings to their hands. It’s hard to forget Berrios’ piercing eyes. Mercedes has done the one thing she set out to achieve: keeping the memory of Berrios, and the disappeared, alive. As the water stills and history moves on, it falls to artists to make sense of what’s left behind, and as a result of Mercedes’ work — and countless others by her peers — we live with the dead in our public consciousness, at least for a little longer. 

Mercedes’ work is included in Distinct Chatter at the Stamp Gallery of the University of Maryland, College Park, from April 8, 2022 to May 20, 2022.

Further Reading

Los Desaparecidos, edited by Laurel Reuter

Operation Condor (The Guardian) 

Reflections on Time

alternate universe: visualizing queer futurisms from February 10 to April 6, 2022 at The Stamp Gallery | University of Maryland, College Park | Written by Hannah Zozobrado

Art is often a reflection of the various facets of life; Camila Tapia-Guilliams’ All On Borrowed Time reminds us of our mortality, and how with our mortality comes the multiple problems that fail to be addressed in a lifetime – our current world of climate crises, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the negligence of world leaders that will lead to an inevitable struggle of future generations.

All On Borrowed Time, an acrylic and ink work, reflects the inevitability of death. The piece comprises dark colors – which reflect an imminent end of time and deliver a sense of urgency – against a contrasting backdrop of brighter-colored lines. Certain motifs drawn from nature such as clouds and what looks to be mountain ranges are also coupled with parts of the body: a heart, a hand, and an eye. These all go to show that our consciousness in our physical being is only temporary when compared to the persisting life in the nature that surrounds us.

Prior to seeing this piece, I had thought a lot about this topic of limited time and the inevitable end of our consciousness. When I first came across this work and read its label, I strongly felt Tapia-Guilliams’ sense of urgency on a personal level. It reminded me of a poem called I had written earlier in the year, when I had been feeling the heavy weight of time:

time is never measured
by the hour
for birds with instinct and light for clocks —
their only timeline
a horizon of a
setting / rising sun

[ it had been when their feathers
flew like fleeting seconds,
when suddenly birds
feared less the scale of time
than those of snakes ]

but even free spirits
paid the price of being prey
to the analog, 
ticking to the 12
that split days into two
ha / ves of a whole

[ to the 12 —
a noon, a midnight, a dozen,
apostles, and law enforcement;
time ticked, and ticked off the 12
jurying life and what came next ]

- Hannah Zozobrado
less timeless

This notion of limited time – while quite invasive due to its sporadic and unwelcomed entrance in the mind – is nonetheless important to think about when deciding what long-lasting mark we want to leave on this earth, whether that be through preventing climate crises or stopping the spread of COVID-19 through individual action. Tapia-Guilliams’ ability to address us as mortal beings with a purpose despite our finite time on earth makes All On Borrowed Time especially resonant.

The Poetry of Camila Tapia-Guilliams

alternate universe: visualizing queer futurisms from February 10 to April 6, 2022 at The Stamp Gallery | University of Maryland, College Park | Written by Fiona Yang

Camila Tapia-Guilliams’ Blue Bodied and Self-Sentry are meant to be viewed in conversation. Both are acrylic on paper, and short, bright blue organic forms wriggle their way across both pieces. Tapia-Guilliams invites you to compare the differences between the two: the differing color schemes, the use of negative space, the sparse representational forms. Then, the pieces guide you towards their accompanying artist statements—two short poems, also titled Blue Bodied and Self-Sentry respectively.

Blue Bodied by Camila Tapia-Guilliams

Poetry in accompaniment to art can serve to both contextualize and further complicate. Wall text is meant to clarify the meaning of a piece; when confronted with poetry instead, the viewer is forced to analyze two works of art at once. The average viewer likely has little experience in analyzing either. In a way, this works to the artist’s advantage. An artist statement can deflate a piece, a paltry translation of a visual work into flat, accessible terms. Matisse, despite his own eloquence, famously declared that “a painter ought to have his tongue cut out.” One solution to this frequent artist’s dilemma? A rejection of the institutionalized, formulaic artist statement. Jennifer Liese, in N+1 magazine, writes, “For everyone’s sake—artists and the people and institutions working to support them—it would be better to welcome sense and nonsense, coherence and paradox, philosophy, poetry, and maybe even a little more than a page, all of which might truly represent, rather than reduce, artists and their art.”

With Blue Bodied and Self-Sentry, we see Liese’s proclamation in action. The two poems are meditations on looking, being looked upon and loved. Neither poem attempts to reduce their respective works to thematic elements or try to explain its brushwork. Instead, the poems reference principles that underlie all of Tapia-Guilliams’s work: community-centered care, collaborative worldbuilding, solidarity and love. In Blue Bodied, Tapia-Guilliams writes, “Maybe then when we hold each other again / We won’t fall apart / We can build ourselves up / And start fresh”; in Self-Sentry, they write, “The low view has its beauty in the weeds.” 

Self-Sentry by Camila Tapia-Guilliams

In other artist statements, Tapia-Guilliams explicitly references works by queer theorists and scholars. In the description of What is Theirs is Mine, they direct viewers to the writing of nonbinary artist and writer Alok V. Menon. In true collaborative fashion, Tapia-Guilliams is aware that their words alone won’t be enough to explain the history, theory, and insight behind their work. Instead, they invoke the support of the queer intellectual and artistic community that inspired it in the first place. 

Poetry and theory: rather than flattening the work, Tapia-Guilliams enriches it. The result is a collection of pieces that mutually support and reinforce each other. Tapia-Guilliams is fiercely committed to solidarity and care, and that ideological conviction shines through in the show. 

Camila Tapia-Guilliams’s work is included in alternate universe: visualizing queer futurisms at the Stamp Gallery of the University of Maryland, College Park, from February 10, 2022 to April 6, 2022.

Further reading:

N+1 on Artist Statements

Musings on Panel

alternate universes: visualizing queer futurisms from February 10 to April 6, 2022 at The Stamp Gallery | University of Maryland, College Park | Written by Isabella M. Chilcoat

“Curves are natural, neutral in nature the same way they are on the body,”

according to one captivated and insightful gallery visitor speaking on Camila Tapia-Guilliams’s panel painting, The Muses.

Camila Tapia-Guilliams, The Muses, 2021, acrylic on wood, 24×48″

Last Tuesday, I led a tour through the Stamp Gallery’s exhibition alternate universe: visualizing queer futurisms, which will be on view until April 6. I relate to the viewer’s fascination as I ponder the sloping red outlines of nude human forms that sweep in circular progression over the organic grain of an untreated wood board. The repeated subject exists in absolute harmony with the medium as complimentary topographic strokes in cobalt, evergreen, and burnt umber caress the two natural entities — the painted and the painted-on. Initially created as a segment for their final portfolio before earning a degree in studio art from the University of Maryland, Guilliams describes The Muses as a manifestation of their own identity exploration as a non-binary person. The Muses considers the history of the exploitation of women for the inspiration and progression of male success, the objectification of the female-presenting nude, and the male gaze in works of art and other representations of women. All of the abuses of both form and person perpetuate an inhospitable climate in art spaces around the globe toward any person or persons presenting visible signs of difference from the longstanding status quo centering predominantly white cis-gendered men’s work. Tying seamlessly into some of the exhibition’s main points of discourse, The Muses points to this ostracization as it extends beyond the gallery walls, festering in the woven fibers of society.  

Detail, The Muses

The panel’s dimensions of 24 x 48” translates roughly to a sideways movie poster. To behold this work in person, however, will initiate a deeper, tumultuous effect on the senses — the eye devours the information on the wall while plunged into summits then chasms of visual form and carried into an awareness of the self, the artist’s humble request for empathy. Studying the faces reveals subtle expressions that only suggest which emotions could fill the empty spaces between the red outlines constituting their bodies. Human curves echo natural wood grain as if to parallel the carbon impermanence of them both. 

Finally, when the eye latches onto the last red of the right-most body that bends its head at an acute degree toward the left, the passageways of line carry the viewer back to the beginning to repeat the infinite process of discovery. To intone the conversation with my tour member once again, I consider how the world (or the universe) would look in the absence of bodily objectification, of gendered conventions sustained at the detriment of equity. What iterations of the future can exist from these histories?

Camila Tapia-Guilliams’s work is included in alternate universe: visualizing queer futurisms at The Stamp Gallery of the University of Maryland, College Park, from February 10 – April 6, 2022.

Camila Tapia Guilliams will be joining two other artists in the Art of Community Care: Collaging Collective Action hybrid event in StudioA and zoom on March 16, 2022 at 6:00PM.

For more information on Camila TApia-Guilliams, visit .

For more information on alternate universe: visualizing queer futurisms and related events, visit .