Painting as Sculpture: Unique Art Display Methods

Neuro Blooms: Mixed Media Art by Leslie Holt from February 12th to March 28th at The Stamp Gallery | University of Maryland, College Park | Written by Kayla Conklin

When you walk into a museum, what do you expect to see? White walls. Golden frames and canvases hung neatly in a line. A few (uncomfortable) benches to sit and look. Brightly lit rooms. Quiet, docile guests. Some young people snapping Instagram shots. However, if you walk into Neuro Blooms, a Mixed Media Art exhibit featuring the works of Leslie Holt, you may be surprised. 

Holt’s work is largely displayed in a traditional fashion, canvases hung neatly on a wall. However, there are three pieces in the show that employ a new display technique. “Depression Stain (Glimmer)” (2016), “ADHD Stain (calm focus pause)” (2016), and “Bipolar Stain (steady)” (2016), are suspended in air with two tension rods per piece (pictured). The metal rods are hollow square tubes that are welded to threaded rods and the circular “feet.” The rods stretch from the ceiling to the floor, providing a space to support the large canvases and allowing viewers to see both the front and the back of the works.



This tension rod method was custom-designed and produced by a team. Margaret Boozer was an important member of the team who designed the tension rod display method. Interestingly, she has a piece in the Contemporary Art Purchasing Program (CAPP) collection that she installed herself in The Stamp Student Union (“Difficult Ordinary Happiness (with thanks to Adrienne Rich),” 2017). This work can be seen in the stairwell to the student involvement suite.

The beauty of this display method is that the artworks take on a sculptural quality, as viewers are allowed, and encouraged to circumnavigate the canvases. The ability to view these mixed media pieces from multiple angles is vital to the experience of the work. In many cases, embroidered words and painted brain-stains occupy the back of the canvas as much as they do the front. Additionally, these rod-suspended works are displayed outward, facing the windows of the Stamp Art Gallery. This allows people passing by, who may regularly never enter an art gallery, to view the art. In this way, the rod-suspension display method invites people into the space, creating a warm and inclusive show that people can view inside or outside of the gallery.

Art display has a considerable impact on the way that we consume curated shows. They can invite audiences in, or shut them out. They can invert our expectations of artworks by transforming paintings into sculptures. They can allow us to see art in new and unique ways. I encourage all art-viewers to be conscious of the ways that art-display methods are harnessed and the ways that these methods impact the experience of the art itself. 

Leslie Holt’s work is included in Neuro Blooms: Mixed Media Art by Leslie Holt at The Stamp Gallery of the University of Maryland, College Park, from February 12th to March 28th. 

For more information on Leslie Holt, visit

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