A Way to Understanding Art

Difficult Ordinary Happiness

Those Girls Clenched So Many Hopes, Dance, Dance, Dance, Thrice

Line Up! Take It Like a Man, But Don’t take it up with ‘The Man’

Lower the Pitch of Your Suffering, Soundless Invisible angels

As a fun experiment, I made a collage poem out of the titles of the artworks currently on display. The creative process was quite intuitive. Similar to how these artworks visually and conceptually complement each other, their titles happen to poetically complement each other and collectively take on a meaning that captures the essence of the New Arrivals 2017 exhibition.

I find that I like processing ideas in my mind through drawing, writing, or creating music playlists, whatever the subject matter is. It helps me gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for what I am trying to learn, especially when it comes to art. That being said, visitors are welcome to bring a sketchbook to the Stamp Gallery. Did any of the artworks remind you of a song? Tell a docent and perhaps it will be added to the playlist of Art Hour, Stamp Gallery’s own radio show. Whatever the case, getting creative and acquainted with the artworks is highly encouraged!

Come experience the New Arrivals 2017 exhibition in The Stamp Gallery, happening now through October 14, 2017.

Written by Cristy Ho



How Art Captures Time

Art has the intriguing ability of capturing certain moments in time. For instance, you may recall certain memories while watching a film, looking at a work of art, or listening to a song. This may happen to an artist when they look at their own work, which may function a bit like a time capsule. A lot of artists are compelled to create art when encountered with intense feelings or experiences. In this way, art may serve as a reminder to the artist of how things were in the past. Art tends to capture the experience of the artist through a subjective lens more so than an objective reality. Strong feelings have the tendency to distort and cloud memories, and creating art is a way for artists to navigate their emotions and make sense of the past.

Creating art can be a way to document important events. It can be similar to writing in a diary but without the confining nature of words. Consequently, art may serve as an ideal coping mechanism. An artist may choose to focus their art on their current hardships or choose to focus on occurrences that haunt their past. Artists may pour their emotions into an artwork to put their past to rest.

Artworks affect the artist who make them as well as those that view them and can relate to them, whether sympathetically or empathetically. Perhaps viewing the “I’m Fine” exhibition may stir up emotions and memories of a distant time, and cause you to reflect on your own growth.


IMFINE-Christopher_Bugtong (5)

“Endless Impermanence” by Brandon Chambers


Written by Cristy Ho

Galleries: Rooms to Live In

DSC_0030Art galleries can be intimidating places. Walls of silence. No photography. Don’t touch the artwork. These unique environments can lead to some second-guessing, especially for those who are new to galleries. “Am I being too loud?” “Does anyone find any of this modernist furniture comfortable to sit on?” “Can the gallery attendant tell that I have no idea what that piece of art is trying to say?” If this sounds like you, take a breath, and relax.


Art appreciation can seem like a high-brow hobby, but it certainly doesn’t take years of art history classes to react to something emotionally. Some artistic elements may not be completely accessible without an art background, but only in the same sense that the average person wouldn’t fully grasp a grad student’s final thesis without some context.Yet there is always a basic level in which art can be accessed; saying “I don’t understand” is still a response and furthers the conversation. Art is made to make people feel and think. So remember: a gallery isn’t just for the art majors or art collectors, it’s for you.

DSC_0016DSC_0012If you’re interested in visiting such a place, the Stamp Gallery—found on the first floor of the Stamp Student Union—is a conveniently located art space available for students and visitors alike to stop by in the midst of a busy day. Aside from the new exhibition, a few other changes to the gallery have been made this semester. A lounge area provides seating apart from the art. This is an ideal place to do homework, chat with friends, or to browse our provisional library and read one of its books, all of which are in conversation with a piece in the gallery.

DSC_0008DSC_0010A chess table has also been moved into the space, providing a place not only to play chess, but also a variety of board and card games made available through the gallery staff. And if you would like to save and share your experience in the gallery with your friends, we allow non-flash photography of the art.


So, why all these changes to the gallery? A common viewpoint towards galleries is that they are refuges from the day-to-day grind. While the gallery staff wants to make the area a more welcoming environment, we also want it to be a place where you can both appreciate the art yet also retain your identity. We want a person to feel like he/she can coexist with the art rather than just stop by and visit. We want this space to be comfortable enough for people to do homework, go on dates, have arguments. A gallery should not be a place to escape life, but rather to live it.

So sit down and stay awhile.DSC_0075

Written by Christopher Bugtong

Installation Revelation

So you’re walking by the Stamp Gallery one afternoon. Peaking through the glass exterior, you see that there are boxes and packing paper scattered throughout. You see some power tools on the benches, and a ladder leaning against the corner. You notice random walls that seem to be hanging out in limbo in the middle of the space. Walking past the entrance, you find a sign taped to the door: “Closed for installation, please come back for our opening next week!”

Ever wanted to know just what goes into the installation of a gallery exhibition?

The past week at the Stamp Gallery has been quite a busy one, with the installation of our current exhibition featuring new arrivals for the Contemporary Art Purchasing Program (CAPP). As a docent, I get to take part in this installation process. As such, I thought I’d offer a little glimpse into a few of the more subtle, never-occurred-to-me-before-I-started-working-here types of things that go on behind the scenes of an installation.



When you first walk into the Stamp Gallery and start reading about what the exhibit is about, you are reading the vinyl. I’d like to start off by admitting that, before I started working at the gallery, I was under the impression that someone had to come and actually hand-paint the words onto the wall…which I’m glad is not the case! After the exhibition overview is typed up in a Word doc, it is sent to be blown up in size and then printed out on a kind of sticker-like paper. Before sticking this onto the wall, we measure the length/width of the sheet, take a ruler to the wall, level it, and make light pencil marks for guidelines. Next, we peel off the outer layer of the sheet, which uncovers the sticky part that goes onto the wall. Once we have the sheet up on the wall, we smooth out any wrinkles and press it against the wall as much as possible – this makes it easier to peel the paper off without peeling the actual letters off as well. The final step is to do the actual peeling!


In the gallery, we have “moveable” walls that are stored in the back. The wall holding Titus Kaphar’s The Jerome Project (Asphalt and Chalk) XII is a moveable wall.


These walls allow us the mobility to create new, smaller spaces within our existing gallery space. They also provide extra surface area to accommodate more pieces, draw attention to particular works, as well as provide general interest and variability to the eye. For this exhibition in particular, we added a wall behind the podium holding Wafaa Bilal’s Perseus Beheading Medusa and Pink David in order to direct focus onto the pieces, since they are relatively small objects in comparison to the space.



Tracks along the ceiling of the gallery provide grooves that the lights hook into. There are three tracks spanning the length of the space, and five tracks running widthwise. The lights themselves consist of a bulb attached to a frame that can be maneuvered to adjust the angle of the light accordingly. In addition, there are metal bars within the hook of the frame that conduct electricity and make the light turn on when attached to the track.                                                                                       Depending on the needs of the exhibition/pieces, the lights can be placed so that they either “spotlight” or provide a softer, glow to the work. When spotlighting, the lights are generally placed closer to the piece, which provides a very direct focus. Setting the light farther back creates more of an atmosphere and harmonization for the piece as well as the space surrounding it. Other things to keep in mind when setting up lights is reflection, shadows, and the color casted by the bulb. For the pieces that contain a glass covering, we had to consider the effects of possible reflections caused by our lighting choices. In addition, we can control the degree and location of shadows by light placement. For Ellington Robinson’s Oath of the Imperialists, we played around with the distance of the lights from the work in order to “shift” the shadows around.


Finally, some bulbs are older than others and cast a softer, more yellow hue than the newer ones, which typically cast a very bright, verging on greenish tint. We usually try to match the shades of light throughout the exhibit.

Of course, there are many other aspects that go into a gallery installation that I haven’t mentioned here – each show is unique in terms of the methods used to bring it together. For a closer look at the results of our installation, be sure to check out the opening reception of CAPP New Arrivals 2015 this Friday, September 25th between 6-10pm.

See you there!

Carmen Dodl

Perception in Motion

One of my absolute favorite pastimes is people-watching. That may sound creepy; yet, it’s something that never becomes boring, since no two people will look or act exactly the same. When I people-watch, I feel as if I’m a receiver of information rather than a creator. To put it simply, I enjoy people-watching because it can be an entertaining, passive kind of activity.

At the same time, there have been days when I chose to add a new aspect to my people-watching game. I was recently sitting on a bench at Dupont Circle in D.C. with a friend, and we decided to pick a passerby at random and “invent” a life for him or her. It’s astonishing when I think about the number of attributions we were able to come up with, based exclusively on our first impression of this stranger.

Since “Looking Black At Me” has been in show, I’ve been thinking about the difference between simply observing a person versus actively making assumptions about them. I think that there is a very fine line separating the two things, and this line falls in different places for different people. In my own experiences, I’ve found that it’s sometimes hard to even be aware of crossing the line. It just seems to be a natural human inclination to attach a personality and a characterization to an unknown face.

When I stand in front of the monitors in the gallery and (seemingly) make eye contact with the people in the video, I challenge myself to ignore the impulse to characterize them right off the bat. I particularly like the notion that the person in the screen is essentially looking right back at the viewer, but without making any sort of judgment. It really gets me thinking about the give-and-return that comes with making judgments.

Even when I feel positive that I’m not characterizing someone on first sight, it sometimes happens subconsciously. I think this is why it’s so easy to develop an impression of someone and then stick with it. Something that I’ve taken away from Larry Cook’s work is the idea that perception can be considered fluid. Larry’s exhibit has reminded me that our immediate characterization of someone isn’t set in stone by any means. When visitors come to this show, I like to think that they walk away with the awareness that perception is changeable.


Colorful Conversations

The current exhibit at the gallery showcases handmade tissue paper made by the very talented Maya Freelon Asante. Noted as the first person to make art such as this, she uses special paper and dyes to make her tissue paper. She uses the result materials to make grand statement pieces. The gallery is doing something new called AIR or Artist in Residence. The goal was to make art something hands-on and more accessible to the people who visit the gallery. Freelon Asante brought her tissue paper to the gallery and is allowing people to come in and either contribute to a quilt that will fill the length of the gallery, or to add to spiral designs called Peace by Piece



Naturally, I was really interested in the concept of Freelon Asante’s vision for her exhibit in the gallery. Her exhibit is titled Volume; she is emphasizing the importance of the space between the community that is helping with her art and herself as the artist. Almost as if the large scale quilt being made by the community is slowly filling that volume between them and her.

I expected visitors to also be excited in participating in the art and making whatever they want with such interesting material. What I didn’t expect was seeing community form in front of my eyes so organically. I have had people come in who maybe keep to themselves and mediate while adding to the piece, but what has struck me is the conversations I’ve been able to have with visitors that I haven’t had before.

One visitor and I talked about the career fair, his major, and what he wants to do with his life. Another visitor and I talked about the profound nature of secrets, and how she likes to incorporate creativity in her own home using chalkboards and games.

I have not been able to have these same connections with other exhibits we have had at the gallery. People would often quietly come in, look around, and leave at their own pace. Here and there I would have a brave soul who would talk to me about gender during Queer Objectivity, but other than that  this is a brand new experience to me as a gallery worker.

I always like to tell people that art always has a purpose, whether its obvious or not to the viewer, there is always something. With this art, I thought I knew the message behind it, but slowly it has revealed to me it’s true purpose: bringing together people that normally would never have the opportunity.


Credit to one of my great co-workers (sorry I don’t know who exactly took this-whoops)

If You Give Someone a Glue Stick…

If you give someone a glue stick, they’re going to want some cool tissue paper to go with it. From there, things will get nifty. 



Something that I have really enjoyed about Maya Freelon Asante’s exhibition, Volume, is witnessing the creativity that the interactive show pulls from its gallery visitors. Many times, as soon as I tell people what the exhibition is about – that is, a kind of community artwork that involves piecing together bits of colorful tissue paper to create an extended work – they get very excited and rush toward the back of the gallery to start crafting.

There have been several times where a person or a group of people have continued to work for well over half an hour. Some people seem to find a groove in the process of gluing the different pieces of tissue paper together. They have a precise idea of the types of colors they want, the colors they don’t want, and the size or shape of the paper they want to use. Other people decide to just wing it and see how it turns out in the end. Either way, it is exciting for me to see people so interested in contributing their individual ideas to the artwork as a whole. I like looking at the diversity of what people come up with.


When walking along the forming wall of tissue paper, you will notice unique nuances throughout. In a few places, there are little paper flowers of various shapes. Some are small and neat, while others seem to be in the process of blossoming. In another area, someone shaped the tissue paper into the form of a butterfly. Up against the light, the wings seem to be made up of many different shades due to the transparency of the paper. Other people have chosen to create less specified objects, such as a braid or a hanging trail of smaller pieces of tissue paper. One person even made a heart in honor of Valentine’s Day.


The thing that strikes me the most when I observe these designs is that not everyone’s idea necessarily fits into a common theme. There is no consensus that you can’t choose a brooding shade of dark brown for a flower and then stick it onto a bright pink background. Somehow, the different designs that people have glued together don’t clash. On the contrary, they merge together in a way that works very well for the mission of this exhibition – to encourage a sense of community. I am eager to see what visitors will bring to the artwork during the final two weeks of the show. 


Written by Carmen Dodl