2012 - 2013 exhibitions

Lalla Essaydi: Writing Femininity, Writing Pleasure

September 7 - October 13, 2013

Opening Reception: Saturday, September 7 6-8PM

Curated by: John Corso


Lalla Essaydi is one of the most important Islamic-American artists of our time. She lives in New York and Morocco, her country of origin and the setting for her fantastic interior tableaux of Moroccan women. She is well aware that Western art history has crafted its own fantasy of the East, and especially of Islamic women. Today we recognize that those fantasies, which we describe as “Orientalist,” are problematic. Artists like Ingres, Delacroix, and others focused on exotic, often fictionalized subjects, as a way to subordinate the “wild” cultures of the East while promoting the “civilization” of the West. Essaydi understands this tradition; she was schooled in Paris and Boston, and is exceedingly familiar with the Romantic Masters. But she stages her critique in subtle, multivalent ways. Essaydi knows that these traditions have produced beautiful if prejudiced masterpieces. Moreover, she knows that the relationship between beauty and subjugation is itself a multifaceted one, a connection that involves power, knowledge of the other, and desire. Essaydi doesn’t shy away from these difficult conversations on the nature of beauty and desire, but rather she brings all of its intricacy into her performative photographs of women.

This exhibition brings together 20 large-scale photographic works, made from 2003 to 2012 and spanning five major bodies of work. In the earliest body of work, Converging Territories, Essaydi establishes the primary conditions of her aesthetic investigations: she photographs women elaborately adorned in henna script within exquisitely ornamented interiors. These works highlight the importance of writing in the creation of the self and of femininity. In her later series Harem and Harem Revisited, Essaydi examines the relationship of women, writing, and the fantastic architecture of the harem.

Finally, in Bullets and Bullets Revisited, Essaydi crafts heavenly interiors from shining gold bullet cartridges. The women in these interiors sparkle, occasionally they wear bullets themselves, and they appear larger than life and otherworldly. In all of these series, Essaydi deftly pursues the relationship of writing to beauty and pleasure, and its role in the creation and expression of femininity.

The two catalog essays that accompany this exhibition aim to expand the critical literature through psychoanalytic perspectives. In my own essay, I look at the psychoanalytic concept of feminine writing. I argue that Essaydi’s photographs and the performances she uses to generate those photographs engage a sense of pleasure in writing that serves to disrupt the Orientalist fantasies with which her work engages.

The essay by Allan Doyle augments the existing literature by looking at the way Essaydi depicts the harem. He argues that by reiterating the harem in numerous ways, her photographs “simultaneously solicit and subvert the fantasy, exposing its paradoxical, fetishistic kernel.”  Both essays aim to expand the approaches to Essaydi’s work by looking at the role of the feminine, of desire, and of pleasure within her dynamic, breathtaking oeuvre.

– John Corso, Exhibition Curator


April 12 - May 19, 2013

Opening Reception: Friday, April 12 5-7PM

Curated by: Sally Shluter Tardella

BA in Studio Art Senior Thesis Exhibition


Andrew Byers

Anthony P. Corrado

Lindita Dedvukaj

Giancarlo DiPonio

Jessica Farrell

Liesl Hasenjager

Sarah Ann Huston

Sarilyn Krauzowicz

Rebecca LaMont

Erika Mason

David Ashton Nacy

Bruce E. Oree Jr.

Kristen Phillion

Jennifer Sherman

Colette Walker

Nathan Wirth


The Roving Eye: Aura & the Contemporary Portrait

January 12 - March 31, 2013

Opening Reception: Saturday, January 12 Saturday, January 12, 6-8PM

Curated by: Dick Goody


Michaël Borremans, Noah Becker, Jeff Burton, Andrew Bush, Kent Dorn, Charlotte Dumas, Anh Duong, Pierre Gonnord, Debbie Grossman, Andrew Guenther, Rosemary Laing, Loretta Lux, The Sartorialist (Scott Schuman), David Shrigley, Tereza Vlckova, Matthew Watson, Nicole Wittenberg, and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye.

This exhibition explores the work of international contemporary artists fixated with portraiture.  It considers: the sitter, the artist and, you, the viewer.  It proposes to facilitate a fresh look at portraiture, to re-evaluate and reclaim it as a practice central to the artist rather than the amateur.  In this context the artist is the only genuine author of authenticity.  To glean an authentic essence or presence, each artist must liberate the genuine aura of the sitter: this elusive thing that possesses immense psychological and emotional octane.  An effective portrait captures something essential that can only be seen and felt by the viewer in the presence of the likeness.  If we value portraiture, we must nurture the form, reconsider its role within the context of contemporary art, re-presented it, and support its practitioners.



November 30 - December 16, 2012

Opening Reception: Friday, November 30 5-7PM

BA in Studio Art Senior Thesis Exhibition

Alexandra Bosch
Jeffrey Bovée
Joann Dietz
Kelsey Doucet
Laura Eagan
Alex Hancook
Missy Hansen
Kim Heckman
Jenna Kempf
Amanda Kiviniemi

Brenna Larsen
Arianne Macatula
Danielle Mazur
Thomas McCabe
Kelly O’Hara
Jennifer Palombit
Cindy Parsons
Sarah Prange
Kelsey Schwab
Jason Willis


James Johnson

October 20 - November 18, 2012

Opening Reception: Saturday, October 20 6-8PM

Curated by: Cody VanderKaay

Philadelphia artist James Johnson explores the varied effects that possessions have on individual human consciousness and society as a whole. Singular sculptural objects coalesce with photographic images to form ever-changing constructs.

Johnson’s work encourages the viewer to create and examine personalized narratives of identity, impulse, ownership and self-determination. With motives likened to that of a magician, he continually reveals and conceals his method of operation. In spite of these clever manipulations, the behind-the-scenes accoutrements invert newly formed notions and undo guises. The title piece of the exhibition, I come from a serious place, is a mesmerizing form with a meaningful statement that preys on the mind’s conscious and unconscious capacity to read words. Undeniably beacon-like, it is a point of departure, contextualization and connectivity between artworks, summoning viewers to revive the memory of their own “serious place.”

Embodied in this exhibition is the artist’s inspired ability to take notice of the world around him and a hope that viewers will do the same. His objects and images further reflect the propensity of contemporary artists to develop a practice that is experiential and multivalent. Departing from, or just arriving to, a serious place requires reflection, and perhaps viewers may ask themselves: is this context of place indeterminate — neither past nor future — and will I engage with the present moment?

Born in Syracuse, NY, in 1976, Johnson received an M.F.A. from the Rochester Institute of Technology.  In 2011 he was awarded an Independence Foundation Fellowship in the Arts and nominated for the 2010 Pew Fellowship in the Arts. He was an Acquisition Finalist for the West Prize in 2009 and has been awarded two Pennsylvania Council of the Arts Fellowships in Sculpture/Installation. His work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, including shows at Fleisher/Ollman Gallery, Philadelphia; the Contemporary Museum, Baltimore; No Soul For Sale: a Festival of Independents
at X-Initiative, New York City and at Vox Populi, Tate Modern, London; The West Collection’s booth at NEXT Art Fair, Chicago; Repetti Gallery, New York City; and ThreeWalls, Chicago. Johnson lives and works in Philadelphia and is an assistant professor of Photography & Digital Arts at Moore College of Art and Design.

This exhibition is accompanied by a free full-color catalogue (while supplies last).

James Johnson, Artist’s Talk: Forgetting is Really Important, Sunday, October 21 at noon

Oakland University Art Gallery | 208 Wilson Hall | Rochester, MI 48309 | copyright 2019