Gutman Gallery’s “Every Body” Exhibition Offers an Engaging Exploration of Diversity


April Shipp's fiber artwork "The water returned Him" is one of the pieces featured in Gutman Gallery's "Every Body" exhibit.

April Shipp’s fiber artwork The water returned Him speaks to the global refugee crisis and is a tribute to the late Alan Kurdi, whose lifeless body washed ashore on a beach in Turkey. Photo courtesy of Gutman Gallery’s Facebook page.

The Every Body exhibition currently on display at Ann Arbor's Gutman Gallery showcases both the variety of the human form and the artwork that honors it.

Running through July 1, the all-media show features 34 works by 27 artists in the Guild of Artists and Artisans’ storefront space. Built on a theme of “figurative artwork and body diversity,” the exhibit succeeds in offering an engaging mix of media, artistic styles, and subject matter.

A number of the works in the exhibition feature artist statements, often with compelling stories that provide depth. For example, April Shipp’s mixed-media piece The water returned Him is one of the more visually striking pieces in the exhibit, yet knowing the background of the global refugee crises and the story of one particular child who inspired it. Likewise, Jensen Ellington’s My Piece of Eden creatively combines fabric, tree limbs, and thread to connect the Biblical story of Adam’s rib to his own experience as a transgender man. Other pieces stand on their own, such as E. Ingrid Tietz’s elegant Porcelain Muses V which lets her subjects speak to each viewer individually. 

Any visitor to the exhibit is likely to come away with a renewed appreciation of the diversity of the human form as well as of the artists and artworks that celebrate it. Noted local artist Nora Venturelli juried the exhibition, and she agreed to answer a few questions about it:

Q: What were your overall goals for the exhibition?
A: My main goal was to have a cohesive exhibit—and to show how artists, with various and different backgrounds, stories, histories, and materials explore and interpret the human form. [It's also] to show a broader view of the human condition and [a] cultural dynamic.

Q: What qualities did you look for in choosing pieces to include? 
: First and foremost, I look for “craftsmanship” – that the artist handles their materials and applies them knowingly and with purpose.

Q: What makes the human form such an enduring and compelling subject for visual art?
A: Interpreting the figure is and has been the traditional way of learning to see and render. Having said that: Drawing, painting, and sculpting the human form tells the story about us, who we are, how we see ourselves, and how we see others. We express ourselves through body language, with physical gestures. We, the artists, interpret and reflect this “language” in our work in so many different ways, and all ways may be amazing, interesting, and compelling.

Q: Why is it important that the exhibition specifically highlights body diversity?
A: It is not a coincidence that the exhibit highlights body diversity; it reflects exactly who we are!

Q: Is there anything, in particular, you hope visitors will take away from the exhibition?
A: Sometimes all it takes is one word, one image, that will make us think twice and/or take a second look. I hope that the viewer will have that moment of pause and discovery by walking through the show.

Bob Needham is a freelance writer and the former arts & entertainment editor of The Ann Arbor News and

“Every Body” is on display at the Guild of Artists and Artisans’ Gutman Gallery, 118 N. Fourth Ave. in Ann Arbor, through July 1. The gallery is open Wednesday through Saturday, 11 am-5 pm.