Femmes Trouvés redefines artistic objects


By Connie E, Staff Writer

A combination of lamp covers, furniture legs and oil funnels can be turned into the female form when seasoned with imagination and creativity.

Gallery 360 opened the new exhibition Femmes Trouvés on March 15 to showcase the most recent sculptural works of Michael Ulman, Arts and Sciences ’00, Northeastern alumnus and artist based in Roslindale. According to Ulman, the project comes out of his desire to breathe life into objects otherwise destined for mundane existence. Rescued from junk yards, dumpsters and flea markets, the works fulfill a new, artistic purpose in his sculptures.

The exhibition title is directly translated from French as “found women.” Originating from the phrase “objet trouvé,” it exemplifies art created from undisguised, but often modified objects that are not normally considered artistic.

“The meaning of this title is twofold,” Bruce Ployer, curator of Gallery 360, said. “On a simple level, it shows the sculptures are made out of found objects. But there is also the conceptual aspect of how you discover these women sculptures and their characters as part of your gallery experience, and in that way they become ‘found’ to you.”

Ulman has had previous interactions with the Northeastern community through his works. Not only was he the first artist to be exhibited when Gallery 360 opened in 2007, but his motorcycle sculpture, made of used metal parts, is currently installed in International Village (IV) lobby.

Ulman said he developed his passion to create at a young age while helping his father weld scraps of metal into sculptures twice his size. While the majority of his work focuses on creating large sculptures, like the IV motorcycle, Ulman enjoyed the experience of working with smaller objects.

“Making those women sculptures is like a release from the structural, picky process of sculpting motorcycles,” Ulman said. “For me, they are almost like a free-form sketch in 3D. They also go two or three months each, whereas on the bikes they go for two years.”

Some of the female figures have legs crossed or hands resting on their waist, indicating a fiery personality; others wear dresses designed from a wine bottle cover, hinting at their wealth, Ulman said.

“The challenge was to make the objects look visually exciting, to [let them] have some movements, characters, emotions and identities,” he said. “It is also the most fascinating to me because I was able to express femininity through static objects.”

Jackie Reimer, a freshman political science student, was interested in how the sculptures are individually personified.

“It’s amazing that they take on not necessarily lives of their own, but their very distinct identities like class and culture,” Reimer said. “I liked how erratic those sculptures appear.”

As part of the Public Arts Initiative, Gallery 360 advances Northeastern’s mission to enrich the intellectual lives of students through creative endeavors. Ployer believes that Femmes Trouvés will nourish, engage and inspire Northeastern community.

“It’s a truly unique situation to curate for an on-campus gallery,” Ployer said. “It’s not a commercial gallery that’s looking to make sales, nor a museum that’s driven by donors and the bureaucracy. I have the opportunity to look at my primary market, which is people aged between 18 and 24, and really think about the things that they would find interesting.”

Femmes Trouvés will be on exhibition at Gallery 360, Ell Hall until April 25.

Photo by Robert Smith