Read The Powerful Ways U-M Students Respond To UMMA’s “Unsettling Histories” Exhibition

Read The Powerful Ways U-M Students Respond To UMMA’s “Unsettling Histories” Exhibition

Photo by Mark Gjukich

For professor Angelé Anderfuren’s English 125 class, UMMA’s exhibition Unsettling Histories: Legacies of Slavery and Colonialism proved to be a rich source for deep student writing and reflection. 

As part of their Fall 2021 course, students in Anderfuren’s class published reflective essays on Instagram after a guided field trip through the museum. They drew from their field writing assignment at the museum, craft advice from the fiction writer Sandra Cisneros, and other assignments in order to synthesize their thoughts into an Instagram portfolio on their experience exploring art at UMMA.

Several students chose to write about Titus Kaphar’s 2019 painting Flay (James Madison). The piece depicts Madison, the fourth President of the United States, in a serious, upright posture, but with the canvas shredded and pinned up all around him. 

“...the looming sinister feeling of the work in its entirety made me almost shudder seeing it in person. In a way it reminded me of something you’d see out of a horror movie,” wrote user @gavinbaksicportfolio. “The shredded image of the founding father made me think about the monster beneath the man [who] we think we know so well, and if that’s not creepy I don’t know what is.”

See some of our other favorite posts by students below.


A post shared by @nadyahabibportfolio


A post shared by @abbygoldenportfolio


A post shared by @isabellavolkersportfolio

If you are a university instructor who is interested in partnering with UMMA to create student experiences, feel free to get in touch with us here for more information.

Explore the Exhibition 

Unsettling Histories
Legacies of Slavery and Colonialism

View Exhibition
Portrait of a white man with a powered hairstyle close to his ears and gathered back at the nape of his neck. He wears a dark coat and and is placed in front of a pick background. At the level of the man's face, the canvas is shredded into long, loosely hanging strips.

Titus Kaphar
Flay (James Madison)
oil on canvas with nails
Museum purchase made possible by Joseph and Annette Allen

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