Materials Science and Engineering

Ray Allen
Untitled vessel
mesquite, satin wood, blood wood, rose wood, curly maple, ebony, dyed veneer
25 1/2 x 29 x 29 in. (64.77 x 73.66 x 73.66 cm);25 1/2 in. (64.77 cm);x 29 x 29 in. x 73.66 x 73.66 cm
Gift of Robert M. and Lillian Montalto Bohlen

One way to define art is the transformation of physical materials into a new form that conveys meaning. For students of Materials Science and Engineering (MSE), every work of art in the museum poses interesting questions. How do artists work with the innate qualities of their materials? How do some artworks boldly show their materiality, while others cleverly suggest the presence of other materials? How does the artist’s work with the materials shape our experience of the object?

The objects featured in this section demonstrate some of the surprising ways material scientists think about art: artistic uses of imperfections in metal fabrication processes; how different materials fracture and break; micro and macro structures in nature; and an exploration of wood, contrasting its natural forms with instances of its malleability.


What it is made out of is really an important part of the piece, an inherent part of the art. This is a cool way to explain much more about a work by exploring the medium in more depth.

Brian Iezzi



Material science and engineering (MSE) and the University of Michigan Museum of Art might have more in common than you think. The new, self-guided Materials Tour at UMMA is an interactive experience that lets you go through the museum’s latest installations with the eyes and knowledge of an engineer, discovering the science behind the objects.

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Works included in this collection

Exhibition Support

Lead support for this exhibition is provided by the University of Michigan Office of the Provost, Erica Gervais Pappendick and Ted Pappendick, the Eleanor Noyes Crumpacker Endowment Fund, and the Oakriver Foundation.

Curriculum / Collection

Explore the infinite value of art in shaping our understanding of...well, everything.

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