DETROIT — The exhibition Fluent in the Language of Dreams at Wasserman Projects picks up a project that Michele Oka Doner began 40 years ago. Doner is a native Floridian, but spent almost two decades in Michigan, pursuing degrees at University of Michigan and setting up an experimental studio practice. It was at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) that Doner first attempted to render her notion of “personal hieroglyphics” — that is, to discover and build a language out of nature’s organic forms and found objects.
“I’ve always had a sense, from the time I saw hieroglyphics, that they were connected to the natural world, in shape and thought,” said Doner, in a phone interview with Hyperallergic. “The other idea I had was that they were language as form, instead of word. For example, the hieroglyphic for ‘red’ in ancient times was a flamingo in flight, because that’s where they saw red. It’s just beautiful how they weren’t separating living [from] nature. Over the years I have developed that thought and honed the notion that language comes from nature.”