In the Spotlight: Michele Oka Doner

       Michele Oka Doner, author of the latest literary and artistic piece,  Into the Mysterium, is an American artist and writer. Many of her works include the art of sculpture, public art, furniture, jewelry, and literature, and Oka Doner is best known for her public art pieces including Radiant Site at New York’s Herald Square Subway and A Walk on the Beach at Miami International Airport as well as her collection of jewelry at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and her Terrible Table in Chicago’s Art Institute. Oka Doner is inspired by her lifelong study and admiration of the natural world, and her fascination with the world around her, her curiosity beyond normality, and her innovative mind are the main embodiments behind her artistic work.

Photo by Alejandro Chavarria,

           One of Oka Doner’s beliefs is that many of us know what normality is, but not many of us know what peculiarity is. Therefore, she believes it is the job of the artist to create a certain curiosity for its viewers as well as a new opportunity that’s never been seen before. Oka Doner always goes beyond the  ‘usual’ and ‘normal’ and finds a new medium to bring to her readers and viewers, even if it means taking a risk. Additionally, in Into the Mysterium-an array of the many mystifying marine creatures of our oceans, Oka Doner changes from a medium lens to water colors and believes that if she is compelled to change something about her work--or even her style for that matter--she should never hesitate to do so. Oka Doner selects things to design and create that she’s attracted to and things that she’s pulled from her own pool of memory. In her work, she documents experiences while also inventing new frames that viewers have never seen before.     

Photo by Alejandro Chavarria,

         Oka Doner has travelled and presented her work across states such as Miami, Chicago, and Detroit as well as our own state of Michigan at the Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor. Many who have had the opportunity to see her work or listen to her speak of her artistic journey are encouraged to discover a deeper sense of inspiration behind their own work (whether artistic, literary, or design) and as some may call it, their own muse.

           Oka Doner was first inspired by, surprisingly, a project she was assigned in first grade, which embodied creating a booklet to share with her class. She chose to make a Sputnik booklet and in completing the project, she discovered and became fascinated by the way in which two different topics can be combined, art and science, into one. Later in the tenth grade, she created a project for her school’s science fair and recreated it into more of an art and design project. Only after her teacher told her, “Michelle, you belong in the art room”, did she begin to seek creativity in her work, whether it be in her writing, sculptures, jewelry, or public forms of art.