Lessons Learned in Perpetuity: A Reflection on the First Senior Art Show of 2018

Marjke Griffin's piece, "Doxology in Color."  Photo by Marjke Griffin.

Marjke Griffin's piece, "Doxology in Color." Photo by Marjke Griffin.

“Perpetuity” is a show curated by Dr. Jeff Morton and put on by four of the following senior art majors: Marijke Griffin, Jemima Barr, Rachel Gatewood, and Rebekah Gravitt. The show is currently on display in Lucas Art Workshop, with its counterpart show curated by Elise Michael and displayed in Kresge Memorial Library, featuring the processes and materials each artist used.

“Perpetuity” is a SIP show grounded in memory and interaction. Walking into the Lucas Art Workshop, the first thing that catches the eye is Marijke Griffin’s piece, entitled “Doxology in Color.” Griffin’s piece features an 8’x8’x8’ trellis with clear PVC tubes filled to the brim with water, each set of tubes dyed a different color of the rainbow. Griffin encouraged the viewers to interact with the colorful work, whether by walking through it, laying down under it for a different perspective, or simply running their hands along the vibrant strands.

In reading Griffin’s statement, what stood out to me is how this piece was inspired by her wrestling with modern art, specifically minimalist and conceptual art. This type of art is not usually given the credit it is due as “real” art, because, in Griffin’s words, anyone “could have made it.” Griffin disagrees with this perspective, pointing out that minimalist and conceptual art is important because it is a way to fulfill our calling as image bearers by simply making.

To the left of Griffin’s piece, in the far corner, sits Jemima Barr’s SIP, “Frilly But Not Frivolous.” Barr’s piece features a wooden dresser, painted to resemble lichen in every shade of green imaginable. The painted lichen reaches to the floor and then appears to be spreading up the workshop window. The drawers of the dresser are filled with paper airplanes, each with a happy memory written on it, while rocks painted green form towers on the top of the dresser. Barr writes in her statement,“Having healthy memories is not something that requires an apology.” Barr goes on to describe how happy memories in the midst of a broken, suffering world are a gift, and not something to be ashamed of. To Barr, the lichen symbolizes beauty, stability, and health. It grows on dead rocks and trees; it is delicate and frilly, but at the same time, it is patient and can only grow in clean air. Barr encourages viewers to take a blank notecard and to write their own happy memory on one of them, then place it in the drawer alongside all of the others.

Next to Barr’s piece is Rachel Gatewood’s SIP, entitled “Slivers.” Gatewood printed photographs on fabric and then embroidered parts of the negative space that was left. Gatewood’s piece takes a different approach to memory. “Memory is messy,” reads the first sentence of Gatewood’s artist statement. As she goes on to explain, photographs and images often hold memories for their viewers, but those memories change with time. What was once a happy time may invoke a sense of sorrow now because things have changed.

The photographs Gatewood chose to print represent each member of her family, with the embroidery being symbols or icons further developing the character of the person within the photograph. While Gatewood was working on these pieces, she carried them around with her, embroidering in her spare time, and while she was shaping them, they shaped her as well. “While revisiting the old, I was making new.” Gatewood’s SIP speaks of the power images have to bring memories to life, but also to the power of memories to shape how we consume images.

Wrapping around the right side of the room is a trail of seashells. This is Rebekah Gravitt’s piece,“8 years, 135 days.” “Recently I have been wondering if we can count our days,” her statement reads. Gravitt spent several weeks counting her shells, which came to a grand total of three thousand and fifty-five. “8 years and 135 days’ worth of shells,” if each shell represented one day. Gravitt’s piece is also centered around memory. On the metal wall, she has placed shells into each crevice, and then written shards of memories onto small pieces of paper, attached to the layers between shells. The bigger picture surrounding Gravitt’s project is how precious this life and the time given to us on this earth is and should be to us.

“Time’s preciousness is similar to a shell in my mind. I can try to collect my memories, but sometimes they wash away, and I feel like I’m grabbing at waves. One question remains: can I use my time in such a way for me to love my neighbor well, as I steward the mystery amount of moments I have left?”

“Perpetuity” is a show striking a chord with viewers because of the importance of our senses, our ability to interact with materials, and our memories. Each artist represented provides a unique perspective on what it means to visually glorify God with our capacity to create.