“A replay can offer both threat and possibility. On one hand, a replay can reveal an error or malicious act that we might prefer be missed entirely. We might replay a hurtful encounter over and over again in our minds or loop a humiliating gaffe. At the same time, a replay can provide the opportunity to revel in overlooked details and delight repeatedly at a fleeting moment.” - Dr. Elissa Yukiko Weichbrodt
It’s that time of year again, where the baby flower buds are just beginning to blossom, and down in the Lucas Art Building, art SIPs are just starting to be displayed. This year, there are sixteen seniors in the art department, for a grand total of four SIP shows that will only be up for around ten days each. The first of these shows was “Replay,” featuring the work of Mary Katherine Miller, Carl Simakoff, Molly Kelley, and Hannah Orren. Curated by Dr. Elissa Yukiko Weichbrodt, the show as a whole explores ideas of repetition, vulnerability, community, and the narratives that shape us.
Mary Katherine Miller’s SIP consisted of large crepe flowers that took her four hours each to make, as well as a junk drawer of seed packets, with photographs of objects on the outside and memories on the inside. She invites the viewer to interact with her piece, to take the time to slow down and see the things that have shaped her. I had the privilege of interviewing Miller individually about her piece, and asked her about the memories in the seed packets, in particular, why they were written from her perspective, and not the perspective of the person to whom the memory belonged.
“I wanted to make it anonymous. I didn’t think it was necessary for people to know who each object was associated with to still understand the vulnerability and sharing of those memories,” she said. Miller’s piece is centered around the ideas of vulnerability, risk, and community, with the seed packets of memories being the things that helped her bloom into the person she is now. By making her piece interactive, she invites the viewer into her experience, with the hope that they will see that it is worth it to be vulnerable, but also thankful for those who relentlessly pursue us, even when we push against them.
Carl Simakoff’s piece goes in a totally different direction than Miller’s. He created 300 cyanotypes, an artistic practice that can be thought of as ‘primitive’ photography. They are hung up in orderly rows on the wall, almost overwhelming the viewer just with their sheer number. These cyanotypes are the same flower, laboriously repeated, but because of the fragility of the flower and the nature of cyanotypes, none of them is exactly the same. There is a strange tension between comfort and discomfort in this piece, as the display makes the viewer feel small and somewhat insignificant, but at the same time, there is a familiarity with the repetition that encourages the viewer to keep looking, to keep noticing things, and to not glance over it simply because they think they have seen everything.
Molly Kelley’s work is interactive and inviting, as well. She created a pop-up book centered around the age old practice of quilting, using her graphic design concentration to grab her viewer’s attention with vibrant colors and overall clean effect. Her display of the book itself, situated on a desk with a chair, invites the viewer to sit down, flip through, and learn something that perhaps they didn’t know before. Her work is an excellent example of how all culture is created by previous cultures, and it is a remarkably simple, effective way of communicating the history of quilting, but also the importance of continuing to pursue an art practice that may be dying out.
Hannah Orren’s piece is challenging to the viewer in a different way from any of the others. Her artist statement is essential to the piece, as she takes a concept that could easily be misconstrued and turns it into something beautiful and thought provoking. Her photographs all contain female figures whose faces are purposefully hidden, whether by their hair, cellophane, or a plastic tablecloth. The effect of these photographs is striking, making the viewer question why these female figures are portrayed in such a way. While it might be easy to dismiss them as another ‘feminist critique’ of how women are not seen or heard the way that they should be, there is a deeper meaning to Orren’s work. “By hiding these women’s faces I am not dehumanizing or objectifying them. Instead, I aim to make visible externally what may be taking place internally or what we want to hide from these public spaces. I, like many women, have felt pressures from the world on how we are supposed to be, act, and show ourselves. My photographs call attention to these pressures, but don’t offer easy answers on how to navigate them.”
“Replay” is a show that causes its viewers to slow down, to question why certain things make them uncomfortable, but also why certain things are worth exploring. Simakoff challenges his viewers’ preconceptions about photography and repetition, asking them to really look, not just see. Miller and Kelley focus on the impact and the importance of community, and how it is built through vulnerability and craft. Orren addresses vulnerability and insecurity as well, but in a way that does not shy away from the weight of taking the risk to be known. These works are thought provoking and exceptional, and they are worth hitting replay.
The other three SIP shows will be on display in the Lucas Art Building on the following dates:
Exhibit 2: March 27-April 5, Reception: March 27. Exhibit 3: April 10-19, Reception: April 10. Exhibit 4: April 24- May 3, Reception: April 24.