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The Scarlet & Black

“Stuff It” gets sweet in Smith Gallery

Cakes by Hannah Kate Kelley ’16 on display in Smith Gallery. Photo by Rae Kuhlman
Cakes by Hannah Kate Kelley ’16 on display in Smith Gallery. Photo by Rae Kuhlman

This week Smith Gallery hosted “Stuff It,” an exhibit created by Hannah Kate Kelley ’16. The show incorporates a variety of pictures of cake mounted on a pink wall, an upside-down wire cake chandelier and silhouettes of silverware with quotes that tell the story of Kelley’s experience with chronic pain.

Kelley said that for the past two years her experience with chronic pain was difficult for her to publicly discuss, but it was this pain that eventually inspired to create “Stuff It.”

“During the very beginning of my sickness, I was overeating. I was sick and didn’t know what else to do so I would constantly stuff myself with food,” Kelley said. “The title alludes to a bigger theme of obsession, as ‘Stuff It’ is about the process of constantly consuming and thinking about things.”

Over time, Kelley adjusted to her condition and after studying abroad in four different European countries, she came up with the idea for her exhibit.

“I came up with this idea when I was abroad and though I’d already [shown work in] the Smith Gallery before … for this show I wanted it to be more personal,” Kelley said. “At the time, the only think I could think about while being abroad was being sick because I could not eat certain foods, and it was harder there because I could not read ingredients.”

Kelley began putting together her show in November and worked through January to assemble the various elements of the exhibit. When she assembled the show in Smith Gallery she found that she had pieces which wouldn’t fit into the gallery space, but Kelley said that ultimately she was happy with the presentation of her work.

With pictures of cakes, silverware and quotations about food lining the walls, Kelley said she tried to create a personable and simple theme in her work and was driven by a desire to make her art more accessible to viewers. While the show didn’t emerge from the happiest of scenarios, it still instills a sense of optimism in its use of color and cake.

“I can’t control my sickness, but I can portray in whatever light I want,” Kelley said.

Kelley’s focus on cake emerged from the experience of not being able to eat cake due to her illness and a desire to celebrate her birthdays as happily as she had before. Though she cannot usually eat cake, Kelley wanted her theme to mirror her obsession and focus attention on something happy and beautiful while still acknowledging her sickness.

Kelley said she wanted to create a happy show where both she and her viewers can feel good about themselves and recognize that like her relationship with food, not all cakes are perfect. Like the images featured in the show, some cakes can be upside-down, falling apart and dripping cream, but that’s something she has grown to accept.

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