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“Shelf Life” opens at Smith Gallery


By Mayo Sueta

This week Smith Gallery is presenting “Shelf Life,” an exhibit by Charlotte Richardson-Deppe and Anne Rogers, both ’19. The gallery has been transformed into a grocery store-like space with handmade shelves and hooks that display 282 plastic objects, all wrapped up in handmade paper. The plastic objects range from prescriptions bottles to earphones to packets of condiments — plastic objects that they found or collected from different people.

“What we did is we sort of took the damp pieces of paper and we put objects inside of them and just folded them over and kind of pressed it down gently in all the sides,” Rogers said when asked about the process of wrapping the plastic objects in wet paper. “This fiber that we use … has a really high shrinkage rate when it dries, which means it kind of got pulled taught around the object and sort of all the air came out. … The same way as something would be if it was actually wrapped in plastic.”

When Rogers thought of the title “Shelf Life,” both her and Richardson-Deppe knew they had hit on something special.

“We didn’t have a title at first,” Rogers said. “We were thinking more about the longevity of plastic … and the fact that [paper] will go away … [and] the life of all the things on the shelf and also using that phrase that is already employed as a phrase.”

“The second she said it, we knew it was the right title,” Richardson-Deppe added.

While both have shown art in Smith Gallery as part of a class, neither have done so individually.

“It’s very different when you do a Smith show on your own because it is totally on your own to do this. You’re given the keys to this supply closet with drills and paint and ladders and … making your art, installing your art, exhibition design, curation and promotion is all up to you,” Richardson-Deppe said. “It’s a great learning opportunity. It’s amazing that Grinnell has this for students to use.”

Richardson-Deppe felt that the large conceptual nature of “Shelf Life” would take advantage of the gallery space.

“We just felt like this is like a distinct and cohesive enough concept that could really fill the space,” Richardson-Deppe said.

The two art majors admitted that this was a big undertaking. They devoted a lot of time and hard work to the show and said that people often underestimate the art major as being easy-going and not involving real work.

“This is a research project,” Richardson-Deppe said. “This is presenting a visual argument for concepts that we are trying to present in a cohesive way.”

The two best friends agreed that their fantastic teamwork was a vital part of getting through the process.

“One thing that’s really great is that Anne and I work so well together,” Richardson-Deppe said. “We love being with each other. I don’t think I would have been able to do this process with anyone other than Anne.”

“Shelf Life” will be showing in the Smith Gallery until Friday, Sept. 29.

From top to bottom: Richardson-Deppe and Rogers ’19 in their exhibit, one section of the exhibit features plastic pill bottles packaged in paper.
Photo by Helena Gruensteidl
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