The Scarlet & Black

The Independent Student News Site of Grinnell College

The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Lydia James ’19 debuts exhibition titled “I Made It” in Smith Gallery

Ella Williams ’18 views Lydia James ’19’s Smith Gallery exhibition, “I Made It,” on Thursday afternoon. Photo by Reina Shahi.

By Julia Anderson

“I Made It,” an exhibition of art by Lydia James ’19, opened in the Smith Gallery on Sept. 13 and will be on display through Sept. 22.

James, a studio art major from Atlanta, Georgia, has been making art for nearly her entire life. Studio art majors are required to present a solo show of work prior to graduation but, for James, “I Made It” represents more than just the time spent at and art created during four years at Grinnell College. The show is “an opportunity to kind of look back on my lifetime of making things,” James said.

The name of the exhibition itself demonstrates how the show expresses the personal connection James has felt to art from a young age. During a recent visit home, James discovered a collection of sketchbooks that she had produced during first and second grades. One illustration in particular stood out to her. Following an arrow pointing to the drawing, there is a simple but resilient declaration: “I MADE IT -LYDIA.”

“I love this statement from me from 2002 that was just like ‘I made this, I did it!’ It felt like such a humble celebration. I made this thing, look at it, and that’s how I feel about my work. I make these things, look at them, please,” James said.

The title also represents a certain receptiveness that James strives to demonstrate through her art. “I don’t want my art to be ingrained in that sort of practice where you need to explain the meaning behind it for it to be interesting to people,” she said.

There are three main components to the show, presented in a decidedly multi-medium array and reflecting the diversity of creations accumulated over the course of a lifetime. The largest piece and focal point of the exhibition is a pair of colorful, fabric wings spanning about eight feet in length and five feet in height. The wings, which James constructed last semester, are accompanied by a video projection documenting the project.

On another wall hangs a series of self-portraits and other originals created by James from 2002 to 2018. Like the exhibition’s title, James’ personal sketchbooks from as early as first grade helped to inspire this project. “I’ve always been really driven to make things, which is not really something that I can explain, I can just appreciate it and use that,” James said.

The final project is a baseball bat cast out of lace and embroidered. Like the wings, the bat is presented with documentation of the project.

James emphasizes that her friends have been an integral part of the creation of “I Made It.”

“I am super grateful to all my friends throughout this process. I can’t talk about my show without talking about them,” she said.

More of James’ art can be found on her website and on her Instagram @lydiajamesart.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
Donate to The Scarlet & Black
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All The Scarlet & Black Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *