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The Scarlet & Black

Smith Gallery reopens virtually with work by Hannah Taylor and Tommy G Lee

The Smith Gallery has re-opened to host two virtual student solo art exhibitions. Hannah Taylor `21 opened her show “Setting” on April 24, and Tommy G Lee `22’s show “Formal” is set to open on May 12.

In regular years, students could walk in and out of Smith Gallery on their way to the Dining Hall, stepping in for a curious glance or spending more time perusing the walls of the small space and engaging with the frequently rotating exhibits.

With many students still living off campus, the physical space of Smith Gallery located in the Joe Rosenfield Center (JRC) has closed its doors, but a virtual space was created to host the student shows which traditionally occur regularly throughout the semester.

The initial design Taylor’s engravings were based upon. Photo contributed by Hannah Taylor.

Taylor’s “Setting” showcases her interest in marrying the natural and the manufactured world by bringing her art into the outdoors. Taylor created wooden shoe soles engraved with the image of a prairie flower she found in the Jacob Krumm Nature Preserve located six miles from Grinnell College. She then sent these soles to family and friends located across the country with instructions to photograph the impressions created by the wood prints in the sand, mud, clay or whatever surface they were placed on.

The wooden engraving, based upon flowers Taylor found at Jacob Krumm Nature Reserve. Photo contributed by Hannah Taylor.

The photos exhibited in Taylor’s show display the prairie flower print pressed into the sandy shore of Stinson Beach, California; a muddy park path in Boston, Massachusetts; and a clay slab in Olympia, Washington.

“I’ve realized that I am just totally falling in love with making work that lives outside,” Taylor shared during the virtual opening event she hosted on Zoom. “I think that the act of making and then leaving is so, so liberating. It’s just out of my control.”

A clay impression of the soles from “Setting” in Olympia, Washington. Photo contributed by Hannah Taylor.

Taylor has been planning for her solo show in Smith Gallery ever since she saw third and fourth years showcasing their work when she was new to the studio art major. She has dedicated pages of her sketchbooks to jotted-down ideas for possible exhibits, yet what Taylor eventually settled on was conceived and carried out in the five weeks leading up to the opening of the show.

“Setting” was titled both for the physical space Taylor sought to explore as well as the movement captured in interacting with this physical space. “It’s an action of setting something down,” Taylor explained, “and stepping into it and making images that are unique to the person and the place they’re made.”

Looking to the future, Taylor plans to explore her affinity for creating art in the natural world at the Wormfarm Institute, an artist’s residency in Wisconsin dedicated to connecting urban and rural communities. At the residency, Taylor hopes to shift her focus from restored natural spaces like Krumm Nature Preserve to farms and other overtly manufactured spaces.

Taylor’s wooden soles in use at Stinson Beach, California. Photo contributed by Hannah Taylor.

Lee’s show “Formal,” opening on the Smith Gallery website May 12, will showcase a collection of fired clay sculptures. Ranging in shape, size and color, Lee described the pieces in an email to The S&B as unintentional self-portraits.

“I am unable to pinpoint an inspiration,” he wrote, “Something about my interaction with clay allows the subtle and unspeakable parts of myself to be expressed in tangible, visual forms. These sculptures show and reflect who I am more than I can articulate in spoken or written form.”

Pieces from Lee’s Smith Gallery show, “Formal”, are also on display in the Bachelor of Arts Exhibition in the Grinnell College Museum of Art. Photo Contributed by Tommy G Lee.

Form plays a key part in Lee’s most recent work, with the piece’s lines and silhouette bringing the clay’s shape from the artist’s mind into the physical space, a consideration which played directly into Lee’s choice of title for the virtual show. In another take on the title, this show is an opportunity for Lee to finally present his work in a formal setting to the public.

While viewers can’t interact in the same way with the sculptures as they would in a physical gallery, viewing from different angles how each piece sits in space, the virtual format challenged Lee to document his work in a way that provides viewers as close to an in-person experience as possible.

The sculptures which will be on display in “Formal” were created over the past year, but Lee himself admitted his art is constantly evolving. “I don’t really have too much control over the work that I make,” he wrote, adding that he often intends to start projects, but what he ends up creating veers drastically from the original plan.

Lee shot some photos included in the show with a green screen setup in Bucksbaum. Photo contributed by Tommy G Lee.

When asked what he hopes viewers take away from his show, Lee wrote, “I have no intention, because I don’t understand my work anyway! I hope people have fun.”

You can keep up with Lee and Taylor’s most recent work by following their Instagram accounts: @tommy.g.lee and @hannahtaylorstudio, respectively.

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Nadia Langley
Nadia Langley, Editor in Chief
Nadia Langley is a fourth year majoring in history and French. Her favorite historical French quote is: "Literally I didn't say that, that's so cray," -- Marie Antoinette, 1793.
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