By Liz Reichart// A&E Editor
The growth mindset is a particularly attractive model of curriculum at liberal arts universities in which students are presented with a smorgasbord of different options and told to dare to try. The model dictates that failure is part of the process in which we shape ourselves as more curious, more able in the long run. This system puts the emphasis on the progress of the student both inside and outside of the classroom, and encourages students to think outside of formal grades. The way in which professors facilitate that type of learning environment is, no doubt, taught in some all-day seminar that is catered and chockful of informational pamphlets. But how does this kind of training allow professors to inculcate into the hearts and minds of their students the equation of failure with success in another right?
The HPU Art Department faculty are doing just this.
Many business or biology majors will never witness their professors close a business deal or perform open heart surgery. With few exceptions, it is extremely difficult to both practice and teach your subject simultaneously. Enter the School of Art and Design at High Point University which challenges its department of 18 professors to contribute labors of love to the Sechrest Gallery for a faculty exhibition. This year’s faculty exhibition features a diverse selection of mediums and styles and works from 10 different Art and Design School faculty. From Mark Brown’s found objects to Melissa Lovingood’s candleholders made with copper, if there is one element the exhibit embraces wholeheartedly, it is variety.
Scott Raynor, associate professor of art and chair of the art and graphic design program, contributed two works of acrylic on canvas that grab visitors upon their entrance into the gallery and steadfastly hold it with repetition and harmony of color. His geometric designs explore the relationship between form and reality, incorporating common articles that you can just make out… or are they there at all? The narrative Raynor’s paintings tell are derived from the associations he makes between objects. His visually striking piece, “Arrangement with Blue Plums” was completed last year. The result is an explosive, angular experience reminiscent of the still-life works of Cezanne, but the mood has been plugged into an amplifier.
Kate Robinson, adjunct instructor of visual art, contributes a multimedia piece made in 2017 called, “Untitled.” The hanging fixture is a series of what appear to be plastic binder covers attached vertically with string. Robinson plays with the very idea of a binder itself and challenges its functionality as a holder of objects by plugging red-tipped matches into its holes. A dynamic piece that hangs shallow in the space, the three dimensional work challenges viewers to think about the relationship of weight and structure, the flat planes seemingly suspended in midair as though they had been tossed from a skyscraper by some overworked stockbroker.
An artwork that students will be just dying to pick up (and don’t worry, you can touch) is Molly Seabrook’s “Nesting,” created in 2016. Seabrook, instructor of graphic design, shows that graphic design was never confined to the realm of analog. The piece features hammered copper pieces, engraved with intimate notes that linger with you long after you have departed from the gallery. Additionally, concept of a work that changes with every piece of copper that is picked up, examined, and replaced is of infinite intrigue. Like a swiftly coursing river into which one can never step the same part twice, the nest will change its form from day to day. I only hope that birds flock to it throughout its duration at the Sechrest Gallery.
But the star piece of the exhibit is, in my opinion, Seabrook’s “Words that Cling,” completed in 2016. Pages of the famed southern gothic novel “As I Lay Dying” by William Faulkner are cut and rearranged on muslin, and then intricately sewed with copper thread. Both the poet and the craftswoman, Seabrook creates emotionally poignant pieces that are visually intricate and texturally enchanting. The jagged nature of the copper thread that binds individual words and phrases together invokes the human mind in decay, stringing memories together as it lay dying. Bookended by pages in which only the female and male pronouns are left to reverberate in the back of your mind, we think of those we love as we lay dying, those many “what ifs” and “could have beens.”A subtle set of framed works indeed, “Words that Cling” does not fail to pack a moving punch.
Ariel Morgan, curator of the Sechrest Gallery, selected her favorite pieces from the exhibition: “Arrangement with Escaped Birds” by Raynor, and Benita VanWinkle’s photography. Raynor’s 2017 piece “Arrangement with Escaped Birds” is an ink drawing on paper that is somehow both relaxing and a frenzy of movement at once. This dichotomy is masterfully achieved with cool hues and an exciting use of line. Van Winkle is an assistant professor of art and is termed by HPU students as “the woman who is always carrying her camera.” VanWinkle’s photography features her adventures in Paris and capture the class romance of “la vie quotidienne.”
“My partiality to angular designs contributes to this, but I also love the color palates and compositions of both,” said Morgan. “There is a bit of something for everyone in this exhibit.”
Morgan says that this kind of show could not be more essential for students to come and see for themselves.
“I believe it is important for students to see how their professors work,” said Morgan. “It is very beneficial to make the connection of what they teach to the artwork that they create. It allows students to see a variety of styles and ideas in one place as well, which definitely contributes to their growth as artists and students.”
How fitting it is that students who are taught to embrace the growth mindset get the opportunity to see their professors embracing it in their own, most personal of expressions. When the Art and Design faculty exhibit their art, they open themselves up to failure and criticism from their peers and from their students, but more than that, they embrace the idea of lifelong development as a learner.