In Assistant Professor of Art Laura Stevenson’s new exhibition “Out of Sight,” she illuminates the lives of societies that are often overlooked with her art.
Through interactive RGB-lit shadow box concepts and vivid relief sculptures, Stevenson offers a fascinating narrative on what is uncovered when looking at the world through different cultural lenses.
Stevenson has always had a fascination with those who went unseen, and the metaphoric use of shining light on a situation.
“When I think about the complexity of any culture, I think it lends itself well to the broader concepts in the work,” she said. “My grad school work grew out of an ongoing interest in capturing light and using it . . . to condense what I observed into simpler forms.”
In three different installations, Stevenson worked with her husband Eric and Assistant Professor of Art Ryan James to program lights to reveal various messages and images when illuminated under different colored lights.
The creative liberty that Stevenson gave to others did not end with the behind-the-scenes work of “Out of Sight.” Opening night featured a live, interactive performance that involved another one of her pieces, “Beyond Us.”
After contacting Tracy Manning, assistant professor of theatre arts, about whether students would be interested in being a part of a performance piece, Stevenson stepped back and let the actors decide where to take the performance.
The ten students involved then developed their piece through an etude process. Although normally used with a script, an etude allows for actors to explore performance in a new way each time, through small scripts and varying actions. This not only offered a unique practice for the student performers but also allowed for Stevenson’s piece to speak for itself.
During the gallery opening on Friday, Feb. 7, six of the students presented their work. As they interacted with what initially appeared to be a wall, they explored ideas of community, isolation and trading cultures. Slowly they pulled the wall apart from either side and rebuilt it into a table with chairs.
“Watching the actors breaking down those barriers and learning shared words to understand each other’s language was fascinating,” said freshman Sarah Wordhouse. “The wall slowly turned into this beautiful colorful piece that they sat at together”.
Wordhouse was intrigued by how the messages of the performance enhanced the questions that the exhibit asked, and added another layer of interactive art.
In the gallery, a video of one of their performances plays on a TV next to the piece.
“This was something new for all involved,” Stevenson said. “But it has been exciting and rewarding to see what the students have done with the work and the creative efforts of the arts in a broader scope than just my individual work as a visual artist.”
Much of the work displayed came after a two-week international fellowship in China, in June 2018. While reading in preparation for the trip, Stevenson started to consider how multifaceted the realities of Chinese culture were. These thoughts about layers led to ideas about art under different lighting.
A lot of these explorations created questions for the viewer. Senior Kelley Hershberger explored some of these questions in a poem she read during the gallery opening on Feb. 7.
“What are the chances that my neighbor is my nightmare in human flesh? / What if my neighbor is the one that opposes me? / And my thoughts and my convictions that I hold so dear?”
Despite all the questions raised, Stevenson has asserted that she does not seek to provide an answer in her work. Rather, she hopes that through her work, she can lead others to examine these questions from new angles.
The exhibition will be shown in Metcalf Gallery until Feb. 27.
A video of the live performance is available at