Bees. Airplanes. Prairie Flowers. All of these have a hidden history in Ohio, but often may not be appreciated until time is taken to investigate. However, all of this is done through art in Metcalf Gallery’s latest exhibit, ‘A Pattern in the Sky’.
On Oct. 16, artists Laura Tabbut and Justin Sorsen presented their studies in ‘Pattern’ to Taylor students. Due to COVID-19, the married couple could not be present in person. Instead, they Zoomed in to give the presentation of their new Metcalf installation. As an alternative to students asking live questions, they submitted them to Laura Stevenson, assistant professor of art, ahead of time to pass along.
Tabbut and Sorsen are a married couple who teach and create visual arts together. Both are professors at Mount Vernon Nazarene University. Due to their location in rural Ohio, they had to become innovative when COVID-19 hit, since they had to travel about an hour to get their usual art materials from Columbus. They didn’t feel this was practical or ethical in the time of COVID-19, so they turned their focus to experimenting with what was around them.
“As an artist, having the ability to fail is really important,” said Tabbut. “It’s also important to be able to have the ability to adapt to whatever situation or materials you have.”
They also started to pursue more embodied research. This method encourages inspiration in researching the environment a person is present in, and using what is around instead of bringing new items and ideas in. One piece in ‘Pattern’ where this was practiced consisted of collecting air, and occasionally botanicals, from different parts of Ohio. The air is captured in glass jars, and labeled with the state and air quality.
Tabbut and Sorsen were also greatly inspired by the Wright brothers. Because they never went to high school or college, they had to work out of their backyard, and did what they could with what they had around them.
One project on display in ‘Portraits’ consists of footage of Huffman Prairie, where the Wright brothers took their first flight. The piece focused on what the atmosphere of the prairie would have been at the time, with a consistent whir of an airplane played over the footage.
This required a two-hour trip for Tabbut and Sorsen, and while they were there, they stopped at a local donutshop. While there, they captured footage of the shop, people with their donuts and the donutbeing pulled apart as this was another in-the-moment experience for them. However, what was just a passing moment for them, though, struck others very personally.
Sophomore Sara Wolf hails from Dayton, Ohio, and lives just ten minutes from the shop that inspired the couple. For her, the footage in the shop was personal and filled with much deeper meaning. Wolf felt this was a theme common in the work displayed, and could see how personal and intimate the work produced over quarantine was.
“It was very versatile,” she said. “It stretched the norms of what you would expect when you walk into an art gallery, and I like that that's reflective of the time we're in right now.”
Tabbut’s personal connection to some of the work can be found deep in the Wright brother’s history as well. Present at the brother’s first flight was a beekeeper, Amos Root. Tabbut has kept bees as well,and feels bees have influenced her art and research. She took interest in the pairing of naturally flying creatures with the first artificial ones.
On display in ‘Portraits’ is a preserved queen bee from Ohio this year, and in the talk back, Tabbut showed other art she has worked with, creating visual representations of a bee’s sound wave.
Junior Art Major Tori Bonar appreciated how focused Tabbut was on what she already had.
“I feel like a lot of the time, artists go out of their way to learn a lot to create art,” she said. “But really, there's a balance because we do have a lot of interests already. So, we should be using those to their potential”.
‘A Pattern of the Sky’ can be seen in Metcalf Gallery until Nov. 24.