By Chelsea Terry
The art center has felt more open this week than it has in quite a while. I attribute the change to seniors Rachel Smith, Cristina Hernandez and Rachel Schrader’s senior show, Immanence. The gallery has been transformed. The three shows are designated to three corners of the space, leaving a wide area open to walk within and view the final show.
A humble artist’s statement prepares me for senior Rachel Smith’s finished product. Her words are inviting, referring to her reader as “dear viewer.” With this statement alone, she manages to create an atmosphere of calm and reverence, despite the many students milling about the lobby as I make my way through each artist’s work. In fact, all three artists have managed to create a similar feel with their art. Even beyond the parallel content of their pieces, these artists have created a space in which the viewer feels surrounded and comforted, despite the amount of white wall that peeks out from behind the mounted paintings. Smith’s installation is a large part of what has transformed the art center into a new and inviting space. The bells, or chimes, that descend from the ceiling, hung from thin thread, create a ceiling that shimmers and sways as you pass beneath it. Smith approaches her dear viewers with humility, imploring them to approach her work with an open mind and an open heart, and most of all, a willingness to listen for the inspiration that is so evident behind the work of her hands. A small tent, draped in white cloth, has been erected in the center of the gallery. The white cloth lies flowing out onto the floor in a train.
Smith calls this the bridal veil, symbolizing the church as the bride of Christ. This installation is meant to mirror the Tent of Meeting mentioned in the Bible as a space that believers who “desired to be breathed upon by God” would visit; I am intrigued by this concept, and the tent becomes to me something of the past, existing within our gallery as a reminder of God’s closeness to us, if we desire it. Smith’s entire portion of the show is permeated by sincerity, whether through the handwritten labels indicating various sections of Seattle, seen dangling from the chimes, or through the attention paid to the positioning of the curtains on the Tent of Meeting.
While Smith’s installations encourage interaction, Rachel Schrader’s mounted paintings encourage contemplation and observation. Her six pieces are spread out upon the wall, a single metal stool placed before them, inviting me to sit down. The colors and the shapes that Schrader has created on her canvases combine to form six very otherworldly and ethereal pieces.
Schrader admits to a sort of divine interaction as the inspiration for her finished products, claiming that her work is imagery meant to be “infused with the immanence of God’s presence.” She wants her viewer to leave the space with feelings of peace, serenity and tranquility. The combination of light and dark within her work provides for a beautiful metaphor, which Schrader alludes to in her artis’t statement, of the challenges and the stress of everyday life, and how God can take those trials and tribulations and transform them, leading us back into the light.
I make my way to the third and final exhibit, featuring work by Cristina Hernandez. My eyes are immediately drawn to the small set of paintings mounted upon the wall; her beautiful depictions of waves are inspiring. The backbone of Hernandez’s concept has been the breaking down of barriers that separate us from God in today’s world. She uses the biblical story of the woman at the well as a powerful example of God’s power to overcome these barriers and to restore us back to Him. I take in her drawing of the woman; the composition is beautiful, as is the expression on the woman’s faith. The woman is characterized by a mixture of emotions, emotions that resonate deeply with me; however I fear that by attempting to identify these, I would detract from the power that Hernandez’s drawing holds for all viewers, who I believe are meant to form their own interpretations. The well installation is a lovely addition to the scene that Hernandez has set; it further exemplifies the parallel that she is illustrating between the Holy Spirit and the properties of water. The third panel of her set of waves shows a brick wall unable to stand against the wall of water that rushes against it, further proof of God’s faithfulness and power to deconstruct barriers.
I walk away from Smith’s, Schrader’s and Hernandez’s show Immanence feeling refreshed. The sincerity of their beliefs and their convictions was evident within their artworks; their concepts were conveyed and executed beautifully in the final product. They have managed to illustrate, paint, sculpt and simply create work that alludes to God’s immanence and reminds us of His everlasting love for us.