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SCAD deFINE ART 2018 Seamlessly Unifies Art and Meaning

Multi-colored polar bears pose in windows outside of SCAD’s Museum of Art, while sunny-side up eggs drip down the walls of the museum’s interior. This can only mean one thing: SCAD deFINE ART is here.

This four-day event takes place from February 20-23, showcasing some of today’s most acclaimed artists. For example, sound designers Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller, this year’s honorees and keynote speakers, invite viewers to experience the spatial dynamics of sound in their exhibit entitled “Two Works.” After their talk, a reception for their “Alter Ego,” exhibition ensued in celebration of the artistic persona that informs viewers on the many layers of the human mind.

SCAD alumna Melissa Spitz’s (MFA, Photography, 2014) collection of photographs and memorabilia of her mentally-ill mother, Deborah, struck us just as powerful. Entitled, “You Have Nothing to Worry About,” the exhibition is titled after a line from a handwritten letter written by a family member to Spitz’s mother.

Standing alone, each photograph holds an irresistible intrigue. However, as a whole, the exhibition communicates the full narrative that is Deborah’s life– some parts glamorous, some haunting. For instance, one photograph depicts Deborah floating in a pool, wearing a bright pink bathing suit. The sickeningly bright hues border the edge of beauty and discomfort.

Enchantment and agony are not seen in isolation as Spitz engulfs the audience into every facet of her maternal relationship. She portrays mental illness in a rare form, one contextualized by new age media. The collection feels personal, yet envelopes the audience with an empathy that allows each viewer to see Deborah through the eyes of her daughter.

In the same sense of domesticity, Dutch artist Lillian Van Der Stokker reveals the joys of feminine weakness in “Huh.” Comprised of pink-painted wood and paper sculptures, the exhibition exceeds maximum sentiment and sweetness. It’s like taking a walk through a little girl’s dream room, only if that room were tinged with hints of mature, feminine subjects.

Lily van der Stokker, “We Are The Same,” detail, acrylic wall painting, 133″ x 187″, 2014. Courtesy of the artist, Air de Paris, Paris, and kaufmann repetto, Milan/New York.

This is due to the incorporated text in each piece as well as the shapes, suggestive of the female anatomy. For instance, on the left wall stands a sculpture reminiscent of two lumpy breasts, which read “nice being here on the left side,” and “nice being here on the right side.”

There is also a recurring motif of toilet paper, a nod to archetypal female domesticity. The colors and shapes push such a severe girl-ish extreme as if to hyperbolize what appears to be feminine and what actually is.

The exhibitions featured at this year’s deFINE ART event relay the vital connection of art and emotion. They span beyond what is stated in this article alone.

Art is a combination of physical and mental feelings, and this year they have been beautifully unified. From the visual capabilities of sound design to the emotional impact of photography, the exhibits include a variety of media that resonates all the same.

To experience these sensations for yourself, make your way to one of the exhibitions listed here. As students, the connection to emerging and established artists is vital in order to grow as an artist yourself. If anything, the lasting impact of deFINE ART is the facilitation of communication between student and professional: a glimpse into our future and a reminiscence on their past.

From one creative person to the next, human connection is what inspires the concepts that define art in itself.

Written by Kat Sours
Cover image by Melissa Spitz, courtesy of SCAD