The Personal is Still Political art exhibit at Spalding’s Huff Gallery – a collection of political art by Skylar Smith and Lisa Simon that celebrates women’s marches and examines the challenges and stereotypes women have faced over history – will have its closing reception 1-3 p.m. Saturday, March 31.
The free exhibit has been on display throughout March, which is Women’s History Month, in the gallery in the lower level of the Spalding Library, 853 Library Lane. (Full exhibit description and artist bios here.)
Smith, a professor at Spalding’s Kentucky College of Art and Design, said the exhibit is a response to the 2016 presidential election and that she was inspired by last year’s Women’s March on Washington.
“It’s kind of clichéd, but to know where we’re going, we have to look at where we’ve been and know our history,” Smith said. “I’m fascinated by history and sometimes teach art history. Both of our work is looking back, but some of the things that happened a long time ago are still very relevant to where we are, and often it feels like we might be repeating history. It is just a celebration of what has been achieved for the women’s movement. I think the women’s movement is the most inclusive it’s ever been. In its current state, it’s unifying a lot of different backgrounds and agendas, but the common agenda is just equality and justice.”
In Smith’s portion of the exhibit, images from that march and others by women from history over suffrage and civil rights, are depicted and dispersed in eight brightly painted banners that are 9 to 11 feet long and hang from the ceiling of the gallery. Collectively, the installation resembles a march.
The banners pop with complementary colors – blues and oranges, yellows and purples – and Smith said she wanted the pieces to convey the solidarity and uplifting tone of the Women’s March.
Usually an abstract painter, Smith said it’s the first time since she was in college that she’s painted distinct human figures.
“It’s not been a prominent theme in my work,” Smith said, “but I just said, ‘Right now, I can’t make abstract paintings. I want to make art that speaks in obvious and literal ways to what’s going on.’
“The election happened, and I just thought, I need to make something that has a human form and represents a specific thing in a direct way.”
As for the more abstract, Smith’s work also includes six drawings hung on the wall that are inspired by the years in which countries allowed women to vote. The year of a particular country – 1920 for the United States, for instance – is drawn over and over again on handmade paper featuring the colors of the country’s flag.
Simon’s half of the exhibit is made up of numerous collages, hung on the wall, that feature portraits of women’s rights leaders as well as clippings of advertisements, news stories and other pop-culture imagery from over the decades that underscore the gender stereotypes and expectations that women faced.
Simon also has installed an array of stars with the names of significant women on a column in the middle of the gallery.
“Personal Is Still Political” is the third collaboration, including the second at the Huff Gallery, for Smith and Simon, who is also an art teacher. Their first joint exhibit at the Huff Gallery, called “With Child,” was about life for artists who have had children.
Smith and Simon are longtime friends who attended Ballard High School together.
“We’re on similar wave lengths with concepts, and our lives are similar in that we’re both artists and art teachers and moms,” Smith said. “It’s just easy to know where she is and what she cares about. … We think similarly but not always, so we challenge each other to keep making art and we’re cheerleaders for each other.”
The closing reception, which is a LEO Weekly Staff Pick for the weekend, features a Louisville Suffrage Walking Tour led by Marsha Weinstein. The walk will tour of sites near Spalding’s campus in which an event or meeting took place relating to the suffrage movement.
Personal is Still Political closing reception
Artists: Lisa Simon & Skylar Smith
When: 1-3 p.m., Saturday, March 31
Where: Huff Gallery, Spalding University Library, 853 Library Lane
Activities include: Louisville Suffrage Walking Tour led by Marsha Weinstein; and all-ages art–making activities, including “Make your own Nasty Woman Button” and “Make your own Suffrage Sash.” Suffrage tour starts at 2 p.m.