By Maeghan Jeremiah
This past summer, three Montevallo alumni returned for a deep dive into the art of printmaking.
This group is named the Stephens Printmaking Fellows after Professor Emeritus Scott Stephens who taught printmaking and was the department chair. The group’s artwork was put up on display on Aug. 25 and a reception was held on Sept. 1, giving the artists an opportunity to talk about their work.
This was Montevallo’s first official Artist-in-Residence program. This was curated by Collin Williams who is an art professor here at UM. He had several artworks displayed in the gallery opening. Stephens also had three cyanotype prints displayed.
The three resident artists, Erica Lewis, Lindsay Dyess and Justin Banger, were provided with student assistants to help create their pieces and they also had an artwork presented in the show.
Lewis, also known as EVPL, graduated from UM in 2019 with a BA in english and a BFA in drawing and printmaking. This past spring, Lewis graduated from the University of Louisville with their MFA in multidisciplinary studio art. Lewis plans on continuing their education and getting a Ph.D. in comparative humanities, and hopes to eventually teach printmaking at the university level.
Lewis came to Montevallo in June and created several works including a few sculpture prints with help from their student assistant Victoria Green. The series is called “A Purpose of Repurpose,” and focuses on resourcefulness. The materials used are recycled from old fabrics. Their inspiration came from the patterned flour sacks of the Great Depression when people would reuse the material for clothing, washcloths, etc.
Her other work displayed is a series called “Can’t Never Could.” The subject matter is about repurposing, as the largest piece shows gourds being used as birdhouses.
Both series were cohesive with each other because fabrics used for the wall pieces were also used in the sculptures. Lewis explained how they drew inspiration from their grandmother who reused flour sacks to make dresses.
Lewis touched on how the business industry purposefully makes packaging for one-time use, “most of the stuff made is designed to advertise for future purposes. Capitalism does not profit from you reusing things they want you to by the fabric and the flour.”
As a final thought on the work they said, “I am not actually saying we should make cloth egg cartons, but I think it is an interesting visual comparison between things we could be doing differently.”
Banger came to campus in July and worked with Alona Lambert as his student assistant. Banger graduated from Montevallo in 2008 with a BFA in printmaking and painting. He now works as a children’s librarian.
During his month here, he created four etchings paired with a poem that works in conjunction with the artwork. Banger describes this series as, “Dreams, memories, questions, wilderness observed – all subtleties of life that when given their space are realized for their actual foundational fabric.”
Two of his works include a Post-it note which represents the small sketches he does on the fly while working in the library. He spoke on keeping up with art after school where he quoted a poem by William Stafford called “The Way It Is.”
Banger said, “It embodies a subtly of when you’re not actively doing the thing you think you’re supposed to be doing, but you are still navigating in the world in a way that is uniquely you.”
The poem uses a metaphorical thread that represents your passion and your specific life path. After quoting this poem Banger said, “My sticky notes and writing poems on my phone is me acknowledging I’m still holding on to the thread.”
Banger had a podium set up with rocks and a sign that said to take one. This display corresponded with a poem he had up on the wall called “Only Slightly Forgotten.” The poem hints at his love for rocks, he explained how important it is to find beauty in something as simple as a rock. He said that finding the beauty in these simple aspects of the world is, “really experiencing life.”
Dyess worked with the student assistant Erika Lewis. Dyess graduated from Montevallo in 2011 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting. She now works as the Arts and Education Manager at the Shelby County Arts Council.
Since Dyess came to Montevallo in August and school started that same month, she only had about three weeks to work. Despite her having less time than the other artists she created four works of art.
Dyess’s work is inspired by stories and fairy tales. She loves to tell a story even if the story is unclear. Her work includes spotless cheetah’s that are meant to be subjective to the viewer.
At the end of her residency, Dyess found a moth that spoke to her, inspiring one of the works she created. She explained, “it is one of my favorite pieces I have ever done now.”
Dyess spoke on how she kept up with art after graduation saying, “I can’t not be creative; it is a part of who I am and I can’t imagine not having that part of my life.”
These three alumni came together and created some exquisite artwork. Collin Williams, said in his artist statement, “I believe these things about art. It is a practice that mirrors life. It is a practice of coping that captures something of living, bearing witness to the complexities of life. Every artwork is an artifact of marks, marking out a moment in time, marking the boundary of our experience as a space for the exploration of what we find meaningful.” The artwork will be available to view until Sept. 22 in Bloch Gallery.