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artwork by Dr. Laura Stevenson in the Matter & Spirit art exhibit

Matter and Spirit Opens in Metcalf Arts Center

  • By: Ansley Kary
  • Published:

Taylor welcomes “Matter and Spirit,” a traveling Chinese/American Art exhibition to campus this semester. Through the hard work of Dr. Rachel Smith, a Professor of Art and Gilkison Chair, and a partnership with Nagel Institute, came the curation of 55 composed works by 25 Chinese and American artists. This collection seeks to explore the place of the spiritual in the context of China and the United States, both increasingly materialistic societies. 

As a Christian liberal arts university, Taylor strives to consistently engage the totality of human experience, specifically through seeking to encounter different cultures from around the globe. The installation of “Matter and Spirit” is a powerful example of how Taylor’s community values shared experiences through art, song, dance, food, and more in order to holistically engage with significant issues.

Traveling Art Exhibition 

“Matter and Spirit” will be displayed in Metcalf Gallery, in Modelle Metcalf Visual Arts Center, from November 4 until December 12. As a traveling collection, the exhibit is visiting Taylor as its tenth stop across the country. Featuring Chinese contemporary art in a wide range of media and styles, this diverse body of work includes art from Laura Stevenson, Department Co-Chair and Assistant Professor of Art at Taylor. 

It all started back in 2018 when a group of Chinese and American artists gathered together to engage with different themes such as: prosperity and the “spiritual void”; the revival of religion and spirituality in China; the Chinese Church and Christian faith; relationship; family; the role of religion and government; technology; censorship; religious freedom; identity, the individual, and society. 

As a response, the artists produced original work based on the topics they engaged with. Today, as the exhibition travels, the community is invited to take part in these thought-provoking topics as well through a visual experience. This is the third project of this nature for Smith as she has headed up others prior to “Matter and Spirit.” 

Collaboration in “Matter and Spirit” Theme

Topics such as the integration of culture and faith are pivotal to Taylor’s core, because of this, a variety of departments, organizations, and clubs have taken the opportunity to produce events in collaboration with the exhibition. 

Taylor is hosting a series of events throughout October, November, and December that highlight the themes of "Matter and Spirit" in order to invoke more conversation in new and creative ways. These programs include the Art Department, the Asian Society for Intercultural Awareness organization (ASIA), chapel, and the Music Program. 

“With each of these projects, the primary goal is engagement where they go with the larger community,” Smith said. “Not just with the artwork, but the issues that arise out of it.”

Chorale Celebration Through Original Composition 

Taylor kicked off the celebration and representation of Asian culture during Homecoming and Family Weekend in which the Chorale performed an original composition by senior Bingrou (Hannah) Guo, Music Composition major. Influenced by Wendell Berry’s poem "Mad Farmer Liberation Front,'' Guo composed an original 10-minute song of the same name. 

Boba and Art Immersive Cultural Experience 

In a collaborative effort to debut the "Matter and Spirit" exhibition, ASIA is hosting a Boba and Art event on November 3 from 6-8 pm. ASIA invites the Taylor community to experience Asian culture visually through the debut of the Chinese/American Exhibition, audibly through the Chorale’s performance of Guo’s original composition, tangibly through painting Chinese calligraphy on vinyls, and through tasting a traditional Asian tea called boba. 

“I think art comes in many forms and is best enjoyed with the people around you, the ones you love,'' said Enoch Eicher, co-president of ASIA. “I want it to be a time where you can hang out with your friends and just experience art.”

Boba and Art was introduced last spring and was a great success on campus. Originally this event was scheduled for spring once again, but Smith reached out to ASIA in order to collaborate. 

Due to the popularity of the event, Boba and Art is taking place in the Euler Atrium, one of the campus’s largest event areas. Even though the event is not physically in Metcalf Gallery, ASIA has secured early access to the exhibit the night of the Art and Boba event for all who attend. 

In addition, Stevenson’s art titled Parallel Realities will be installed for those in the atrium to view. Her work is meant to be interactive with buttons that the viewer can press in order to see her work under different colored lighting. 

Professor Laura Stevenson's interactive Parallel Realities will be featured at Boba and Art on November 3

A Continuation of Matter and Spirit in Chapel 

To continue the celebration and conversation of Asian culture, Taylor will welcome a special guest speaker, Dr. Yang Fenggang, who will speak in chapel on November 9 at 10 am. Yang is a sociologist and director of the Center for Religion and Chinese Society at Purdue University and will be engaging further in the "Matter and Spirit" conversation. Yang will also be visiting classes to continue the discussion with students and faculty. 

Further Engaging Discourse Through Artist Panel 

To conclude the series of events, the Art Department is hosting a panel on Friday, November 11th at 6 pm in Butz-Carruth Recital Hall, in which they have invited special guests  special guests include Scott Fisk from Samford University and JoAnn VanReeuwyk from Calvin University to come and to take part in the themes of "Matter and Spirit." 

Additionally, Smith and Stevenson are offering private guided tours and visits for classes and other groups during the duration of the exhibition.

Visit Taylor University

“Matter and Spirit” highlights Taylor’s values of experiential learning, collaboration between academic areas, and pursuing excellence every day. Visitors are welcome to explore the exhibition and take part in campus events. If you’re interested in a campus tour, register for a campus visit today!