By Jack Haller
Early last month, Reinhardt University student Ruth Thomas ’20 presented her artwork in the “100 Miles Art Show” in Highlands, North Carolina.
On Friday, Feb. 7, faculty and students from community colleges and universities around the region, including Reinhardt assistant professor of art Brett Mullinix and Thomas gathered at the Bascom Center for the Visual Arts to display their work with those who share the same passion. The show is aptly named as submissions are chosen from those within a 100-miles radius of Highlands. A select number of pieces highlight new and emerging work from educational institutions in the region.
“This entire experience was good in so many ways,” said Mullinix. “Ruth got to experience all the logistics involved with submitting work for an exhibition and having to professionally present it to the public. Although her thesis exhibition will expose her to some of that, it is quite different to have work selected for an exhibition in a professional gallery. For me, it was rewarding to see her go through the process and to see her grow as a young artist.”
This is the first piece Thomas has displayed in an exhibition. She feels the experience will jumpstart her career in art, even before graduation, due to the connections she made and lessons she learned from others in attendance.
“Having the chance to display my art in an exhibition is a massive accomplishment for me. Considering this was my first time to have my work recognized, it is an excellent opportunity that could open new doors for me,” said Thomas.
One unique aspect to this gallery was the accompaniment of the professors displaying work alongside their students. As a visual arts professor, Mullinix found the experience of presenting alongside his student to be a satisfying one.
“It is uncommon for a professor and student to show their work together, although I think it should not be so uncommon. It was gratifying to see that she was influenced by my teaching and by my collage work in such a way that it inspired her to create her own approach to image making. In addition, it was a great opportunity for her to see what art students and art professors in the area are creating,” said Mullinix.
Thomas’ piece, named “Judgement,” is her favorite of many that incorporate collage-style artwork. She took something simple and distorted or recreated it to bring a sense of uniqueness to every piece.
“This collage is an intriguing image because of its simplicity but at the same time attempts to draw complexity from the viewer’s eye. I wanted the title ‘Judgment’ because it explains the image without overdoing it. It is more intriguing to me to ponder on an art piece than see a direct meaning to what it is. When I create my collages, I generally try to take a picture that is normal and distort the image or reshape it into something else. This process of distortion or recreation creates a fun method that brings uniqueness to each collage,” said Thomas.
Thomas recognizes the healing qualities layered within the process of making art. One day she hopes to help children through a career in art therapy.
“I have always found that art can be a method of healing and can be a fun way to express or share our world with others,” said Thomas. “I would love to use my creative expressions in working with others to help them express themselves as a way of healing through difficult times.
As Reinhardt’s small class sizes allow for students and faculty to form deeper connections, Mullinix has come to know Thomas through her art and personality.
“Ruth is a very quiet person when you first meet her; however, once you do get to know her, you soon appreciate her talent, intelligence and sense of humor. Ruth’s imagery is deceptively quiet and minimalistic on the surface, but, the subject matter and her approach to making it is anything but quiet and minimal. She works very intuitively and very deliberately,” said Mullinix.
Thomas takes great pride in what she does and wants people to know that art is more deeply intertwined into their daily lives than expected. She has found that art isn’t about being “good,” but finding creative and fun ways to express anything and everything.
“I often hear that people may not be great at art, or it is ‘not their thing.’ However, we don't need to be great at art in order to be right in our creativity. In learning about the history of art, I have found that there's art all around us, in everyday situations, in our cars we drive or the special coffee we drink - it’s all in how you look at it.
“To me, there is no wrong way of art, but instead is a way of communication and expression between others. We all have a creative side within us no matter what it may be, and it's important to have fun with our creativity and enjoy life,” said Thomas.