Art exhibition places Baylor faculty in the spotlight

The works of 19 professors are featured in the Faculty Biennial Exhibition athe Martin Museum of Art from January 18 to February 25 this year. Featured in the foregroud are woodfired stoneware bowls by director of the ceramics program Professor Paul McCoy. Behind them is the "Maricela's Story" drawing exhibit by Professor Greg Lewallen. Baylee VerSteeg | Multimedia Journalist

By Penelope Shirey | Design Editor

The Baylor Art Faculty Exhibition at the Martin Museum of Art highlights the continuing professional practice of the department’s faculty.

The exhibition, which is currently open to the public and runs through February 25, is an opportunity for students to engage with their professors’ creations.

Featured above is a photography display of the Washington DC women’s march by Professor Michael Darough. Baylee VerSteeg | Multimedia Journalist

“If we didn’t have this show, our students could potentially go through their entire career here and never see anything that we do,” said Greg Lewallen, former commercial insect collector and lecturer of 2-D design and drawing courses.

This is important, he said, because it allows students to understand that their professors can struggle with similar challenges in the creative process.

One of the pieces Lewallen selected to be on display in the exhibition took two years to complete. “It almost ended up in the bonfire,” he said.

Titled “Euchroma Gigantean (Maricela’s Story),” the piece is part of a series of almost 50 that he calls “Insect Narratives.” Each piece features a portrait of a specimen from his insect collection. Surrounding the bug, a handwritten, unplanned story fills the background.

At four by eight feet, the piece is the largest of the series, and he said the size choice was deliberate.

“I needed the physical space to write the story,” he said. “The scale of it was part of emphasizing the importance of that story to me, because it was deeply personal.”

Lewallen said each of the bugs in his collection bring back specific memories, almost like photos in an album. One of the reasons it took him so long to create the piece was because he was wrestling with writing the story.

“I can’t even tell that story without crying,” he said. “I had to file it away and ruminate on it a bit.”

Baylor Professor Greg Lewallen next to his piece, “Euchroma Gigantean (Maricela’s Story),” which is currently on display at the Martin Museum of Art. Courtesy Photo

He said he was focused more on the story than the bug in this piece, which is the opposite of his usual approach. According to Lewallen, it’s an important story because it shares a message of hope.

“I enjoy sharing grace with people, and it is a big part of who I am,” he said.

For Dr. Mary Ruth Smith, professor of fiber arts and fabric surface design, art is also a way of expressing who she is. The pieces she chose to display are hand-stitched designs that showcase fashions from her and her mother’s young adulthoods.

Smith agreed with Lewallen that it is important for professors in the art department to create their own work in addition to teaching.

“You’ve got to be making art if you’re going to teach it well,” she said.

With multiple series in progress simultaneously, she said the pieces displayed represent a bigger picture of her artistic process.

It is her hope, she said, that the variety of mediums used allow students to comprehend the diversity and strength of the faculty within the department.

“We each work in a different way. We work with different techniques, but we all have the same goal… to allow the viewer to go away with something important,” she said.

Elisa Crowder, gallery attendant at the Martin Museum of Art, said she learns something new with each exhibition that rotates through the space by reading the artists’ statements hanging adjacent to each piece.

“I think you can find pieces relevant to any field and see how [the artist] put them together,” she said.

Crowder said she encourages students of all kinds to visit and learn from the faculty display.

“I don’t think you have to be an art major to appreciate and grow and learn from these pieces.”

Despite being located on campus, the exhibition is not exclusively for students. Admission is free and open to the public from 8 – 5:00 p.m. Monday – Friday at the Hooper Schafer Fine Arts Center.

See more pieces of art by Baylor professors here: