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March 13, 2008 | 12:00 a.m. CST
Kate Gray’s watercolor painting Dancing With Light depicts her overwhelming experience as a first-time dance student in the fall of 2007.
Blinded by white light, the 45-year-old felt immediately out of place as she stepped into the dance studio. This quiet yet profound event inspired her to create Dancing — one of five paintings on display at the Stephens College Faculty Art Show.
For this biennial show, Gray used watercolor to capture remarkable moments in her life, and the result is stunning.
Gray transports viewers to the same awe-struck setting she had experienced by recreating the studio’s butterscotch floors, a cornucopia of reflections and intense lighting. Gray’s use of closed windows, disappearing objects and prisms of bouncing light also add layers of meaning to her paintings.
Gray captures the grandeur of the Harriette Ann Gray studio at Stephens College along with the school’s century of history; passers by comment that “she really got the mirror,” and say the poem beneath the watercolor is a clear expression of Gray’s experience: “there is no wind / there is no breeze / yet movement is all my mind can hear / dance with me the silence begs.”
“I revere dancers and how they can fill space,” says Gray. “I hope to get to know myself that well one day.”
A part-time teacher and full-time artist, Gray says she feels exhausted and exhilarated. Art forces her to do what she doesn’t know. She’s interested in two types of art: sculpture and watercolor paintings, both of which she accents with poetry.
Gray applies words directly to her sculptures, forcing viewers to walk around the pieces to understand their meaning, but for her paintings, she chooses to present the poems separately so that gallery-goers can experience the art, and then the words.
“The writing is really, really hard,” says Gray. “I don’t want it to be forced or contrived.” The easier part of Gray’s process is painting, which she describes as a combination of technique, trust and confidence acquired from experience.
Everyone has had those moments in life that make us stop, stare and marvel at the unexpected beauty of things we see on a daily basis. Gray brings small wonders from her world into the Davis Gallery, and the product is worth her audience’s time. Seeing how Gray recreates the moments most of us can’t even put into words is worth a trip to the faculty show.
Stephens College Faculty Show
Through March 21. Mon. through Fri.
10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and by appointment. Davis Art Gallery, located on the corner of Walnut and Ripley streets. Free and open to the public.