For years, Assistant Professor Kate Gray saw her work as an instructor of graphic design and her life as an artist as conflicting roles.
“My personal practice seemed to be part of my creative life and teaching part of my professional life,” she said. “Just like my artist and designer selves, personal practice and teaching would fight for my time, voice and attention.”
While earning her Master of Fine Arts in Graphic Design, Gray explored ways to come to terms with herself as a whole person, both designer and artist.
Work from her thesis, highlighting ways graphic design and art can become one, will soon be on display in the Historic Costume Gallery in Lela Raney Wood Hall.
The exhibit, “Dual Ties,” opens Sept. 3 and runs through Sept. 27, with an opening reception at 6 p.m. Sept. 4. Gallery hours are noon to 1 p.m. Wednesdays; 5:30-8:30 p.m. Thursdays and from noon to 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. It will also be part of the community wide One Read, which this year focuses on Emily St. John Mandel's post-apocalyptic novel "Station Eleven," and will be open prior to a One Read Panel Discussion at Stephens on Sept. 17.
The show is a sort of timeline of Gray’s exploration beginning with her study of “ugliness.” Using mud-based paint, Gray allowed herself to create work that defied all of the rules she had placed on herself in her professional work.
“It was an emotional release,” she said. “It allowed me to rediscover my voice and find my center, my balance. There’s a power in play within art and design, and that’s something I had locked up.”
In another phase, Gray created a handmade book, then designed it digitally to create a printed version, allowing viewers to realize what happens when art is computerized.
“It loses its human quality,” she said. “The handmade book allows you to feel the human connection—the stories are richer.”
In the final phase of the work, Gray quieted the loud energy she had previously expressed. She introduced tai chi into her daily routine, then duplicated the physical movements of the martial art by making marks on mylar paper.
“I wanted to see if I could say what I wanted to say but do so quietly,” she said. “The idea is that we all make marks, but do we make lasting marks? What we leave behind is who we are.”
Gray expects the exercise to make her a more powerful professor. She created a “Graphic Designer’s Awareness Workbook” dedicated to developing the personal side of students’ portfolios.
“As a teaching and learning tool, exercises in the book are expected to impact positively one’s self-awareness, strengthen personal design confidence and build creative development skills crucial to thriving and surviving in the graphic design workplace.”
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