Aerial view of the Dowagiac campus

SMC faculty art exhibit pairs playful with meditative

02/13/2020 - 3pm
Jan Kimball

Faculty members Lea Bult and Jan Kimball share the spotlight in Southwestern Michigan College’s Art Gallery through Feb. 27.

The rear gallery in room 108 of the Dale A. Lyons Building on SMC’s Dowagiac campus holds “Room to Play,” including a giant beach ball and a sign encouraging visitors to touch the art.

“This is a collection of pieces inspired by my artist collective Fun Squad, founded in 2016,” says Bult, who lives in Coloma and spends a lot of time in the Benton Harbor Arts District. “The mission of Fun Squad is to activate abandoned and forgotten buildings with creative mischief and to create an alternative gallery experience that is inclusive and interactive. Art shows can be boring, with people standing around drinking wine.”

Fifteen to 20 Fun Squad artists initially revitalized what has since become GhostLight Theatre. The second space’s fun elements were the beach ball in the yard and indoor swings. Shows occur in mid-June.

Bult earned her bachelor’s degree from Ferris State University’s Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids and a master’s degree from the University of Michigan. She has worked with Greatmore Studios in Cape Town, South Africa, the Ann Arbor Art Center and the Detroit Gallery Project. She won a MacDowell Fellowship and instructs painting, drawing and design at SMC.

Lea Bult

Kimball’s meditative “Assigned Meaning” occupies the front gallery. The wall-mounted clay-and-wire sculptures provide what Visual and Performing Arts Chairman Marc Dombrosky calls a “stark visual contrast opening a beautiful dialogue between these two practices.”

“This is a new approach to showing faculty work,” Dombrosky said. “Most schools canvass the entire faculty and bring in a mishmash of one work from each person, which hollows out the experience and doesn’t allow us to draw deeper connections.”

“I make objects to work out ideas I am thinking over,” Kimball said. “I imagine the thoughts as objects in an attempt to translate an internal dialogue to the visual. Art can be a non-verbal communication and I want to hear what is conveyed to the observer. I am fascinated at how effectively the pieces can communicate and expand the conversation.”

Kimball usually doesn’t offer clues to the source of her inspiration, but she confided that “I was thinking about constellations.” She quit writing explanatory artist’s statements after painting a piece with colors she remembered from Crete, and then a show patron unexpectedly also mentioned Greece’s largest island.

“I didn’t even know art could communicate like that,” Kimball said. “I was blown away. In an article about Richard Tuttle it was stated art can exhibit something or it can explore something. I realized for me it’s always exploring.”

Beach ball

Kimball said the wire incorporates shadows from the gallery lights. “Here, the shadows are more important than the wire,” she said. Asked about her “complex surfaces,” Kimball replied, “I used red clay on purpose because I wanted that earthiness to peek through. I don’t picture flying objects in space being porcelain. I used a little silver to pick up the light, which was important because of the shadows.”

Kimball, who teaches art appreciation, creative process and ceramics, has a master’s degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She previously taught at the Morean Art Center, St. Petersburg College and Eckerd College, all in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Gallery hours are Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. March features a film series March 2-April 2 culled from the holdings of the Fred L. Mathews Library. Two titles run each day during the run of the exhibition. Films will be announced at the beginning of each week.