Auburn students network with award-winning sculptors

Published: February 01, 2018
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A water feature where you control the movements of the subject's face; an artificial-turf picnic blanket unfurled for you to climb; an American flag marked with your freedom of expression and others. These descriptions represent just a few of the 11 large-scale sculptures on view at Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art, Auburn University, in the third installment of "Out of the Box: A Juried Outdoor Sculpture Exhibition." The exhibition is co-curated by museum staff Andy Tennant and Jessica Hughes.

The curators invited New York-based artist Jean Shin to jury the competition. Shin named three winners from the 11 "Out of the Box" finalists selected from nationwide submissions to exhibit on the grounds for the year. The winners are: Stacey Rathert of Mississippi, whose "You Are Here" won first place; Fumi Amano of Washington, who won second place with "Voice"; and Hye Yeon Nam of Louisiana, who received an honorable mention for "Floating Identity in Auburn." Stacey Rathert and Hye Yeon Nam will meet with students in the Department of Art and Art History and tour facilities on Feb. 1 through 2 and and March 29, respectively.

"Connecting our audiences of all ages to contemporary, working artists helps make the art world accessible and relatable," said education curator, Xoe Fiss. "Collaborating with visiting artists in our university, as well as K-12 and community programming, provides another way of changing the expected museum experience, program or school visit.

Winner Stacey Rathert kicks off the Artist Talks series on Feb. 1 at 6 p.m. for the Spring semester with a discussion of her picnic-inspired work, "You Are Here" as her artwork explores ideas of place and home. While climbing sculpture is usually prohibited, first-place winner Stacey Rathert welcomes the exploration.

"I am originally from a rural farming community in Kansas. To me, picnics are something of necessity because they allow farmers more time in the fields," she said. "However, in the city, picnics were an occasional fun weekend activity. "It is these differences that inspired the construction of a gently sloping surface that mimics the unfurling of a blanket before a picnic. The use of artificial turf suggests that the earth is being lifted, as well as revealing something underneath that relates to the location of the piece. The viewer is invited to sit on the blanket and perhaps consider the place in which he or she exists or to long for a place that is more like home."

Yeon Nam is digital media artist working on interactive/kinetic installations and performances. "Floating Identity" greets visitors from the reflecting pool as they enter the museum.

"'In Floating Identity,' I use the water in the reflecting pool as a metaphor for the fluidity of the modern society, and the image of the woman's face submerged in the water as a symbol for the socially-agreed-upon beauty and identity standards of the modern woman," she said. "The audience may change the expression of the face using the manual handle–revealing the variations in the standard for female identity in today's society."

"Out of the Box" is supported in part by the Haynes Family, in memory of Julian Roberts Haynes and Dr. Lucille McGehee Haynes, and Grace and David E. Johnson with additional funding from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment of the Arts. The exhibition is on view through Oct. 6, 2018. For more, go to

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