Mudd Center, Staniar Gallery present interactive art exhibit

Art-making workshop transforms individual lived experiences into communal

Andrew Claybrook

A new art project has arrived at Washington and Lee, one that asks people to reflect. The Daily Ethics Mosaic invites individuals to create personal art that is then transformed into something communal.

Individuals can sign up for one of several art-making workshops that run through fall term, hosted in the Lenfest Center by artist Jonathan Lee. There, participants create a depiction of their thoughts and feelings as they consider their private, everyday lives and how it may have changed in the turbulence of the pandemic. 

The art is as unique as the person creating it. People can draw images, cut and paste from magazines, use ink stamps, layer items to create a three-dimensional art piece, or write as they see fit.

After the individual artworks have been created, groups of participants come together. In these groups, the artists cut and reform their individual art into a larger work, something truly communal. The art is intended to reflect both the individual and the group, displaying a literal mosaic of experiences and emotion. The goal is to remind that there is context to every isolated experience, and that while everyone has lived through the last eighteen months on their own, other people were having their own experiences too.

Jemma Levy, associate professor of theater, was among the participants of the Sept. 30 session. Levy said that she was drawn to the art project because she is used to telling stories by collaborating with other people, as a theater artist. 

“This project was an opportunity to tell a story visually in another medium entirely, but still to work collaboratively, which is my favorite part of being an artist,” Levy said.

Levy also engaged with the theme of post-pandemic reflection.

“Creating this mosaic allowed many people, often strangers, to come together in order to tell a collective story about the destruction of our community, and our attempts to move towards healing,” she said. 

The project is a joint venture between the Mudd Center for Ethics and the Staniar Gallery in the Lenfest Center. 

The Daily Ethics Mosaic is part of the Mudd Center’s larger theme for the 2021-2022 year: “Daily Ethics: How Individual Choices and Habits Express Our Values and Shape Our World.” 

In its explanation for the theme, the Mudd Center noted that “we have shared a year in which rhythms of our daily lives were deconstructed. What has this experience helped us to understand about our values and priorities? What new perspectives has the past year offered regarding the kind of world we want to live in? How will we use these insights to craft our lives, moving forward?”

The Mosaic’s construction is running in parallel to the hosting of several speakers over the course of the semester. The first event in the Mudd Center’s programming was a lecture delivered by Cheshire Calhoun on Sept. 27. 

Calhoun’s talk was entitled “Responsible Persons in Everyday Life,” and dealt with her philosophical inquiry into what makes a person responsible, and how a person’s perceived responsibility and goodness is dependent on societal norms and expectations.

People interested in contributing to the Daily Ethics Mosaic can still sign up for workshops on Oct. 28-30. 

After the workshops have concluded, each group’s collaged artwork will be put together into one comprehensive piece, representing the university community as a whole. The entire project will be available to view in Wilson Hall’s Lykes Atrium in January.