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BRC welcomes student exhibition

Photo by Sarah Nyquist | The Rice Thresher

Lydia Smith discusses “Not Born Yesterday” with students at the Bioscience Research Collaborative’s pop-up gallery. She is the first student to showcase work in the gallery

By Kaylen Strench     4/15/15 9:52am

The Bioscience Research Collaborative is known as a facility strictly devoted to science. This spring, however, the building has experienced an infusion of art. Until May 2015, the BRC’s pop-up gallery will house “Not Born Yesterday,” an exhibition created and curated by Duncan College senior Lydia Smith. The show is especially notable because it is the first student exhibition ever displayed in the gallery.

Smith’s work consists of three strange, textured ovals propped delicately off the wall. Smith said she has been experimenting with tyvek, a construction material used to wrap houses. She said she likes it because it is simultaneously delicate and strong.

 “I work with thin materials a lot; most of my work is portable and malleable,” Smith said. “I was drawn to tyvek because it’s thin, like paper, but it’s fabricated out of plastic, so it’s a very strong material and cannot rip. You can wash it; there are clothes made out of it. It lends itself to many uses.”

Smith uses a process that involves burning the tyvek with a heat gun set to 500 degrees. The high temperature warps the material so it bubbles. Then, she paints and shapes it. The final product is strange and indistinct, in between a painting and a sculpture.

“They’re a really big departure from anything I’ve done in the past,” Smith said. “They’re much more ambiguous, to be interpreted by the viewer in any different way. If you walk into the space, you could see them as planets or even cells under a microscope.”

Smith was invited to showcase her work in the BRC by Rice Public Art. Smith said while she did not design her pieces specifically for the space, they fit together perfectly.

“I’m always so excited when I see this kind of relationship between the architecture and the work,” Smith said. “The works and the space are interconnected. You could have pieces that don’t fit with a space, and it could completely ruin the exhibition even it’s great work.”

Smith also curated her exhibition, drawing on experience she has gained as director of Rice’s Matchbox Gallery. She used a mock-up of the space to try out different arrangements of the pieces. She also decided to install the pieces with small rods so they hang slightly off the wall, casting shadows.

“I think there’s some gravity relevant in the way they’re shown; they’re dynamic,” Smith said. “Also, there are holes in the pieces, allowing light to be involved in the work.”

Smith has continued to experiment with tyvek, and will display new works along with 13 other visual and dramatic arts majors in the senior showcase on April 23 in Sewall Hall. She was also recently awarded the prestigious Watson Fellowship, which funds a year of personal exploration and study. She says she will use it to study cemeteries in six countries.

“Not Born Yesterday” will be on display in the BRC pop-up gallery until May 2015.

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