Art is largely an experience. Working at the Smart Museum of Art as a Museum Educator and later as an Education Intern, I was honored to share art as an experience with the Museum’s many visitors. In my sticker, I sought to capture some of the feelings that we shared that I carry with me still.
While working as an educator at the Smart, I knew that if Mark Rothko's No. 2 was on view, it would need to be a tour stop for my group. It's the kind of artwork that evokes a reaction. Many raise their eyebrows in approving surprise while others scrunch their faces in confusion. It is work that often starts the "I could make that" conversation. And then you have the wonderful opportunity of talking to viewers about how they would create No.2 and Rothko’s own process. In addition to where the piece derives its values, about why those colors and proportions were chosen. Whether or not the true inspiration for the piece was a Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich. It's a meaningful conversation and one that allows any viewer to deepen their relationship with art.
Art can take us on a journey. I like to think of this also as dreamscapes. Where you can keep looking at an object and be drawn in. Canvases that at first glance feature beautiful backgrounds but become much more when we let them unfold. Personally, Sam Gilliam’s abstract expressionist canvases have this quality. They invite play because in looking closely the form of the canvas can shift. They invite you to take things a little less seriously and let the colors do their thing—sometimes fade into one another, sometimes clash. Their playfulness brings comfort.
Finally, in the last bubble I aimed to illustrate wonder and the viewer experience of Antony Gormley’s, Infinite Cube. This work feels nearly irresistible. Everyone wants to see more, and everyone, even those who say art isn't their "thing," gets drawn in. You want to get lost in infinity. It both simple in its concept and technically complex. It’s precision in execution enables the viewer to engage infinitude. When I began my time at the University of Chicago in 2015, the Infinite Cube was on display and few more times at key points throughout my journey. Seeing the Infinite Cube was always like running into a friend.
I am forever grateful for my time at the Smart Museum. It shaped an important part of me, and I know it will continue to do that for many, students, staff, and community members.
Kathia Rodriguez is an artist and educator based in Chicago and alum of the University of Chicago. She graduated with her BA in International and Global Studies in 2019. In her time as a UChicago Student she engaged the Smart Museum of Art as a Museum Educator and Education Intern, offering exhibition tours and facilitating programs such as First-Gen Night.
We are delighted to have Kathia as our second annual Alum Sticker Artist, and we hope that you pick up her emotive sticker at the Student Activities and Resource Fair on Friday, September 29, 2023 at the Smart Museum of Art table. This is a limited-edition sticker so don’t miss out!