What Remains: finding beauty in the battered

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Both students and guests view the “What Remains” art exhibit in the Haggerty Art Village. Photo by Kaity Chaikowsky.

The exhibit, “What Remains,” by Rachel Meginnes and the University of Dallas’ own ceramics assistant professor Kelly O’Briant addresses themes such as finding beauty in loss, preserving history, displacement and the relationship between everyday items and ourselves.

Meginnes’ artwork confronts the concept of loss through the restoration of worn down quilts. She transforms half-destroyed, rugged looking quilts into majestic, depth-filled works of art. She breathes life back into these old quilts that otherwise would have been cut up and destroyed.

“I really liked the quilts because I don’t think our culture reuses enough, and people just get rid of things as soon as they show signs of wear and tear,” senior art major Mary Kate Elfelt said. “Instead of destroying something that was falling apart, she turned it into something else, something that was beautiful and has a message.”

Meginnes’ process is extremely meticulous and particular.  

“So my process is something that is sort of a negotiation with confidence and skills and time and I never quite know when a piece is done,” Meginnes said.

The confusing nature of her process can be both frustrating and exciting, since there is no clear end to the work in her sight.

A perfect description of Meginnes’ work comes from her own poem. “I find the holes, the mends, and draw attention / to them, peeling all layers back so others can see, / how beauty develops in loss and destruction.”

O’Briant contemplates displacement in the modern world through her artwork. She recently spent time in Jingdezhen, China, known as the porcelain capital of the world, where for 1000 years artists have led the world in their skillful ceramics creations.

O’Briant completed “All the Good Things” in Jingdezhen, China, which consists of 112 gold bowls holding seeds which represent the generosity shown to her by all of those people she met on her journey.

“I was thinking a lot about how seeds relate to sort of migration and transition and new beginnings,” O’Briant said. “I think that the repetitive nature of making them was a way to be very present and fully here.”

Her work called, “The Things We Carry,” consists of 12 porcelain houses.

“Reminiscent of the traditional still life, these installations capture a moment of intimacy between everyday objects and their users,” O’Briant said. “[They illustrate] patterns of communication habits, storytelling and community.”

The rapid destruction and then rebuilding of Chinese neighborhoods inspired this work.

“[I] recognized both the loss and positive feeling of a new beginning,”O’Briant said.

The overarching theme of this exhibit was perfectly described by O’Briant:

“An apartment building would come down in a day and maybe three or four weeks you would see an equally tall building in its place,” O’Briant said.  “It seemed like a real unhinging of a local community from the very history that it was built on. At the same time there was kind of a hopefulness.”

Both O’Briant and Meginnes discovered beauty in spite of destruction. What makes this exhibit so wonderful is that it encourages us to find beauty and redemption in our own suffering, and to realize that what appears rugged and destroyed can be transformed into something spectacular.

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