Faculty exhibit, “Meetings in the Square,” challenges viewers to focus on the spiritual dimension
By Madison Wathen
Senior Layout Editor
“With the dawn of the Internet and being able to see everything all the time, I have become very aware of my own tendency to be super distracted,” said Asbury Assistant Professor of Art Josh Smith.
As I approached “Meetings in the Square,” I was immediately transfixed by the electric hues before me. Neon colors beamed in parallel vertical lines along four canvases. On either side of me were seemingly minimal white squares. Upon further and closer examination, I found a series of painstakingly small zeroes and ones. Binary code.
“Meetings in the Square,” the current faculty art exhibit being displayed in The New Gallery (located in the grille), comes across as very deliberate. The exhibit is an exploration of the physical and spiritual that is manifested in the square overlap center of the cross, which is featured in each piece. Smith’s artist statement declares this overlap to be a meeting place.
The exhibit also challenges the paradox that is technology — the complexity of technology versus the simplicity it is a derivative of. That derivative being binary code, which is employed in several of Smith’s handwritten pieces. He begs the question, “What happens in the in-between space?”
Professor Smith found the process of creating the binary code pieces to be a very spiritual experience, and this definitely came across when I stood before them.
Completely surrounded by Smith’s work, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed by the meticulous binary code pieces. The pieces themselves are overwhelming because it’s impossible not to appreciate how long they must have taken, but they are also inviting. This is why I think they are so successful. If you look at them at the right angle, under the right light, they reveal something new. They are literally multidimensional, creating a very unique and interactive experience.
Senior and art major Laura Schroyer agreed, saying, “What struck me is how, at a glance, his paintings look so simple, and the urge is to pass by them without second thought. But when you walk up to them, interact with them and ponder the amount of time he spent working on the details, it’s entrancing.”
Smith was intentional about the emphasis on the process portrayed in his work.
“The experience of [writing the binary code] changes you and that experience becomes impregnated in the work so other people can experience the change just by looking at it,” he said.
Smith considered the repetitive and tedious process of handwriting zeroes and ones to be a sort of “monastic pursuit for Christians to relate to.”
“Doing the work, it’s almost like you realize what you really are,” he said. “That’s the goal of work — that someone else could potentially get a glimpse into that change.”
The exhibit also reflects something very relevant to not only Asbury’s campus but also humanity. The dawn of technology and the Internet in our world is something we must constantly wade through. It’s also something we as Christians have to wrestle with. Where do we find time to be still once in a while when there are just so many distractions?
“Life is so distracting that I have to personally put constraint on myself to get focused on what’s greater,” said Smith.
Fellow Asbury Professor of Art Dr. Linda Stratford also found the exhibit to be very insightful on the issue of a technological world versus a spiritual world.
“Often we think of the digital age as an age threatening to traditional human values of reflection and felt presence,” said Stratford. “In the field of art, in particular, increased use of technology has even challenged traditional concepts of art making,” Dr. Stratford said. “In this body of work, markers of visceral human presence are very intentionally woven in alongside various markers of contemporary technology.”
Regardless of your opinion toward technology, spirituality or even contemporary art, “Meetings in the Square” is a worthwhile experience. It is truly a beautiful and cohesive body of work, providing Asbury students with an opportunity to interact with contemporary art.
“I think people should definitely go see it because it’s very non-traditional for Asbury,” said sophomore and art major Colin Cook.
“If you do something honestly, there will be a response to it,” Smith said. “Other people who are looking for honesty will resonate with that honesty.”