By KAYTLYN BIDDLE
“A Hot Smidge” by Sidney Mullis was the first art exhibit this semester to take over the duPont Gallery. Having never been to art exhibition opening myself, I had no idea what I was going to walk into. I felt uneasy walking up the steps into duPont hall, trying to remember the few words I learned in my art history class. All of that faded away, however, when I saw the exhibition I had previously looked on the website for an overview of what to expect, but nothing could have prepared me for the enthusiasm and emotions displayed, not only in the various works, but in the gallery-goers themselves.
“A Hot Smidge” is one of those rare events that seem to happen exactly when we need it to. The exhibit is a unique take on the gendered trappings that young women are faced with early on. On the website, Mullis sums up his exhibit by describing it as, “a visual playground to probe how gender exists,” and having seen it for myself, it cannot be explained any better.
My own perspective changed as I weaved my way through the groups of people surrounding each piece on the gallery’s opening night. I was struck by the conversations of my peers. Everyone seemed to acknowledge how interesting it was to see these ordinary pieces as the center of gender conflict. When put into this light, it is hard to see them as anything but.
Female empowerment has taken over not just young minds, but the entire world stage, with millions of people rallying behind it at the Women’s March a few short weeks ago.The pieces in this exhibit range in format and style, from video, to interactive selfie sticks and hats, to paper mache sculptures. The most striking inclusions are the items representative of feminine beauty that Mullis has based her pieces around. Most young people are familiar with these items, such as, fake fingernails or spandex, but when confronted with them being the center of these pieces, they take on a whole new meaning.
One of the pieces that stuck with me was what seemed to be fake eyelashes attached to a ball and chain. What continues to strike me is how I look at the pieces themselves and find them beautiful, despite them not conforming to typical ideas of women’s beauty, because they were being used in such a new, interesting way.
I came out of that exhibition thinking about my own experiences with these items, and could not refrain from bringing up the intensified rights movements. In a time where people are increasing their individuality and right to expression, Mullis’ art evaluated the creation of gender and roles, and seemed to express the growing frustration and unhappiness with the current gender issue. Not limited to women’s experiences, but for anyone who has been affected by societal views on beauty and appearance, “A Hot Smidge” is an exploration of beauty and sexuality that can leave you thinking about what you have done to encourage or fight against these ideals in your own life.
If you are interested in seeing these expressions for yourself, the exhibition is open until Feb. 5.