Meredith College alumnae artists from the past four decades created work inspired by the iconic Meredith Hues Iris for a spring exhibition in the College’s Weems Gallery.
“Exhibiting artists took creative liberties with the form, symbolism, and conceptual narrative of the iris as it relates to their own work and media of choice,” said Associate Professor of Art Lisa Pearce, ’90, the gallery director.
The idea to hold an exhibition interpreting the Meredith Hues Iris was proposed to Pearce by Janet Conway Rose, ’80, at another alumnae art exhibition, which was held in 2015 in honor of the College’s 125th anniversary. Rose had frequently photographed the Meredith Hues Iris, which was developed and registered in 1968 by Loleta Kenan Powell, ’41.
Pearce, with support from art program alumnae, narrowed down a list of potential artists to feature.
“It was important to find artists who were active in their art community and to have a breadth of media and class years represented,” Pearce said. “This was not merely an exhibit about the iris but the artists’ interpretations of the symbol as well as their experiences at Meredith. The creativity of the artists was evident in political pieces on women’s issues such as politics, sexuality, and gender norms all the way to interpretations of the iris of the eye and even the mythological goddess Iris of the Rainbow.”
Featured in this issue is a small selection of the work included in the exhibition. Excerpts of artist statements allow the alumnae artists to share what inspired them about the Meredith Hues Iris.
Jamie Burke Moore, ’03
Acrylic on canvas
“Color, movement, and contrast unite to form an abstracted composition inspired by the Meredith Hues Iris. By cropping and magnifying a cluster of flowers, the focus shifts from the subject itself to the beauty within the details: undulating lines and edges and the interplay of lights and darks. My passion for color emerges with the use of a heightened color scheme, adding energy and drama to further engage the viewer.”
Libby O’Daniel, ’14
Oil on wood and ACM
“I found my voice at Meredith College. The academic knowledge and critical thinking skills I developed as a student created a discerning world view, a healthy sense of agency, and continue to play an active role in my artistic practice. Meredith’s innate sense of honor and duty to improve our world are roots imbedded in my neuropathways; a connected network of strong rhizomes, expanding yearly, bearing perennial opportunities to share new kinds of beauty. Meredith is in every piece of artwork I make; for it was there that I learned how to be a maker of things that could speak on my behalf and to silently unveil the things I was afraid to say.”
Susy Kennedy Holloway, ’10
Seasons and Hues
“This project is inspired by the correlation between my time at Meredith and the seasons of growth in the plant world. Both personal growth and plant growth has its prescribed seasons, with corresponding rhythm and timing. The cycle of the seasons always brings future growth, and that certainty engenders hope.”
Drew Hoover, ’03
Acrylic, glass, resin
“To me, the distinguishing beauty of the Meredith Hues Iris is the organic, teardrop shape of the petals and the dramatic contrast of deep burgundy tucking into the white tops. This painting is non-representational in form, yet it captures the movement and the lacy edges of the flowers and it is shot through the delicate gold found on the flower’s throat. The glass and resin intensify the colors and gives a three-dimensional aspect that seems wet and fresh.”
Barbara Mimnaugh Cherry, ’13
Another Shade of Hue
“The original flower of Meredith was created by one of our very own, Loleta Kenan Powell, ’41. The thought of creating an iris particular to the Meredith alumnae became my goal. The many unique women becoming hybrid with Meredith’s tight-knit, diligent campus creates an environment distinct from others. After leaving the safe haven, the sentiment of the environment leads to a sense of society. Although we are all unique amongst ourselves, we have this similar experience to unite us. I wanted to create a piece that acknowledges these hybrid alumnae and represents them as their own ‘Meredith Hue’.”
Jean McLaughlin, ’73
Digital to Analog
Commercially printed postcard, digital drawing
“I have long loved correspondence art and continue to collect and write postcards. My piece is a nod towards botanical drawing but is certainly not an accurate botanical portrayal of the Meredith Hues Iris. It is my interpretation of this beautiful iris as I draw with my finger on a tablet using the program Procreate.” McLaughlin included a set of cards with her design in the exhibition, encouraging visitors to use them to write notes to friends.
Jackie L. Phillips Weatherly-Cadzow, ’03
Emergence of New Perceptions
Dye of silk
“I am a fiber/textile artist. Nature is my source of inspiration. My art depicts my experiences as I journey through life. Meredith College holds a special place in my heart. I see it as a place of opportunity and growth. I first learned of the College when I completed the Legal Assistants (now Paralegal) program in 1995. Then in 1999, after the untimely death of my first husband, I returned to Meredith College. I decided life was too short not to pursue the art degree I really wanted. Fifteen years later, after remarriage, many moves across the country, resignation from the federal government in May 2016, I once again return to Meredith College for growth and opportunity; this time as a full-time artist. While studying art at Meredith, I was introduced to silk painting by Georgia Springer. I chose to paint three Meredith Hues irises from a 2003 photo I took of the iris during my graduation. Each iris stands for a special time at Meredith College. The College remains an important aspect of my life and I couldn’t be more proud and honored to be a Meredith alumna.”
Holly Fischer, ’99
“Much of my work explores the paradoxes of femininity and the delicate balance between objectification and empowerment. Socially constructed concepts of femininity tend to emphasize traits of beauty, grace, sensitivity, and a nurturing disposition. Historically, many institutions for women taught pupils how to properly embody femininity thus reinforcing and solidifying gender stereotypes. I am proud that Meredith College has a mission of cultivating strength and challenging women to redefine their sense of self and purpose beyond the confinement of gendered boundaries. In that spirit, my representation of an iris unveils a core of inner strength and self-assurance that is the foundation of true empowerment. None of us should ever have to choose between embodying femininity or masculinity if we can acknowledge the limits of these constructed categories and recognize we all possess multi-gendered facets and folds.”
April Hansen, ’16
Cotton thread, quilting cotton
“This work was inspired by the rainbow of colors in the Meredith Hues Iris, primarily. My love of color existed before my time at Meredith, but my education has allowed me to understand much more of how it works in a piece to create a harmonious composition, and push my work in new directions with this understanding. I wanted to examine the entire palette presented in the blossom in a different form of the iris, one more familiar to the art world — that of a camera.”
Lisa Ellis, ’92
“The Greek meaning of the word iris is rainbow. The ancient Greek Goddess Iris, a messenger to the gods, was thought to use the rainbow as a bridge or passage between heaven and earth. The painting Passage explores an abstract transformation of the iris that draws the viewer into a calm and peaceful journey. Painted with the palette knife, it provides an organic shift, creating textures that are not calculated but free and flowing, just as the iris.”