Guests filed into Gund Gallery on Thursday night to welcome back two Kenyon alumnae: Meg Cranston ’82 and Mia Halton ’73. Members of the first class of women to attend Kenyon sat at the front of the room, proudly snapping photos of their classmate, Halton. When the crowd settled in, Christopher Yates, the gallery’s assistant director, took the mic. He introduced the Visiting Artist Talk as both a direct response to the 50th anniversary of coeducation at Kenyon and the first in a series of student-curated alumni exhibitions that will span the academic year. The talk last Thursday served as an opportunity for members of the Kenyon community to meet these two alumnae artists and gain insight into their exhibits at the gallery.
Cranston’s artistic practice is guided by her liberal arts education. Having studied anthropology and sociology at Kenyon, her approach to making art is disciplined and conceptual. Her new exhibit, Hue, Saturation, Value: The Archer Paintings, explores how people know which colors they prefer. The paintings were created for a survey of students at the Archer School for Girls in Los Angeles and consist of 168 color swatches across four panels. “I made these paintings to give the girls a ballot,” Cranston said. Adjacent to the paintings, a fifth panel titled “Mr. Moseby’s Salmon Not Pink Shirt,” features the chosen color: Living Coral.
Cranston is interested in Pantone, a monopoly in the color industry whose annual color forecast directly informs the production of goods. Pantone says 2019 is the year of Living Coral, and the Archer girls agree. “Either we’re very good at forecasting or our choices are controlled by capitalism,” Cranston said.
Halton, who arrived in 1969 as a member of the first class of women to attend the College, was also shaped greatly by her time at Kenyon. She described the liberty of challenging ideas and forming her own identity at Kenyon. “I was free and I was kind of a grown-up. I loved it here,” she said with a smile. The experience of contributing to such a turning point in Kenyon’s history has found its way into Halton’s work.
In response to her show, Mad as Hell, Halton’s For Girls Becoming Women; everyday encounters asks: Why are we mad? For this new exhibit, Halton turns her encounters with big topics into works of art. Clay, paint, and words fill four corners of the room to create an intimate space honoring the lived experiences of women and girls. Halton uses figures from literature, history and politics to illustrate the “feeling in her gut.” A red glazed sculpture of Brett Kavanaugh stands in the center of the room directly across the table from sculptures of Anita Hill, Clarence Thomas and Christine Blasey-Ford. Together they sit on a bed of anonymous, blank faces. The event inspired dialogue about the slowly evolving culture surrounding women in the art world. Conversation landed on the importance of education and the role of Kenyon. There was a sense of optimism in the promise of the community that connects us all.
Halton’s exhibit will be on view in the gallery until Sept. 27 and Cranston’s exhibit will be on view until Dec. 15.