Slow Art Brown Bag showcase of Celia Smith: “Tales of The Land”

The community gathered at the Mulvane museum to discuss an art piece and what it symbolized—discussing the art stroke, colors, animal imagery and more.

The Mulvane Art Museum hosted the first Slow Art Brown Bag this semester Wednesday, Sept. 21, with academic curator Sara Stepp guiding the discussion and telling the story of “Tales of The Land,” a figurative art piece created by Celia Smith inspired by Native folklore. Smith sketches nature, people and landscapes, using them to compose paintings to tell a place’s stories or essence. As an active participant in juried shows and art fairs, she has won multiple awards and recognition throughout the Midwest.
Stepp discovered the art piece while flipping through images from the late 20th century and early 21st century where “Tales of the Land” first caught her eye. She decided that it would make a good topic for a Brown Bag event.
“I guess because so much is going on in it and I thought it would be a good one,” Stepp said. “I just wanted to learn about it, so it was a bit selfish, too.”
The discussion described the stroke style, imagery, colors and shapes before revealing the stories in the piece and what viewers can learn from them.
The story starts at the top left of the piece with human figures depicted in blue. It is a creation story, specifically the Blackfoot Creation, where the earth was covered in water and then an old man, with the help of animals, created land out of dried mud. The story continues on the top right, where the Kiowa people encounter the first tornado, as an old “medicine man” warns the people to avoid a mysterious bank with dire consequences. Finally, the story continues at the bottom left and right, prominently depicting animals and humans coexisting in somewhat peaceful harmony.
“When I first looked at it, I thought, just, ‘wow, that is a lot of plants and animals,’” Stepp said. “I did not know that different stories were happening in this work.”
The museum will host another Slow Art Brown Bag with Jonathan Matteson, the director of education, at noon on Oct. 19. The subject will be a sculpture made based on composer Ludwig van Beethoven’s life mask. Stepp encourages anyone to come in and join the discussion.
“If you are looking for just sort of non-demanding, kind of relaxing discussion about a work of art,” Stepp said. “If you are just looking to be a part of a community of some kind, this is a good program.”
Copy edited by Alijah McCracken, Justin Shepard