Growing up in South Orange, Kiki and Seton Smith spent many hours in their father’s studio where models and geometric forms were their daily arts and crafts.
Now world-renowned artists, the sisters have returned home to show how their childhood place influenced their “sense of self.” The exhibit “Sense of Place” is open until Dec. 9 in the Walsh Gallery.
Seton Hall University’s Walsh Gallery, in collaboration with the Lennie Pierro Memorial Arts Foundation, paid tribute to the local artists with this exhibition, which opened on Sunday, Oct. 30.
The exhibition features varied bronze, wood and photographic mediums inspired by nature that “tap into the emotional and psychological themes” of how place influences one’s sense of self, according to Walsh Gallery Director, Jeanne Brasile.
Brasile, a Seton Hall alum, has been working as the director and curator of the gallery for 10 years.
She selects exhibitions that challenge viewers with interesting artwork and rigorous narratives that showcase different voices and inputs.
Heavily influenced by their opera singer mother and artist and architect father, the sisters’ artistic pursuits came with little surprise.
“My family is my biggest influence,” said older sister, Kiki.
When asked about the significance of returning to South Orange she said, “Going home to formative years, everything means something to you.”
Brasile was drawn to the exhibition because of its opportunity to honor two global artists with roots in South Orange, and its theme that forces people to reflect on their personal experiences and sense of place in the world.
Seton Hall seniors Meghan Brady and Liza Bell helped put the exhibition together.
Brady said that the varying art styles presented by each artist demonstrate “the different ways people can conceive a sense of place from the same idea.”
“The interaction of the two sections poses different questions to the theme ‘A Sense of Place,’” said Brady, a history major.
“It’s about family,” said Bell, a diplomacy major. “Seton and Kiki coming back to their hometown, saying this is my sense of place.”
Both sisters’ works explore the relationship between art, life and community.
Kiki’s nature drawings and prints are symbolic while Seton’s photographs are a more literal interpretation of place and identity.
“It’s always tricky trying to interpret an artist’s work,” said Lauren Schiller, professor of fine arts. “Artist’s respond to the world visually and the result often cannot be captured in words.”
She added that words can point to the work but they can never give you the experience of the work. For that, you must see the show.
Payton Seda can be reached at email@example.com.