Published on October 26, 2020 by Ashley Smith  

The Samford Art Gallery will open a new exhibit starting on October 29 highlighting the work of local Birmingham artist Sarah West.  Syzygies will include 12 oil paintings all by West.  The new show is part of the John and Marsha Floyd Art and Design Series. 

West described her work in this way, “The word syzygy refers to an alignment, often of the celestial variety. In my paintings, I create a cosmos of symbols sacred and domestic, ancient and contemporary, corporeal and digital. The fragmentary nature and floating aspect of these forms creates new narratives, alternately diaristic and global. At the heart of my work is an interest in transformation and desire.”

Lauren Evans who is both the gallery coordinator and assistant professor of art in the School of the Arts expressed her excitement about bringing West’s work on campus at this time, “I feel that it has grown in relevance given the current circumstances with social distancing. Her works visually depict a collision of art-historical imagery (components often pulled directly from specific renaissance paintings) alongside familiar images of digital technologies we encounter on a daily basis. These components collide in ways, but also co-exist and even align, as alluded to in her show title, Syzygies. This word can refer to a simultaneous conjunction and opposition, similar to how we think of the sun and the moon. I see her paintings as celestial ecosystems, in a sense. Dreamscapes that float across, or perhaps beyond, the limits of time and space, while also feeling as if they are happening within the limits of a screen at times. They are also just really fun to look at! It’s bright and colorful, and there’s so much there to see and decode.”

Evans has been in charge of the Art Gallery for the past two years, bringing a variety of artists from across the country to be shared with the Birmingham arts community.  “I like to choose an artist that I admire and artists that I want to learn more about and want to get to know better,” Evans said. “It’s great when we can also showcase the work of a local artist because then we can engage not just the campus community, but the local arts community in a more meaningful way.”

Gallery access is limited to the Samford community  but Evans notes the importance to our students and to supporting the arts community overall.

“Since access to viewing contemporary visual art has been restricted lately with museum/gallery closures and social distancing restraints, it is especially important that we continue to bring outside artists to our campus, not only to engage with our students but to continue to support and provide opportunities for artists, many of whom have had shows cancelled due to the pandemic. We are lucky to be able to keep this show on our calendar and help bring it to life!” said Evans. 

“I think our students will really appreciate her aesthetic, as it’s quite contemporary, while also referring to works they’ve likely studied in their art history classes.”

West will be interacting with studio art seniors as well as providing a public artist talk via Zoom on Nov. 12 at 5 p.m.  Evans said, “West will have one-on-one studio visits with our seniors currently prepping for their senior shows.”

Syzygies will run through the end of the semester and then Samford professor and artist Joe Cory will display his work in Graceland Graceland, new paintings created against the backdrop of COVID-19, starting in late January 2021. Several student shows will be on display later in the spring. 

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.