Artwork featured in VMRC's "Beyond Words" virtual exhibit includes "Our Help Through the Ages No. 1" by Barbara Gautcher, former professor of art; "To the Mountains" by Rhoda Miller '03, MA '20 (restorative justice); "Becoming" by Keesha Dickel '00; and "Cape" by Rachel Herr '04. (Courtesy photos)

VMRC exhibit includes alumni artists

An online art exhibit hosted by the Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community includes works from four alumni and a former professor of Eastern Mennonite University reflecting on grief, hope, and resurrected life.

“Beyond Words” can be viewed online until March 22.

“Hopeful and Patient (Floral No. 27)” by Ashley Sauder Miller.

The exhibit was curated by Ashley Sauder Miller ’03.

“I really wanted to come up with a theme that would draw people close together,” Sauder Miller said. “I had no idea what we would be dealing with now during a pandemic, but it’s clear that so many feel grief on so many levels and I hope that viewers are able to look at each piece, reflect and feel helpful even in a time of grief.”

Sauder Miller was also the curator of and a featured artist in EMU’s Centennial art exhibit in 2017. Another artist in that show was Rachel Herr ’04, whose hand-dyed silk, cotton, and linen work “Cape” is featured in “Beyond Words.”

Herr writes in the exhibit that the piece “is a response to childhood trauma which took place in my Ohio Mennonite church, of which I’ve never spoken publicly. This work is about strength, softness and transparency.”

Barbara Gautcher, former professor of art, is also featured in the exhibit. Her two mixed media pieces, “Our Help Through the Ages Nos. 1 & 2,” are “impressions of God’s presence and help in our lives,” she writes in the exhibit. Both feature ginkgo trees and leaves “because of their ancient history and beauty … as symbols of the eternal and unchanging nature of God.”

Rhoda Miller ’03, MA ’20 (restorative justice) contributed a fabric and acrylic piece titled “To the Mountains,” inspired by the ways she’s sought healing through grief. 

“Following the death of my oldest sister twenty years ago, I distinctly remember feeling trapped indoors,” Miller writes. “I would spend hours taking drives into the mountains, wandering through parks and cemeteries, and eventually discovered a love of hiking the many trails in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley. I feel the most spiritually grounded when spending time in nature and breathe a little easier in the forest or on top of a mountain.” 

Photographer Keesha Dickel ’00’s featured artwork is comprised of six images that chart a butterfly’s metamorphosis.

“If there is one commonality in people’s experiences with grief, it is that grief changes you, whether you want it or not,” Dickel writes. “The change can be constructive or destructive, and that is where one gets to make a choice.”

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