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Exhibit at the Memorial Union showcasing identity through poetry, artwork

Sunday Reset Series: Kitchen, by Sophie Hixon on display at the Memorial Unions Identity Art Exhibit
Courtesy of Sophie Hixon
Sunday Reset Series: Kitchen, by Sophie Hixon on display at the Memorial Union’s Identity Art Exhibit

The Identity Exhibit at the Memorial Union Art Gallery delves into the concept of how Iowa State students interpret their own selves. The gallery is holding the exhibit until March 6. The exhibit focuses on the many forms of identity that Iowa State students represent through 33 works of art and poetry from 22 Iowa State students.

Letitia Kenemer, the art and workplace coordinator for the Memorial Union Art Gallery, said the exhibit is special because of the deeper meaning that identity can hold.

“You get to look into the pieces more deeply and think about the person that made them. There are a number of self-portraits in here, so that’s interesting to see how people interpret themselves,” Kenemer said. “There’s people talking about multiple identities that they hold, the push and pull of an identity that they had, and how they’re trying to change. You know there’s a lot in here that goes deeper than just some paint on a canvas.”

Kenemer said anyone can submit artwork to be in a gallery show, however, professional artists decide which pieces will be selected for display. Several awards are distributed as part of the gallery including best of show, honorable mentions and the Purchase Award.

The Purchase Award is given to the artist of the piece in which the Memorial Union buys for its own art collection, which dates back to the 1930s.

This exhibit’s Purchase Award winner is Sophie Hixson, a senior studying integrated studio arts. Hixson said this was her first time submitting work to the Memorial Union Art Gallery, and she was shocked to learn that she won the Purchase Award.

“I was not expecting it at all. This was the first show that I ever even submitted anything to, let alone to win something,” Hixon said.“It helped me look at my art differently too because before I was like, ‘you know, I’m still learning I’m a student.’ It wasn’t till after I won the award that I was like ‘People actually want my art.’”

Hixson said the inspiration behind her winning piece was her experiences surrounding growing up as Generation Z.

“A lot of my experiences within my own art is a lot about like, you got to keep going, you got to really work hard, really power through it,” Hixon said. “And I was like no, I kind of enjoy highlighting the time to relax and take a breather, especially with this generation,” Hixson said.

Hixson said her painting took around 10 hours in total within the span of a few months and that she got the idea from a TikTok trend. She said she took inspiration from what she does on a typical Sunday morning.

“I was just kind of brainstorming what I would do and there’s this trend going around TikTok called ‘Sunday reset,’” Hixson said, “Which is just basically cleaning your house and doing relaxing things like that. I was thinking about stuff that I enjoy doing and one of them was cooking.”

For student artists, Hixon said to try not to compare yourself to others. “Especially in an industry where there’s so many diverse things, there’s always going to be a spot for you. Even if yours doesn’t look like theirs, still somebody’s gonna like it.”

Sophie Hixson, a senior studying integrated studio arts, is the winner of the 2024 Purchase Award. (Courtesy of Sophie Hixon)

Kenemer said giving students a place to show their work is important because it creates a professional experience for them to showcase their art.

She also discussed the overall goal of this exhibit, and said it is about creating a space where students can be proud of their work while also encouraging people to come see the show.

“To have a place to show their work in a professional setting, to be proud of what they’ve done and see it off of the easel in a gallery on a nice white wall,” Kenemer said. “We want people to come see the work that Iowa State students are doing. It’s a really high caliber of work and whether they’re art majors or not, there’s some people in here that are top notch.”

The Memorial Union is accepting proposals for student-focused grants. The grant is up to $600 for a creative project outside of the classroom in the arts. Projects can be visual, written, performed, musical, theatrical and can be completed individually or in group projects.

“If you have a big dream or a big idea that you either didn’t know you could do it, wanted to give it a try or didn’t have the funding to do it, this is a way we can help students out,” Kenemer said.

To learn more about the Memorial Union Art Gallery visit their website or contact Letitia Kenemer.

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