Shifting Sediments, Coal in the Art Gallery


Coal exhibit captures West Virginia’s history

The Smith Hall art gallery is displaying from Aug. 30to Sept. 30 a new art exhibitfilled with coal art pieces that represent the mining industry in West Virginia. The artists Caroline Hatfield, Andrew Needle and Kathleen Thum haveused coal in each of the art pieces. Kathleen Thum, an art professor at Clemson University,said her piece was inspired by her interest in fossil fuels, specifically oil and pipelines when the BP Deepwater Horizon happened in 2010.
“My interest in oil was curiosity, what is the substance that is so vital to our contemporary way of life, fascination and concern.” Thum said.
Thum said the coal she used in the exhibit was stored in her studio for two years before creating her piece.
“I realized that the way to approach the subject of coal in my artwork was with a more objective approach—to simply draw the material realistically in detail, observing this powerful
rock,” Thum said.
“As the drawings evolved, I became increasingly interested in the black of coal, thus I simplified the coal forms to silhouette shapes, as a more subjective approach.”
The gallery director for the School of Art & Design, Jamie Platt, said there will be a wide range of artwork for students and faculty to see.
“What I think students will be happy about is greater access to the Birke Art Gallery in Smith Hall and hopefully being able to attend in-person receptions and artist talks,” Platt said.
Van Preston, a musical theater major, talked about his interest in the exhibit as he walks past the gallery on his way to class.
“I haven’t been able to check out the exhibit yet but, every time I pass by the door and see that glowing red light with the darkness of the coal spilling out into the floor it just really pulls me in,” Preston said.
“It makes me wish I don’t have a class.”The exhibit also connects students to their own family history. “Considering I have a family history in coal mining, I think it is really great to see how it [coal] is turned into art,” Taylor Racer, a secondary English major, said.
Multiple pieces of coal artwork line Smith hall (Kaitlyn Worstell)

“Art is such a fluent thing and it tells different stories to different people so, hearing that they have something like that here is really exciting.”