Since Jan. 23, an eclectic curation of artwork from Brown staff has been on display in the Granoff Center for the Creative Arts. In its second in-person iteration since the pandemic, “After Hours Annual Staff Exhibition” continues the more than a decade-long tradition of highlighting staff artistry.
“After Hours” features a diverse range of mediums and contributors, spotlighting art forms including painting, photography, glass blowing, punch needling and pottery made by artists from all departments, including the Department of Facilities Management, the School of Public Health, the University Library and Alumni Relations.
It’s not often that “staff all get to come together across disciplines, across buildings, to gather” and appreciate art, said Kennedy Jones MA ’23, a Brown Arts Institute Program Fellow who has organized the show for the past two years.
After putting out an open call for staff artists, Jones worked with each artist to determine how to best display their pieces.
“I’m always just so happily honored” to put together the show, Jones said. “It’s just cool to see the really great work that staff (are) producing when they’re not doing the great work that they already do here.”
‘Let me just go for what I love’: Si Jie Loo’s ‘Before and After Baby’
Art has always been a part of Si Jie Loo’s life. Although Loo, department manager for visual art, took art and dance classes for most of her childhood, for a while, she found herself only able to pursue her creative endeavors as a hobby. But as an undergraduate student at Dartmouth, Loo decided to follow her dream and pursue art full-time.
“That’s when I said, ‘I think I have proven myself enough. Let me just go for what I love,’ “ Loo said.
Working in the Department of Visual Art has allowed Loo to be immersed in the art world even when she is not creating.
“It’s a good combo,” Loo said. “When I’m not working, I try to paint, but when I’m working, I’m actually managing the art department.”
Loo’s favorite medium is a variation of traditional Chinese painting that uses ink and watercolor on Xuan paper, which is traditionally used for Chinese calligraphy and painting. Loo said she applies more modern approaches to traditional techniques, incorporating influences from Western art.
“I like to paint abstractly. I try to do more improvisation and I like music, so (there are) a lot of rhythms in my painting,” Loo said. “I use a traditional medium, but I try to innovate with it.”
Loo’s “Before and After Baby,” a set of two pieces, is on display at “After Hours.” She created the first piece before having her baby and the second piece after returning to work from maternity leave.
In her art, Loo calls attention to the “yin and yang” aspect of the two sides, with the assertive “yang” representing the “before baby” period and the fluid “yin” representing the “after baby” period.
“It’s kind of like a timestamp,” Loo said. “I paint abstractly for viewers to feel … whatever complicated emotions I have about being a mom.”
Loo appreciates the spotlight that “After Hours” places on the diverse staff at Brown, as she said staff creatives can sometimes be overlooked.
‘I’m the happiest when I’m creating something’: Ashley Gayle’s ‘Duality’
Ashley Gayle, assistant director for the Shared Interest Groups program in Alumni Relations, contributed a piece titled “Duality” to the exhibition. In her artwork, Gayle aims to represent the complexity of “presenting yourself to the world in a certain way and presenting yourself at home as your true self.”
“On the right-hand side, it’s a Black woman in an office space with her hair straightened, and she’s in buttoned-up clothing and there’s a desk behind her,” Gayle said. “On the other side, her hair is out and it’s natural and curly, and there (are) leaves and flowers behind.”
In 2020, Gayle participated in the online iteration of the faculty exhibition. But this year, during the “After Hours” Family and Friends Day celebration, Gayle was able to commemorate the exhibition’s opening with her family while meeting other artists in the community.
“It was really cool to be there in the community,” she said. “I was just blown away by the talent, and it was fascinating to see all the different mediums that people were using.”
When life gets busy, Gayle said that she makes a “very conscious effort” to make time for her artwork. “it’s easy to put creativity on the back burner,” she said. “What I realized was (that) I’m happiest when I’m creating something, so I have to be conscious of making sure that I’m doing something creative” consistently.
“For anyone who loves art or loves creativity, just go for it and keep doing it,” Gayle added. “Don’t get caught up in how good it is or if it’s perfect because it’s a work in progress.”
A ‘warm embrace’: Luis Gonzalez III’s ‘Aura’
Luis Gonzalez III, assistant operations manager at Brown Bookstore, has been creatively expressing himself through art his whole life, whether doodling in his wallet-sized sketchbook or painting a bigger piece on the weekends.
Gonzalez said his art was initially inspired by nature. “I was studying photography in school, and then something switched where I wanted to see what I can create from my inner world.”
“I drew all my life, but the moment I actually put color into one of my drawings, everything changed,” he said.
Gonzalez’s painting “Aura” features many natural elements, vibrant colors and a mask, which he said is a common theme in his artwork. The color palette in this piece is inspired by the colors of the Caribbean, where his family is from, Gonzalez said.
His artwork is “deeply inspired by my culture, my ancestors (and) people that have shown me what life feels like with color in it,” Gonzalez added.
The idea of “Aura” comes from the energy that Gonzalez feels from the people that he comes across in his life, explaining that “everybody has this bigger image outside of us as individuals.”
In his painting, Gonzalez said he sought to specifically capture his grandmother’s energy. “It’s loving, it’s a very warm embrace, and she showed me how to carry that affectionate energy around me.”
This is Gonzalez’s third time participating in the show. He said he greatly appreciates the opportunity to meet other artists on campus and to share in a common interest.
“It’s a great way to highlight this different type of human element we all have,” Gonzalez said. “We all have passions. We all have things that we love.”
An ‘escape from the world around us’: Brittany Pailthorpe’s ‘In Spite of the Way That It Is’
Many artists shared artwork with personal meaning for this year’s exhibition, including Brittany Pailthorpe, a research project specialist at the Office of the Vice President for Research. Pailthorpe shared a marker-and-paint piece inspired by the musical “Hadestown.”
Titled “In Spite of the Way That It Is,” the artwork usually hangs in Pailthorpe’s home.
“It gives me great motivation when I look at that piece when I’m in my home office,” Pailthorpe said. “I hope that some folks see that piece, wonder what ‘Hadestown’ is and then hopefully it touches them as much as it touches me.”
In this piece, Pailthorpe stenciled in lyrics she found most impactful from the musical. The piece follows a linear color progression from top to bottom, displaying a descent into the fictional Hadestown, she said.
“The lyrics are all meshed together,” Pailthorpe added. “It focuses on the phrases that I find most impactful from all of the different songs.”
Pailthorpe said she worked on this piece for about 30 minutes at a time throughout the fall and summer as a way to “escape from the world around us.”
As a research project specialist, Pailthorpe has several roles in the workplace, including limited submission announcements, managing the Humanities Research Fund and updating the website, she said. In her artwork, Pailthorpe similarly turns to many forms.
“I create art in all different types of mediums,” including graphic design and embroidery, she said. “I was originally a painter working in acrylic and then I switched to writing when I was an undergraduate.”
Pailthorpe shared that she is always impressed with the quality of the work presented at “After Hours” and is appreciative of Brown Arts Institute for “keeping art at the forefront” of campus.
“Everybody has an amazing repertoire of art — things that match with their work and things that don’t match with their work,” Pailthorpe said. “This show is an amazing way to see the different aspects of the staff at Brown.”
“After Hours” will be on display until the exhibit’s closing celebration Feb. 22.
Ashley Guo is an arts & culture writer and layout designer. She previously covered city and state politics as a Metro section editor. In her free time, Ashley enjoys listening to music, swimming, and reading!