Adorning a corner of overlooked, plain railing on the side of the Art and Architecture Building lies an unexpected sight.
Shiloh Jines, senior in creative writing and poetry, has lined the railing with naked dolls, liquid clay called slip and flowers in an unexpected combination as a project for her ceramics class. Her work is entitled "I Set to Rest the Memory of My Girlhood Innocence," and uses the elements of clay, dolls, wire, yarn and fabric.
The project is the third assignment in Jines' ceramic sculpture class, taught by Jessica Kreutter, lecturer in ceramics. Instead of firing their pieces, they use clay for its material nature and how it can add a layer to their ideas.
Jines picked the prompt that asked students to explore how the clay form relates to and transforms a specific site. She said she was inspired by where the railing meets the ivy, and after seeing artist Tamara Gonzales lecture on art and Day of the Dead traditions, decided to incorporate the sacred dolls into her project.
"After seeing this, I decided I wanted to make an altar/shrine for a memory I needed to let go — in gurlesque fashion," Jines said. "The piece is concerned with revisiting, resolving and putting to rest my childhood memories of empathy and role-play with dolls. I tied these dolls, most of which I already had in my house, to the railings on the Day of the Dead, and left them there."
The decision to work in a place not typically considered for displaying art was one Kreutter said she approved of.
"It is a space that is often walked past and forgotten," Kreutter said. "People use it to go down to the ceramics studio but don't spend time there."
Initially, Jines considered painting the black bars with pink liquid clay and inscribing poems into it. She was interested in how the rain could wash the words away and whether or not others would write back.
"Pink was for the girly and carving for the grotesque; I wanted to work outside in the sunshine and I wanted to write poetry," Jines said. "But with just the slip and the carved words, the project felt empty. It didn't photograph well, and instead of writing poetry I found myself writing things like, 'I was going to write my poetry on the pole but now all I want is an honest conversation. Is that too much to ask?'"
Drawing inspiration from an anthology of poetry by Arielle Greenberg and Laura Glenum entitled "Gurlesque: the new grrly, grotesque, burlesque poetics," along with artists Pepon Osorio and Gonzales, Jines worked to find a new direction.
"The book explores kitsch/campy, Avant-garde feminism as it applies to poetry and visual arts," Jines said. "I was also influenced by the visiting artists Pepon Osorio and Tamara Gonzales, both of which have works that push the socially perceived feminine aesthetic beyond its limit into a campy, almost kitsch, grotesque sphere.
"Think spray paint lace and a baroque bed made from dollar store finds."
She also incorporated her poetry and writing instruction from Marilyn Kallet, UT's Director of Creative Writing, into her ceramics project.
"My mentor and poetry teacher, Marilyn Kallet, who is always in the back of my mind, stressed giving ourselves permission to be absurd, 'dada dreamy,' let yourself go and write the poem about your mother's nipples — delve into the Rimbaudian hell of your childhood self," Jines said. "Maybe those weren't her words exactly — but that's how I understood it."
Since setting up the project Nov. 2, Jines said she has continuously expanded the work.
"I've been adding plastic flowers from thrift stores, much in a way someone who visits a grave would do," Jines said. "I have also continually painted and poured layers of slip over the shrine, which have subsequently washed away only to be re-applied, as an exploration of the way memory and dream wash over my understanding of the pre-pubescent girl I once was."
To some, the project may seem strange and maybe even a little creepy. However, Kreutter encouraged the creative expression.
"I am all for art that makes you stop and want to find out more," Kreutter said. "And by talking about it and getting people's reactions, the artist learns what works and what doesn't."
If Jines' piece does inspire reaction, she said she hopes it will catch people's eyes as an expression of empowerment in an unusual way.
"I want girls everywhere to live fearlessly, unashamed of their visions, never let that daunting desire to be loved get the best of you," Jines said. "It's up to you to make myth from your melodrama."