The Brooks Center’s latest lobby art exhibit shines a light on the environment with Kathleen Thum’s “Gathering Lines,” on display now until Thursday, April 27.

Gathering Lines - Bottom Up View

Kathleen Thum’s exhibit, “Gathering Lines,” is on display now until Thursday, April 27 in the Brooks Center Lobby.
Image Credit: Thomas Hudgins / Clemson University

An assistant professor in drawing at Clemson since 2011, Thum’s exhibit began as a reaction to the 2010 Deep Water Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. “I had been living in this culture, somewhat unaware of oil and petroleum, and, all of a sudden, the oil spill made me really hyper-aware,” she said. “This was a way to reflect on that and think about it.”

This spark of inspiration has led to almost seven years of work on the subject: “I became transfixed by the imagery shown on BP’s webcam video,” Thum said. “When they were trying to cap the spill, they had cameras down on the ocean floor with a live video feed and I was really interested in the dramatic image of the pipeline spewing oil out of the ocean floor. I’ve held onto the image of the pipeline as an abstraction of the overall petroleum system and infrastructure.”

Thum’s larger pieces were created with ink on heavy watercolor paper. For her smaller works, she used mainly ink and watercolor, but added recycled motor oil (from her husband’s car) and crude oil (purchased on eBay).

“I want to have a little bit of seduction of beauty, of color, of material, to draw the viewer in,” Thum said. “Then maybe some hints at what the content is, so maybe they can start to process how the imagery and content work together. When I get a chance to talk about the work, that changes how people see it. I know sometimes there is a little bit of ambiguity, and people think, ‘Oh, I would never have thought that!’”

Susan Kaplar first met Thum two years ago when she took Thum’s drawing class. Kaplar, Business Manager for the Brooks Center and an art student at Clemson, had seen Thum’s artwork at Furman University. “I was blown away and thought it would be fabulous to have in this space,” she said.

Side View - Small Work - Gathering Lines

Thum used recycled motor oil and crude oil in her work.
Image Credit: Thomas Hudgins / Clemson University

Originally, the largest works in the exhibit were even larger. To fit the Brooks Center Lobby, Thum layered the pieces composing each individual work to match wall space on which they are hung.

“The way that it flows, and the movement in the pieces; her statement about the way that nature works with the pipelines: I think her inspiration was a cool idea,” Kaplar said. “I think it’s a good piece to bring awareness to the environment. The Deep Water Horizon spill is an older story, but it’s always going to be relevant.”

Visitors are welcome to view the exhibit during the Brooks Center’s Box Office hours (1 to 5 pm; Monday through Friday) and 90 minutes before performances. Thum’s artist talk and reception will take place on Thursday, February 9, at 6 pm before the performance of Jessica Lang Dance at 7:30 pm.