One of the amenities of MVNU's Art program is the opportunity for students to curate and host exhibitions to showcase their talents to the greater Knox County community and abroad. One of the highlights of the 2020 semester was the senior photo exhibition of MVNU senior, Leah Shaffer. She is known around campus for being the VP of Marketing for SGA, as well as one of MVNU's go-to event photographers.
With A Song We Used to Know, Shaffer is hoping to explore the manner in which light interacts with man-made structures. The description that is listed on the event's Facebook page reads: "a selection of photographs, projections, and poetry of windows exploring how everyday spaces can function as a place setting for divine communion through light and form."
Light plays a very prominent role in Shaffer's exhibition. She uses it to speak to the abruptness in which we live our lives and how, in a moment's notice, we are able to experience something harmonious. "[The photos] capture my contemplation of our interaction with light and the spiritual encounters we can have if we allow it to speak into our lived experience of the world in our everyday life," Shaffer said when speaking on the importance of light in her project.
The photos were taken with her Pixel and span across 5 countries and over a dozen different cities. It was an idea that, she said, came from looking at photos from years past and noticing small intersecting similarities. From that point onwards, the structure of the project began to frame itself. She explained that the photos in her exhibition were taken during times of spontaneity rather than through an orchestrated series of events.
"The light met me where I was," she said. Her hope is that viewers are able to experience the same resonance that she did while on this artistic undertaking. "My hope is to allow the viewers to enter into the same reflection space that I occupied as I first encountered the light," Shaffer said. "These photographs and poems serve as a journal space that I invite viewers into."
A Song We Used to Know was scheduled through March 9 to March 19 with gallery talks on the 13th. Due to the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus, Shaffer's gallery talk and presentation were duly canceled. She was still, fortunately, able to conduct tours of her exhibition in the Schnormeier Gallery as long as the 10-person limit wasn't overstepped.
"I was actually very thankful for the ability to show my work on a more individual basis because it allowed the work to inhabit a more reverent and intimate space," Shaffer said. "Each viewer that came though was able to have a personal encounter with the work that felt more true to my experience of the moments within each photograph than a large gathering may have felt.”
Despite the deterrence that came with COVID-19, Shaffer still remains positive throughout this very laborious period. She is using her discoveries about light to help illuminate a new perspective on this situation. "I have still been paying attention to the light that I encounter in my home as this unprecedented experience unfolds," Shaffer noted. "Light and the experience I have of God in those moments are constant. I have also been encouraged to see some of the best sides of humanity in the solidarity we have had with each other in the sacrifices we have made for the collective good. We are often more resilient than we think, and I believe this time will be able to teach us a lot about how to really care for one another as well as how to listen to our own bodies and emotions as we go through this shared trauma."
Shaffer doesn’t want to slow down after the end of the semester either. After the conclusion of the spring term, she plans on relocating to Columbus to fulfill her aspirations of being a designer, photographer and artist.
Caption: Leah Shaffer's photo exhibition features photos from across five different countries and examines how "everyday spaces can function as a place setting for divine communion." Photos provided by Leah Shaffer.