Studio Art Faculty Receive Grants from Ohio Arts Council

April 22, 2019
Amanda Nagy
Artistic image of women in forest
A print from Visiting Assistant Professor of Art Mimi Kato's fictional narrative ‘‘Wild Corporation.’’ Photo credit: Courtesy of Mimi Kato

Three studio art faculty members have received Individual Excellence Awards from the Ohio Arts Council .

Kristina Paabus, associate professor of studio art, reproducible media; Mimi Kato, visiting assistant assistant professor of art; and Rachel Smith, metalsmith and fabrication supervisor for the art department, each received $5,000 grants to support their work. They are among 78 artists who have been funded by the state agency for the fiscal year.

Individual Excellence Awards recognize artists for their body of work that advances or exemplifies the discipline and the larger artistic community. Submitted anonymously and awarded through an open panel review process, the grant funding gives artists the resources to experiment and explore their art forms, develop skills, and advance their careers.

Paabus, a multidisciplinary visual artist with a focus in printmaking, received the grant for two distinct bodies of recent works that she created during her 2017-18 sabbatical. These include a series of hybrid-editioned prints that are based on her continued research into Soviet and post-Soviet systems and the lasting effects of the oppressive political regime on daily experiences. The second series reflects an ongoing screen monoprint project that employs elements of game theory to consider strategies we use to decipher the constant barrage of digital information in contemporary Internet-driven society.

Image of artist's print
"Trade-Offs," a print by Associate Professor Kristina Paabus

Paabus says her work examines the systems we use to perceive, contain, control, and negotiate our surroundings. “Tools such as language, architecture, Internet, government, and beliefs expose a constant, yet sometimes futile desire for structure.”

Kato was awarded for her ongoing fictional narrative Wild Corporation. Featuring prints and objects, the project tells a story about companies in the woods and the battles of their female workers who are dressed in uniforms which are common in the workplace in Japan.

A significant portion of the narrative centers on the uniforms female workers are dressed in, which are common in Japanese workplaces. Kato explains that the uniforms—chosen by majority male CEOs and business owners—are impractical, with unnecessarily tight skirts and vests, but they are typical workwear for women who are hired to do jobs with no potential for career advancement.   

Wild Corporation “depicts strong, powerful women who undertake traditional male tasks, like hunting and warfare, by using office supplies as their survival tools,” Kato says. “They are trapped and threatened by the mentality and social expectations for females, just as their bodies are trapped in the uniforms, even without the presence of men in their world.”

Kato is on leave this year and will return as a visiting instructor for the 2019-20 academic year. She has a collection of photomontages, Ordinary Sagas, on exhibit at the Columbia Museum of Art in South Carolina.

Image of woman wearing metal shawl
Chicory and Stiff Gentian Ruff, made with waterjet cut aluminum and powder coat, by Rachel Smith.
Photo credit: Susan Skoczen

Smith , a metal and jewelry artist, says her work reflects themes of identity and ornament, focusing specifically on the desire to connect with the outdoors and nature. “The facilitation of that need occurs through the use of adornment, allowing the wearer to surround themselves in arrangements and clusters of plants, created via the artist’s photographs and sketches,” she says.

Smith received her undergraduate training in 3D-media studies, concentrating on jewelry and metals, and earned an MFA in jewelry metals enameling. She is the studio lab technician for the art department and teaches part time at Kent State University.

Smith’s work has been exhibited nationally and internationally. She was a finalist in the 2017 Friedrich Becker Prize; received a 2016 Niche Award in the category of Sculpture to Wear; and won the award for Excellence in Metals at the Ohio Craft Museum during its annual “Best Of” exhibition.

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