Art transcends cultural boundaries at Hummel lecture

Brittany Rees

A visual artist and Kent State alumna told students to embrace community and use personal experiences to bring an audience together. 

Carol Hummel, known for her large-scale yarn installations, said, “Through art we can explore personal issues as well as political issues. Art is a way to explore commonality and differences on a global level.”

Hummel addressed a full lecture hall at noon Friday, Sept. 5, in the Art Building as the first in a series of guest lectures hosted by the College of the Arts.

During her speech, Hummel told the story of her personal growth and the growth of her artistic breadth.

“For some time now, I’ve explored art to transcend cultural boundaries and to act as a neutral, all-encompassing mediator,” Hummel said. “Art is a non-violent way to start a dialogue.”

Hummel created art in countries including Norway, Czech Republic and India. She brought attention to the lack of clean water and the tension created by nuclear weapons.

“I’ve never been good at learning languages, but suddenly I was communicating worldwide through the language of art,” she said.

Hummel used yarn as her primary medium, crocheting cozies around trees, parking meters, railings and buildings to convey her message. 

Though she spent a great deal of time working abroad, she fondly remembered her time as a Flash.

“It was definitely one of the happiest and most productive times of my life when I was here at Kent State,” Hummel said. “I was lucky to have this school.”

In addition to her bachelor’s degree in photojournalism, Hummel earned a master’s degree in sculpture from Kent State in 2004. A few of the works she created as a student even made it into her slideshow presentation.

“The work she showed from Kent really made me miss photography,” former photojournalism student Mallory Pfeifer said. “The first work she showed impacted me especially.”

The first piece Hummel showed was “You Are Ugly.” She created it in 2003 by typing the phrase “you are ugly” almost 7,000 times on a 25-foot long sheet of rice paper. The intention was to convey the consistent abuse her ex-husband dealt her during their marriage.

“By exposing my pain and insecurities, I hoped to connect and share comfort in the pain and insecurities common to all of us,” Hummel said. “On the day I hung this piece at Kent State, a 20-year-old student walked in and burst into tears. She said, ‘This is my life.’

“My life became insignificant but my art became significant as a communicator.”

Hummel’s lecture was introduced by Janice Lessman-Moss, a professor in the College of the Arts, who is coordinating the guest speaker series this fall.  

“All of these artists in these lectures have walked the walk,” Lessman-Moss said. “The speakers will show new ways of thinking and doing that (is) important to consider.”

The guest lectures will be conducted Fridays at noon in the Art Building and will feature performance artists, painters and other kinds of visual artists. 

Contact Brittany Rees at [email protected].