There's no place like home for Stacey Rathert, Kansas native and the first place winner of the outdoor sculpture exhibition, Out of the Box.
Rathert was first to present the evolution of her work as an artist at the Jule Collins Smith Museum. The museum hosted her and those in attendance Thursday night in the auditorium where she gave a power point presentation of her story.
Out of the Box is a biennial competition that began in 2013 in celebrations of the museum's 10-year anniversary. This year's exhibition was juried by nationally recognized artist, Jean Shin.
Rathert is currently an instructor at the University of Mississippi in the sculpture and fine arts department. Her creations are rooted in her experiences of growing up on a farm in her small town and her ability to tell personal narratives through her work.
"I consider myself a storyteller," Rathert said as she began her talk. "Like most storytellers, I like to start at the beginning."
Rathert's first place piece, "You Are Here," is an open invitation to interaction. Inspired by her students' plans for a weekend picnic, the movement of the piece flows like that of an unfurling picnic blanket made of artificial turf.
Before her creation of her award-winning artwork, she was a hopeful artist living in Kansas manipulating and creating pieces out of steel and cast iron.
As a child, she would climb the windmill she has in her backyard and admire the view that stretched on for miles.
"These open views and this landscape taught me a lot of important lessons: resilience, how to work on the land and utilize the land and the importance of community," she said.
The most pivotal moment of her early artistic mind was working with her father. She started in 4-H camp, a youth-development organization – learning the basics of sewing, preservation, rocketry and showing baby cattle.
Rathert wanted to go beyond 4-H to bond with her dad, she said. At around 11 years old, she learned how to weld and iron pour. She didn’t realize that assembling fans and working with metals would influence her artwork later.
She works with an array of materials, but cast iron was one that intrigued her from the start. She enjoys every part of the process, she said, from the sense of community and teamwork that goes into it to the work and sweat it takes to stretch the material into a piece she is proud of.
Rathert said she is constantly thinking of new ideas and pieces and is always in the process of creating something new.