The Stables, one of Savannah’s many newly established galleries is looking to bring some attention to the west side of the city with their newest exhibition “Meraki,” featuring the work of SCAD seniors Kelly Hymes and Maly Pel. The show’s title “Meraki” comes from the Greek term, which according to the artists’ press release, translates to “doing something with soul, creativity, or love; to put something of yourself into your work.”
The exhibitions’ title is quite apt and applicable to the work of both artists, which contains underlying themes and messages surrounding their lives that may not be discovered upon an initial glance. Hymes’ work surrounds her mother’s battle with breast cancer while Pel, a first generation Cambodian-American, creates work exploring the boundaries between modern societal norms and her “rigid Khmer upbringing.”
“My recent work, which is the most significant to me, explores multiple themes from life,” said Pel, “including my Cambodian heritage, my memories with parents, as well as the relationship between myself and the viewer.”
“I see my work as a part of myself;” said Hymes, “a body composed of intricate details, yet hidden behind a mask that conceals its true identity. I disguise the meaning behind my work with abstract compositions that I don’t think most people would associate with cancer, because cancer isn’t always an obvious thing. When people look at my art, I want them to see the beauty that is on the outer layer and not the heartaches, mental challenges, or daily struggles that went into them.”
“Like Kelly’s art, there’s a lot behind the surface of the painting,” Pel added, “it’s all really personal. The real beauty for me is in the process and conceptualization.”
While both artists pull from moments of their past as well as present experiences for inspiration, those influences may not be immediately obvious due to their use of abstraction.
“My creative process starts with something of significance to me and then an idea flourishes from there,” said Hymes. ”I typically create work based off of a memory, a feeling, or an experience as a means of taking control of the situation as well as keeping record of the moment.”
Pel’s featured work involves burning Khmer characters into segments of hardwood representing the stripping away of Khmer traditions.
“I never saw myself getting into wood burning and carving, I should’ve known that I’d eventually start working with wood because I am absolutely in love with it,” she said.
“I love everything about it from the grains, to the color, temperature… and even the smell! I work with solid, untreated wood, which plays nicely into the theme of connectivity within my culture and myself. The wood burning and carving is tied into the concept behind my art one hundred percent as it signifies the burning and carving away of certain parts of my life and some of the more traditional Khmer values that I was taught to uphold.”
While the two artists have maintained a friendship throughout their time at SCAD, the two say they’re most excited to present their similarly themed works together.
“To have an opportunity to exhibit our works together in a duo exhibition was really exciting to me,” said Hymes. ”We created this show with the inclusions of our recent interrelated works that involve the themes of family, coping, and personal traumas.”