SIUE student’s climate change sculpture receives prestigious award

Evan Smith's project, Guise, is a mixed-media sculpture made with 3-D printing and video technology. 


A third-year SIUE art student has won a national sculpture award out of 270 nominees.


Evan Smith, third year art graduate student from Charleston, West Virginia, was one of 13 recipients out of 270 nominees to win the Outstanding Student Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award for his art piece, Guise. 


Smith said his passion for art began with traditional drawing and painting. He said as he became familiar with newer technologies like 3D printing, he started sculpting. 


“I got really excited and very nerded-out about that kind of stuff and that's really what brought me into a sort of a 3D world,” Smith said. 


Art and Design professor Thad Duhigg said the International Sculpture Center puts out a call to universities every year to nominate up to three students. He said he has had Smith in multiple classes and thought his sculpture, Guise, was worthy of the Outstanding Student Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award. 


“He’s really involved and he's very much about taking risks and chances,” Duhigg said. “He's very deserving of the award.”


Smith said he was inspired to create Guise after finding an image online of a neighborhood that had recently been flooded, with only a single swimming pool untouched by the disaster. 


“I think, when we hear a lot about global warming or climate change, it’s very devastating to hear, but when I saw that image for the first time, I just kind of laughed at myself because of the absurdity of that kind of scene,” Smith said. 


Smith said the image got him thinking about privilege in society and the benefit to live in places where people aren’t affected as those who have less. 

“I use my sculpture skills to create a sort of pedestal using 3D printing and other building techniques,” Smith said. “Then, I use projection to create this sort of uncanny video piece that combines with sculpture.”


Smith said he likes to immerse the viewer in the works that he makes and it's exciting when they’re able to interact with his art. 


Duhigg said many art students learn to talk, think and be self-critical of their work. He said Smith shows these skills in his own work. 


“I think there's a lot of information and a lot of rich ideas in Evan’s work and I think that came through to the judges,” Duhigg said. “I think that was a huge part of it.”


Smith is the third SIUE student in a row to earn the Outstanding Student Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award, following Abbi Ruppert in 2020 and Allena Marie Brazier in 2021. 


“It's just a super kind of fun moment and it really is a big moment for the sculpture program because this is the third year in a row that we've gotten it,” Smith said. “It's a really cool moment for me, but also a cool moment for Thad, who's worked really hard with the students and the other students that have received it as well.”


Duhigg said he is pleased to have students win the award for three years in a row, especially since SIUE is a smaller school compared to other universities in the competition. 


Duhigg said what makes Guise stand out the most is its thought-provoking topic. 


“It's beautiful to look at, but it's very eye opening in the sense of the topic that he's talking about,” Duhigg said. “It’s a really powerful piece.”


Smith said he found out he won while visiting Wonderspaces, an interactive art museum in Philadelphia. He said in the middle of the exhibit, he received the email informing him that he would be one of the 13 recipients of the Outstanding Student Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award. 


“It's just kind of like pinching myself and I’m super thankful to the department, obviously, but also to the jurors,” Smith said. “They were able to see the work and, you know, make that decision.”

For more information on Evan Smith’s artworks, visit his website.

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