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Georgia Southern art student exploring relationship between people, objects in senior exhibition

 A laptop, makeup and coffee are examples of some of the items submitted for the senior art exhibition "Good Without." Inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic, senior art student Lann Le asks the question "What could you live without?"
A laptop, makeup and coffee are examples of some of the items submitted for the senior art exhibition “Good Without.” Inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic, senior art student Lann Le asks the question “What could you live without?”

Lann Le, a senior in the Betty Foy Sanders Department of Art at Georgia Southern University, is drawing inspiration from public response to the COVID-19 pandemic for her senior thesis exhibition, “Good Without.” The interactive exhibition will explore what items people can live without, a choice many people have had to make due to the pandemic.

On Oct. 20th, a panel discussion related to the project took place over Zoom, featuring Professor of Art Rachel Green, Associate Professor of Education Katie Brkich, Ph.D., and Professor of Economics Richard McGrath, Ph.D. Audio from the discussion will be recorded and played throughout the exhibition.

Le said she got the idea for the exhibition after seeing how society reacted to COVID-19 at the beginning of the pandemic in the U.S.

“In March, I was told to stock up all necessities and saw shelves being emptied in hours,” she said. “I heard stories of struggles and issues associated with stores being closed, businesses paused, unemployment, stress, food shortage and boredom to name a few. I also saw some drop-off items at donation centers and also more online shopping. Here I question what we need and what we’re conditioned to need.”

After getting approval from her professor, Bridget Conn, MFA, Le wanted to showcase items people believe they can live without. She approached students, professors and strangers on the internet and in person to ask what their choices would be. She also made a website and Instagram account to keep a log of images of the items. Both will continue to be updated until next August.

Le’s exhibition, which will run from Nov. 9 to Dec. 4 in the Fine Arts Gallery on the Armstrong Campus, will feature physical items, photographs, audio and collages installed in an interactive environment.

“Lann’s project is unique in that she is really embracing the practices of conceptual and interactive art,” Conn said. “This means that unlike traditional art media, where the artist is in control of making their own paintings or sculptures or the like, she is inviting strangers to direct the project by asking them to submit photographs or items that they have learned they are good without.”

Le said while the COVID-19 pandemic has shaped her exhibition, it has also made it much harder to create, as well as conduct her everyday life as a student.

“I very much miss working with professors and friends physically in the studios,” she said. “For this project specifically, before COVID I would be approaching everyone in person, but instead it’s online; now there’s a recorded artist talk instead of a reception; an empty gallery expected instead of visitors. COVID-19 itself brings more interesting questions, observations, realizations and inspirations for me.”

One of the main topics discussed during the panel discussion was the permanence of material. Green said because art becomes a physical representation of ideas of its community, people can discover common values and shared experiences while viewing. She said art can provide a sense of control during uncertainties like the pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted our usual way of doing things, requiring new ways of thinking and resilience,” Green said. “A creative practice restores a measure of control over the environment, allowing the practitioner the ability to create what they cannot have or do.”

Le wants “Good Without” to be as interactive as possible. She said she wants people to be introspective and social about how the exhibition made them think and feel.

“I hope someone will answer the question and share their thoughts and story with somebody,” Le said. “I think their thoughts are more relevant to their life than that of anyone else. The process and the people who supported this project have taught me many valuable lessons that I would not otherwise have encountered.”

The exhibition will run alongside the work of four other seniors in a larger exhibition, titled “Meraki.”


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