McKendree Student Artists' Work Chosen for Varsity XXV

Art Saint Louis Exhibit Opens March 5 

(LEBANON, Ill., February 12, 2021) — Creative works by two McKendree University senior art majors will be part of the 25th annual Art Saint Louis invitational Varsity Art exhibition. 

Varsity Art XXV will displayed from March 5 to April 1 at the Art Saint Louis Gallery, 1223 Pine St., in downtown St. Louis. Shakayla Clark and Summer Brooks are among the 44 outstanding undergraduate and graduate-level art students representing 22 St. Louis regional colleges and universities in Missouri and Illinois.  

The multi-media exhibit includes a variety of media such as ceramics, digital imaging, drawing, graphic design, mixed media, painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture and video/time-based media.  

Clark will exhibit “Obsidian Loa,” inspired by the principles, ideals and themes of Hoodoo. Hoodoo blends the spiritual practices, traditions, and beliefs created by African slaves in North America. 

“I merged them with modern day occurrences, issues, and overall life within Black Americans’ communities,” said Clark, of Belleville, Ill. “I see Hoodoo as being one of the religions Black people were forced to give up or abandon during the transatlantic slave trade, along with other elements of cultural significance, such as names, attire and stories. Hoodoo is a system connected with nature and a strong love and respect for family. These are a few of the principles I draw from when creating my work.” 

She explained that Haitian slaves would hide or merge images of their original gods with saints and other important figures found within Christianity in order to worship in peace. Clark hid an image of a deity among lavenders to illustrate a connection with nature and ourselves. 

“I feel like we lost touch with nature and a sense of individuality as people,” she said. “Being Black has always been defined as being in opposition to being white. I want us to look at ourselves outside of the white gaze and its influences.” 

Brooks’ mixed media work, titled “Crown,” was created using spray foam, ceramic, resin, wax gold leaf. “I was inspired by the political nature behind Black women’s hair,” said the honors program student from O’Fallon, Ill. “Our hair can often be seen as a topic for debate. Either it’s too wild or doesn’t fit the western beauty standards. I want to emphasize the beauty of our hair through my work, which is what ‘Crown’ does.” 

Her figures embrace their natural hair, from Afros to dreadlocks. The dark glazes and paints she uses express the beauty and history of dark skin and mimic historical figures cast in bronze. “Beauty standards should not reflect one set of standards,” she wrote in her artist’s statement. “My figures reflect on the burden of beauty while giving hope to a new standard that is inclusive.” 

Brooks was selected recently for a Multicultural Fellowship sponsored by the National Council for Education in the Ceramic Arts. The fellowship provides opportunities for her to attend the 2021 conference and supports her research interests. 

Admission to the Art Saint Louis gallery is free and open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., and on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Varsity Art XXV will also be displayed on the Art St. Louis Facebook page and in a virtual gallery beginning on March 5. 




“Obsidian Loa” artwork by Shakayla Clark

“Obsidian Loa” by Shakayla Clark 


“Crown” by Summer Brooks 

“Crown” by Summer Brooks 


McKendree University art major Shakayla Clark, of Belleville

McKendree University art major Shakayla Clark, of Belleville