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ArtPrize artist makes work to symbolize redemption

Mayo standing in front of her piece "Kaphar."

Mycah Roark – Collegiate Staff

Kaphar (pronounced kä-far) is a Greek word meaning “to cover, purge, make an atonement, make reconciliation.” It’s also the name of Emily Mayo’s ArtPrize entry at the Grand Rapids Art Museum.

In the center of the room is her main piece, burnt wood in the shape of stairs, Mayo’s redemption. She describes the piece as a representation of modern day churches and the stairs that lead to their altars/stage. Redemption, the act of being saved. Redemption means something to everyone, a cross, freedom from a bad relationship, or a set of stairs.

“[The stairs is where] I really experienced as a space of much redemption in my life through prayer,” Mayo said.  

“Kaphar” was taken from an arson home in Flint, Michigan. Mayo grew up in Flint, and attend a church there through her childhood.

“I wanted my materials to actually represent something more than graphite and chalk. I wanted my medium to carry weight, and so in experiencing my childhood neighborhood again, and the jarring experience that was, the wood of the burnt down homes really spoke to me.”

Along with her burnt wood stairs, Mayo also added two graphite on paper drawings.

Mayo draws inspiration from her parents. From a very young age, they encouraged her to do and be what she wanted, no matter how crazy her ideas may have been. They lived to serve others, and that inspired Mayo to have what she does mean something now and when she’s gone.

To see more of Mayo’s work, visit her website.