UA Sculptor Hopes Work Will Encourage Peace, Mindfulness

Molly Lay, “Be Present” (“Rest in Right Now”),  2021.

Graduate student in sculpture Molly Lay has been awarded a Small Grant by The Arts Council of Tuscaloosa for a Fellowship Project. Lay proposed to create a cast bronze public sculpture on the Riverwalk along the Black Warrior River in Tuscaloosa. The work will be of a pair of human feet placed together, with a message engraved below them: “Be at Peace.”

Molly Lay, “Be Present” (“Be Still”), 2021.

Lay created similar outdoor sculptures during the summer of 2021 and installed them around Woods Quad Sculpture Garden on UA campus this fall. Funded with a Levitetz “Community Work Grant” Seed Grant for student projects, Lay created five pairs of bronze feet, collectively known as “Be Present,” near benches where visitors often come to study, eat lunch or have some quiet time on campus. Lay hopes the new sculpture on the Riverwalk will also be near a bench, where a visitor might stop to rest and read the sculpture’s message.

Molly Lay, “Be Present” (“Take a Moment”), 2021.

Lay inscribed the four feet in the sculpture garden with similar messages: “Be Present,” Be Here,” Be Still,” “Rest in Right Now” and “Take a Moment.” The new work, like the pieces she made for the campus, convey Lay’s ideas about sculpture affecting the viewer’s experience. She said that she designed the sculptures “to create curiosity in viewers and to make them aware of their surroundings.” She hopes the image of the feet placed together along with the message will “[compel] viewers to be still in a chaotic culture and meditate on the present.” Visitors might also notice a little bronze cat at the west end of Woods Quad, perched quietly on a concrete base. This sculpture was designed and cast by Max Schaefer, a 2020 double major in biology and studio art, from Columbia, Missouri. Like cats everywhere, this one sits well with the meditative mood of the sculptures.

Lay has created sculptures in a variety of media, from cast bronze and aluminum, found object assemblages, large-scale hanging indoor installations, and impermanent natural materials like rocks, branches and leaves. She holds a graduate teaching assistantship and was recently awarded the Leslie and Francis Posey Foundation Graduate Art Scholarship, a competitive scholarship open to U.S. and international graduate students who are majoring in painting or sculpture.

Molly Lay, “Be Present” (“Be Here”), 2021.

Lay’s work was included in the fall 2021 UA Studio Graduate Student Show in the Sella-Granata Art Gallery in Woods Hall. She has held an internship at the Birmingham Museum of Art in Education and Community Engagement; worked as a curator for the Great Explorations Children’s Museum in Saint Petersburg, Fla.; and as summer art program coordinator at Brookwood Baptist Church in Birmingham. As a freelance artist, she created illustrations for advertisements and painted a mural in Kathmandu, Nepal, in 2018. Lay received the BA in studio art from Samford University and studied a semester at the Burren College of Art in Ballyvaughan, County Clare, Ireland.

For more information about The University of Alabama’s programs in studio art and art history, visit our Degree Programs page.