College as Muse: Alum’s Painting Captures the Joy of Community

Eliz Kirkland Sickles ’88 and Sarah C.B. Guthrie ’90

Eliz Kirkland Sickles ’88 and Sarah C.B. Guthrie ’90

When Sarah C.B. Guthrie ’90 painted Alenda Lux Ubi Orta Libertas, she didn’t expect the piece to be displayed in the heart of campus. Thanks to the generosity of Eliz Kirkland Sickles ’88, the painting is now installed in the E.H. Little Library.

In 2017, amidst a tumultuous political and cultural climate, Guthrie set out to explore joy through her art. She began by asking people what colors brought them joy, then capturing those feelings through abstract paintings.

As she thought about her own joy, Guthrie kept returning to her time on campus and to the Davidson community she’s continued to build since graduating. 

“I couldn’t stop hearing this Davidson whisper,” she said. “I knew there was something to say about this place through paint and color.”

Figuring out how to capture that joy took time and experimentation. When Davidson’s signature red and black felt too harsh on their own, she added layers of hot pink, silver and gray. The final result? Myriad colors and dimensions Guthrie hopes will reflect the intricacies of the community itself. 

a red and black abstract artwork hanging on library wall

The colorful painting graces the walls of E.H. Little Library.

Still Building Community

Although Guthrie and Sickles attended Davidson at the same time, they didn’t meet until finding each other through Facebook a few years ago. Like many friends brought together by the Davidson network, they’ve stayed in touch ever since. 

“Color and emotions draw me into Sarah's art,” Sickles said. “Since she works in the abstract, I am delighted when her intent is what I experience. I hope that those who view her Davidson-centric piece see the community, the growth, the inclusion that I see.”

Sickles admits she thought about keeping the piece for herself but ultimately believed it belonged on campus. She and Guthrie, both English majors, spent a lot of time in the E.H. Little Library as students and felt it was the perfect location—a hub of collaboration where students, faculty, staff and community members could enjoy the piece.

Seeing it on the wall for the first time, Sickles said they both got teary-eyed.

“It’s beautiful to me that I’m still building community at Davidson this many years after graduating,” Guthrie said. “I’ve been really proud of how Davidson has risen to meet the world where it is, and how it's evolving.” 

Katie and Stan Humphries, both 1990 alums, first connected with Guthrie at their 25th class reunion. Guthrie had recently moved to Seattle and was in the process of growing her art business, and after spending some time together, the Humphries commissioned a painting for their home in the mountains of Washington. 

“We had three or four meetings, and she helped us figure out exactly what it should look like,” said Katie Humphries. “She was so thoughtful, warm and accessible. We really got to create the piece together.”

The painting, an abstract rendition of the blues, greens and yellows of the surrounding landscape, hangs on a rock wall just inside the front door, making it the focal point of their home. 

Commissioned Art by Guthrie in Washington Home

Guthrie met with the Humphries to craft a commissioned piece that would be just right for their home in Suncadia, Washington.

Guthrie’s work continues to evolve. While on campus earlier this month for the dedication of Alenda Lux Ubi Orta Libertas, she had the opportunity to speak with junior and senior studio art majors. She offered them the advice she needed as a young artist—that it’s okay to take time, be messy and try new things as you grow your artist practice and business. 

“My earliest and most ardent supporters came from the Davidson community, and I’m so grateful for them,” Guthrie said. “I hope people will bring themselves and their own meaning to my painting, now that it’s in such a public place. I hope they can find their own joy in it."