Gay Schempp, On the Threshold from Despair to Hope

The Collection and The Human Journey

What Does It Mean to Lead a Life of Meaning and Purpose?



Gay Schempp, On the Threshold from Despair to Hope
Gift of the Artist
(SC Hallway, near the registrar’s window)

Gay Schempp was enjoying a highly gratifying and successful career as an art potter when a horrific car accident broke her neck and changed her life. Over the course of her long and painful recovery, Schempp lost her pottery business that had employed 6 people in addition to herself. Then her husband left, her youngest daughter ran away and in the financial turmoil that followed the failure of her business, she faced foreclosure on her home. As she recalls, “I lost everything – my identity as a wife, as a mother and as a professional.” When her doctors told her that she could either give up pottery or risk a surgery that could result in paralysis, Schempp made the difficult decision to put her 25-year career as a potter behind her and start over. She resolved to go back to school for her MFA and it was while she was attending The Rhode Island School of Design that she made the monoprint now in Sacred Heart’s Collection.

As suggested by its title, On the Threshold from Despair to Hope marks a crucial crossroad in Schempp’s journey. At the top of the composition, we see her armless, faceless self standing small and powerless in a doorway. Yet the shadow she projects is extraordinarily vibrant, much larger than the original with arms flung exuberantly over her head. Schempp remembers feeling somewhat conflicted on that figurative threshold, sensing both danger and opportunity in being there. Nevertheless, as seen in this powerful image of projected potential, her faith in her future proved much stronger than her self-doubt and she has gone on to a fulfilling second career as an art teacher and painter.

Anne Bolin, Ph.D.
Department of Graphic Design & Visual Arts