What comes to mind when you think about ceramics? Bowls and vases? Perhaps a small clay statue? Well then you wouldn’t be thinking hard enough. The Clay Studio’s current show is the Ninth Annual Marge Brown Kalodner Graduate Student Exhibition, and it showcases some of the finest clay and ceramic art from graduate students around the country.
One of the most noticeable aspects of the exhibition is the conceptual nature of the work. Many of the pieces are complex sculptures that far outweigh the medium that they were created in. With nearly twenty artists on display, some of the show verges on a more traditional path with vessels like cups and pitchers, but it is definitely worth focusing on the more experimental creations in the exhibition.
Two urns by Deric Ence straddle the line between what one would expect in a ceramic show and the realm of conceptual art. One is entitled “Stripper Urn” and the other “King Kong Urn”. Both are small, darkly colored jars with handles. The creation of urns to hold ashes of the deceased is an ancient tradition and surely among the older uses of ceramics. Here, Ence turns the idea on its head by creating a resting place for an anonymous pole dancer instead of a specific loved one. He questions the social attitude towards strippers and other often-degraded workers by only referencing the individual’s job instead of their name. While many people get their pets cremated and placed into urns, the final resting place for King Kong is amusing because of his fictional existence. Even if the giant gorilla had been real, he was hated and misunderstood, which would have hardly warranted any sort of proper burial.
Kevin Rohde also has a pair of sculptures that in many ways completely blow typical earthenware out of the water. His figurative statues are highly realistic and extremely detailed. They are covered in bold polychrome paint, in realistic colors which make them appear as actual miniature human beings. They are stunning representations, and their eyes are lifelike and haunting. Both figures are in mid-action, adding to their realness. One is holding a piece of chalk or pastel, apparently drawing or sketching some type of artwork, and the green hue of the pigment has begun to overtake her body from bottom up. The other is unfurling a roll of orange fabric, which has bisected her body with a similar line.
The most monumental construction in the show is absolutely “Frame” by Margaret Dubler. It is a massive ceramic lattice capable of standing by itself. While architecture may be the farthest thing from one’s mind when considering clay, Dubler proves it is entirely possible. The piece is a stunning, rectangular pair of hollow walls, complete with a window opening and doorway. The entire structure is white, implying a pristine nature, as well as bestowing on it an unfinished, work-in-progress feel. Frame is held together with zip ties, which are barely noticeable against the pale ceramic framework.
Also represented in the show is work by Jackie Laurita, which resembles some type of garment or jewelry. Her tiny pieces of porcelain strung together with silk seem as if they could be part of some ancient Egyptian pharaoh’s ceremonial garb. The brightly colored “Rainbow” is quite eye-catching and demands a close inspection. At a distance, its bristled bottom and tiny pieces make it seem more like a tapestry than anything.
There is plenty more to feast your eyes on in the Ninth Annual Marge Brown Kalodner Graduate Student Exhibition. Made from the very earth we inhabit, there are textures, colors, and exquisite sculptures galore. Just don’t expect any run-of-the-mill pottery. The exhibition will be up through August 12.