Ceramics exhibits shows the creation of art from start to finish

By Molly Bello

Comment Columnist

Ceramic exhibits showed artists’ creative processes. Photo courtesy of Jay Block.
Ceramic exhibits showed artists’ creative processes. Photo courtesy of Jay Block.


We don’t always want to travel to an art museum to see a new exhibit, or pay money to see artwork for a couple hours. At Bridgewater State University, the art is brought to us. The Maxwell Library itself is home to the exhibit Drawn, Drawing.


“The Maxwell Library is a wonderful space to intermingle art with research,” professor and curator Rose Esson-Dawson said.  “I spoke with Mike Somers prior to developing this show. Mr. Somers was very enthusiastic about the idea behind the show. Research is not unusual for artist. In fact, research is critical for art to develop into a fully fleshed out piece.”


This exhibit is part of the National Council on Education of the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) conference, a group of many ceramics exhibits


Drawn, Drawing is a look into the artists’ creative process. We see the initial sketches through to the final ceramics piece.


“It is a rare opportunity to get inside an artist’s thought process,” Esson-Dawson said. “Preliminary sketches and changes are rarely presented to the public. I wanted students to have the opportunity to see many different ways artists in the professional world approach developing a body of work.”


Seeing early sketches show us that ceramics artists draw too, and that every piece starts with a blank piece of paper, and goes through many edits and changes.


“I was looking for artists who strongly lean on drawings in their process, either as preliminary or as surface treatment,” Esson-Dawson said.


We see in this exhibit how much of a process creating artwork is, and can appreciate all the hard work that goes into each piece.


Professor Esson-Dawson was excited to curate this exhibit and carefully selected each artist to participate in the show.


“Chris Kelly’s wood fired form [is my favorite],” Esson-Dawson said. “I know Chris as an artist. I have traveled to Japan with him as well as Professor Preston Saunders. The knowledge and understanding about that aesthetic speaks to me.”


The exhibit was displayed on the second and third floors of the library and was taken down on April 10.


The Wallace Anderson Gallery has just welcomed Dialecticians, the second ceramics exhibit to hit BSU this semester. This exhibit is also part of the NCECA Conference.


“The Anderson Gallery is a great size space for a smaller exhibition,” Curator Bryan Hopkins  said. “The important thing to me in working in a smaller space is to make sure the work has room to breathe, and does not seem crowded. I think Jay Block did a great job installing the show.”


The show features work from Hopkins, and four other artists’ work in clay of their own choosing. Not your typical clay, however.


“The clay is not commercially available,” Hopkins said. “Each artist has gone through years of testing custom clay bodies to come to the conclusions seen in the Gallery.”


Similar to the Drawn, Drawing show, we get a glimpse of the process for the artwork created. There is a unique and lengthy process in choosing the medium here.


“The title, Dialecticians, refers to the Dialectic method of reasoning each artist has gone through in deciding on their specific clay body,” Hopkins said.


Hopkins recommends Debbie Segal’s work in the right side of the gallery. “They are a perfect combination of process, material, and concept,” Hopkins said.


The pendant lights in the gallery belong to Hopkins. He holds a unique perspective both curating the show and presenting his work.


“They are made with what I call low-fire porcelain,” Hopkins said of the lights.  “The clay is self-glazing, and single fired, as opposed to traditional clay that typically require 2 firings. Firing only once, and to that lower temperature, saves a significant amount of energy, thus reducing the environmental impact of my studio practice.”


Each artist uses a unique type of clay, and some of the artwork has a recycling element to it. We can see how each artist connects with their chosen clay and interprets it.


“There are no limits to what you can do in a specific media, “ Hopkins explains. “Once you have learned the rules of, say, ceramics, you are free to bend and break those rules. Finding the right material for your artistic expression might necessitate you inventing that material.”

Molly Bello is a Comment Columnist.

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