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National Ceramic Exhibition at USF

By Dan Swartz

Fort Wayne Reader


The University of Saint Francis' School of Creative Arts (SOCA) has been a consistent patron of ceramic art. Regularly adding pieces to its permanent collection, organizing excellent far ranging exhibitions, and keeping a generous studio area and programming associated with ceramics has made SOCA a contender in the competitive world of university level fine arts programs. Recently, with the inclusion of renowned ceramicist Scott Ziegler to SOCA's faculty, the school became even more of a contender. This has led to the creation of the "National Ceramic Invitational," a exhibition currently on view in SOCA's Weatherhead Gallery.

The "National Ceramic Invitational" is a large and dense exhibition of more than 45 ceramic artists from 24 states, representing a wide variety of genres and techniques, but focusing a great deal on the figurative and abstract sculptural aspects of ceramics. The beauty of this exhibition, from a curatorial standpoint, is the way in which it bluntly confirms ceramics’ ability to act as both art and object, and its unique history giving it an extra boost up into the conceptual realm of true fine art. Because of the gravity of the materials, it effortlessly exerts its presence, be it in the form of teacup or a miniature figurine or a large slab. And because of its uniquely human tactility, the viewer is able to understand its construction and perceive at least some of the time and effort taken to create the final product before them. And finally, because of this history, mythology, and contemporary unfamiliarity with it, ceramic work seems to easily transition into a sacramental object far easier than other matter.

The artists in this exhibition are a creme de la creme in art world standards. Many of the artists in the exhibition have several large solo exhibitions under their belts like Rebekah Bogard, and have shown in Chicago's SOFA exhibition, an internationally competitive spectacle of talent and creativity, like Erin Furimsky. Other artists featured in this exhibition include Thaddeus Erdahl; Dan Anderson; Tom Bartel; James Tisdale; Andy Sloan; Richard Notkin; Ted Neal; Petra Kralichova; Val Cushing; Jennifer McCurdy; Julia Galloway; and Tyler Lotz.

There are a few extremely intriguing and inspiring works in SOCA's "National Ceramic Invitational" like Erin Furimsky's two-part "Reservoir," a deceptively subtle piece of ceramic sculpture which is affixed to the wall. "Reservoir"s two pieces, stacked atop one another, create an approximately uterine/ovarian or pelvic shape, and the immensely detailed "interior" of the forms contrasts with the bare "exterior," further evoking a bodily feeling. These abstracted recognitions, combined with the awe of the tiny dot pattern at the top of the piece and exquisite faux fine china painting detailing of the interior and the top of the hanging piece, places "Reservoir" in its own identifiable space as a beautiful other, slightly outside the realms of traditional fine art and function.

On the other hand, Petra Kralickova's pieces "Chill" and "To Resist-To Endure" are far more recognizable and definable figurative sculpture. Kralickova's genius is in the way she turns hardened stone ceramic into supple flesh, and intimately tinges its toes and fingers, drawing an even clearer focus to her complete mastery of the techniques involved in sculptural ceramics. Kralickova's work is usually less figurative, and so these examples, being so figurative and so imitatively emotive through human gesture, make them somehow more poignant.

And finally, unlike Furimsky's cool and conceptual objects or Kralickova's pure, moving figures, Thaddeus Erdahl and his large sculptural piece "Compensation #1" adds the perfect amount of dry humor to such an amazing exhibition. Erdahl uses a barrage of media (ceramic, slip, engobe, glaze, wax, and wood) and techniques to create one of the most complex and lifelike figures in "National Ceramic Invitational." "Compensation #1" is a surreal construction of a figurative bust, cut off at the clavicle and shoulders, supported by an extremely convincing faux wood ceramic box, wearing an exaggerated phallic "nose" which is then suspended by an actual wooden crutch approximately 2-3ft away from the bust. Erdahl's somewhat irreverent humor is balanced effectively by his incredible glazing and slip manipulation. Using a technique known as Sgraffito, Erdahl is able to create incredibly delicate lines on the face of the bust, including lines under the eyes which give this character an incredible life.

The "National Ceramic Invitational" exhibition proves to be one of SOCA's finest in some time. This exhibition, like Artlink's Annual National Print exhibition, both show that Fort Wayne creates an unbelievable amount of quality art for its size and the history of its art scene, but also has a growing number of superb venues, curators, and exhibitions which showcase national trends. Better yet, these exhibitions local artists the opportunity to learn and potentially boosts their own exhibition record.

The University of Saint Francis, School of Creative Arts Presents:
" National Ceramic Invitation "
November 6, 2010 – January 7, 2011
The gallery will be closed from Thursday, Dec. 23 – Sunday, Jan. 2 for Christmas Holiday

State of the Arts: Last issue, FWR had an article about Arts United’s imminent acquisition of the Fourht Wave building on Main street, across from the Fort Wayne Museum of Art. As many of you probably know by now, the purchase was finalized right before Thanksgiving. This is a ver exciting time for the arts in Fort Wayne. The acquisition of this building, and the continued expansion and creation of the Arts Campus which was first designed and sought after decades ago, will add an incredible boost to Fort Wayne's art scene, downtown development, and the eventual creation of a true art market. This should be the incentive needed for any and all artists in ear shot to get excited, make more work, and identify yourself as a Fort Wayne artist.

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