On Tuesday, Sept. 20, the Thorne Sagendorph Art Gallery at Keene State College held a gallery walk through, featuring ceramic pieces that are highly regarded in the field.
KSC sophomore and gallery desk attendant Peter Powers said about 20 to 30 people attended the event and were very excited for the showing.
“I think everybody was pretty excited for this walkthrough,” Powers said. He continued,
“There’s a lot of interesting pieces of art, some of them are a little more different than what is normally perceived as normal and mainstream. I’d say it was probably pretty well received.”
The gallery featured appearances by consultant for the Graduate School of Art and Design at Harvard University Kathy King and distinguished Harvard University ceramics instructor Mark Burns.
Burns and King viewed the artwork featured at the showing while leading conversational groups after the walkthrough where they provided professional feedback on how each piece was designed and the subject matter they led themselves to.
Director of the Thorne Sagendorph Art Gallery Brian Wallace said the gallery intends on having more established and knowledgeable artists like Burns and King at the gallery in hopes of attracting both students and faculty members.
“One of the things we’re doing here is we’re trying to have artists here more often,” Wallace said. “This is a trend at museums and galleries. It’s another kind of point of entry for people… Having Mark and Kathy here to give some perspective on this ceramic show seemed like a really good idea.”
In terms of turnout, Wallace said there were more faculty members present at the event than students, which he found disappointing.
The gallery itself is trying to attract more students and faculty members by offering not only more established artists, like Burns and King, but also food, drinks and even live music performances from bands and DJ’s. Wallace also mentioned that he wants to offer more out-of-the-box offerings to gallery attendants to avoid the cliche of wine and cheese at an art showing.
“Were also trying, working within the budget and other limitations we have, to try to do food and drink that aren’t the standard,” Wallace said. “I’d rather have something that’s interesting, a little bit different, something I wouldn’t have at home, something to talk about if your words run out in front of the art.”
With such dynamic art work on display, Wallace and others discussed some issues with the artwork that may come across as controversial to its audience before the show.
Wallace said, “We were a little concerned. There is some challenging content. There is some naked bodies and some other challenging subject matter in the show that Kathy and Mark were here to talk about. So far, no complaints about that, so we’ll have to see what happens. Shows have been open since the 27th of August and gone through October 20.”
When asked what the “challenging content” could have been, Wallace pointed to a piece by Tip Toland, entitled “Avadhut” from 2010 which was made with stoneware and gold leaf. The piece itself is a life sized clay figure of a naked man coated in gold. The figure is lying down with its arms and legs in the air with a facial expression that Wallace said looked like a “grimace, like something really terrible has happened and the figure is rearing or falling back.”
Wallace added, “I’d have to put myself in someone else’s shoes to understand how that could possibly be offensive, but I have to accept that there’s a possibility that the depiction of [a] nude figure could offend someone. Has that happened? No.”
The piece by Toland was one figure in addition to Arthur Gonzalez’s “What tool must I use to separate the earth from sky,” from the series “Cadence of stupidity” (2003), and Sergei Isupov’s “Fear Has Big Eyes” (2013). King said she found these pieces particularly intriguing as a solid learning point for the group of attendants to witness.
King said, “I was addressing an example of using one type of art-making regarding the figure, and I had brought the group over to the Tip Toland gold piece on the floor… Although all three of those artists are working with a figure, their use of the material is so incredibly different from the hyper realistic to the more gestural, and I had just noted that as how remarkable it is to use the same material essentially, but have three very different styles and aesthetics resulting from the same material.”
With the showing featuring singularly ceramics, King pointed out that in her experience it is rare to see not only the high quality work at a college art show, but a show that features one type of art.
“I think it was fantastic that the school gallery was going to host a show that was entirely based off of contemporary ceramics,” King said. “It’s not often that we have shows that are only one medium, so that was really nice to expose students to all the different ways of working with ceramics, and all of the different types of voices that can be spoken through it. That was very notable…many of the masters of our field were being shown there, so I think that they were showing the very best. It was a very high level of work there for the type of show it was – the best of the best as it were.”
Not only did the ceramic art work make an impression on King, she also said she enjoyed the work from the SeattleHavana-Tehran Poster Exhibition, which is displayed beside the ceramics pieces. The exhibition features over 60 recent contemporary arts and culture-related posters that will be displayed in the Thorne-Sagendorph Art Gallery from now until December 4.
According to the Thorne-Sagendorph Art Gallery website, the poster’s subject matter surveys contain contemporary popular culture and cutting-edge design from the U.S., Cuba and Iran and seek to unite three politically and geographically disparate cities through the arts, as well as spark a lively exchange of ideas and images.
King said that, “For a school or university…to go to a school gallery where they focus on one medium and the craft around it, I think of going to that fantastic poster show next door too was quite complimentary because we were still working with one medium, but then you were just overwhelmed with all of the different voices that were coming out of it so I thought that was a really nice compliment to the ceramics show.”
The Thorne-Sagendorph Art Gallery will be holding a tiling art work shop on October first.
Nick Tocco can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org