Faith Benedict was looking for a way to inspire the growing number of students in her ceramics class at Keuka College, and the result is a new exhibit: “Clay Connection,” featuring the work of eight regional potters and sculptors from Rochester to Syracuse.
Although most of the artists don’t personally know one another, they have in common a passion for creating art from the same original element: clay. And though each piece began in the same form—as a wet, misshapen lump—the variety of shapes, sizes, colors and uses of the pieces that result reflects the distinct styles and skills of each artist and further contrast just how dynamic clay itself can be.
The array of pieces now adorning new gallery space in Lightner Library even features a handful of collaborative works where two artists teamed together to display the contrast possible between large-scale pottery and small-scale sculpture. While Richard Aerni of Rochester fashioned the foundational jars or pedastals of each piece, Carolyn Dilcher-Stutz, also of Rochester, designed the intricate, hand-sized animals – birds, a deer – atop each one.
Nearby, other animals, particularly fish, serve as whimsical, cheery handles on several teapots crafted by John Smolenski of Skaneateles. The former Keuka College professor attended the School of American Craftsman at Rochester Institute of Technology, then served as artistic mentor to Benedict and other students during her undergraduate years before he went on to teach high school art in Skaneateles.
The “Clay Connection” exhibit also features the work of husband-and-wife artists Ann Bliss and Steve Pilcher of Butternut Pottery in Jamesville, N.Y., along with Peter Valenti, and David Webster, both of Skaneateles, and Peter Gerbic of Middlesex. Light refreshments will be served at the artists’ reception held from 4:30 – 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 4 at the gallery inside Lightner Library, with a brief artists talk from Smolenski on the craft, starting at 5 p.m. The reception is open to the public and the gallery is open daily during library hours.
According to Benedict, her personal connections with potters such as Smolenski led to new connections with additional potters and sculptors until she had gathered eight masters of the craft. The show includes artists using traditional methods of firing high-temperature stoneware, as well as some who use a single-firing technique.
Peter Gerbic of South Hill Pottery in Middlesex has been working with clay since 1964 when he first started at the American School of Craftsmen at RIT, where he trained under the tutelage of renowned sculptor Frans Wildenhain. While initially trained in functional pottery, Gerbic said, like his “master” Wildenhain, he eventually moved into sculpture, even murals, which retain the same, brick-colored hue as the earthenware in which he specializes. Even its name, terra cotta, correlates to its nature as “baked earth.”
“At the moment, I’m doing straight sculpture, which means lots of curves, at least the way I do it,” Gerbic said with a chuckle. “My emphasis is more on the sculptural elements – the bark on trees, the way sand or snow moves from the wind, human body forms, fruit forms, the way a stream is etched by the water, rocks that have been sandblasted, or water itself. I’m trying to create my own interpretation with the bedrock of Great Nature behind me.”
Gerbic’s works also include some ceremonial pieces, which he described as “my interpretation of Native forms and designs and representations that speak to larger dimension of our life.”
According to Benedict, seeing what other artists are doing, with the same material she works with, will inspire her, not only as a fellow craftsman, but as a teacher.
“It’s important for the students to understand that every one says something different with their work – what is your voice? We’re all on different paths and experience different things,” said Benedict, drawing a contrast between her own functional pottery –plates, bowls, mugs and such – and the bronze or clay sculptures for which her husband, Professor Emeritus of Art Dexter Benedict, is known.
“No two of us are the same,” she said. “When we’re talking about the connection at Keuka College, I think that’s what is exciting about an organization, where you have all this diversity, this common bond of wanting to learn. It’s our glue”
In the few months that Keuka College has boasted an expanded curriculum in its newest major, Art and Design, students have begun digging into new studio art and digital design courses. Now, they’re showcasing what they’ve learned.
Currently on display at Lightner Gallery in Lightner Library at the College through April 11, the student art show features a collection of digital illustration, mixed media and other designs from the new classes. These pieces are in addition to the photography, paintings, drawings, ceramics and sculptures created in existing classes.
“What you see when you walk into the space is the range and breadth of what the new art and design program offers,” said Melissa Newcomb, assistant professor of art.
On Thursday, March 20, from 4:30 – 6 p.m., an artists’ reception with light refreshments will be held at the gallery. All members of the campus community are invited to attend the event, which is free and open to the public. The work in this show has been crafted by freshmen, sophomores, and juniors as well as seniors whose major is not in art. Graduating seniors in the current program will exhibit their cumulative art portfolios later, in the final gallery show of the academic year.
“This year’s student show work is stellar,” said Winsome Zinkievich ‘14 of her fellow artists. “Though each piece is unique and tells its own story, each piece also compliments all the other works presented.”
Those distinct differences proved a bit perplexing however, when it came to handling logistics for the exhibit, Newcomb pointed out.
“The layout was a challenge because everyone has their own individual style. One piece is not like the next – so how do you create a sense of flow? But it came together with more than one set of eyes and it worked out wonderfully,” she said, crediting Zinkievich, Jesse Ninos ‘17 and Mitch Leet ‘16 for help crafting the overall design of the show.
This year’s show demonstrates the strength of the talent being developed at the College through the old and new programs, said Leet, who switched to the new art and design major this fall. Some of the additions to the curriculum include Foundations of Design, the prerequisite course in which students begin developing their art portfolios, Mixed Media, Visual Design, Digital Illustration and Digital Storytelling.
“I’m very excited about the future of art at Keuka and I feel very lucky to be part of such a fantastic show,” Leet said.
Abby Simmons loves the Finger Lakes. Perhaps that’s why its rolling hills, rural landscapes and colorful foliage feature prominently in her photography.
One night, heading to her parents’ farm in Bellona, Simmons crested a hill near Tomion’s Farm Market (off Route 14A) and noticed a tractor in a nearby cornfield. She pulled over and was absorbed in taking dozens of photos of the tractor’s silhouette against the setting sun, when her parents drove by. They stopped when they saw her wading through the field with her camera.
“They catch me doing that a lot,” Simmons said with a smile.
The tractor at sunset image and many others will be featured in the Lightner Gallery at Lightner Library at Keuka College Sept. 2 – Oct. 31. An artist’s reception will be held 4:30-6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 19, where light refreshments will be served. Gallery hours may be found online at lightner.keuka.edu.
This will be Simmons’ first solo show. Her work first caught the eye of Melissa Newcomb, assistant professor of art and curator of the gallery, during last winter’s staff and faculty art exhibit. Simmons has worked as a staff member for Keuka’s D.R.I.V.E program for the last year-and-a-half. (more…)
Keuka College has received approval from the New York State Department of Education to offer a major in art and design beginning in the fall 2013 semester.
The major is geared toward students interested in design, visual expression, and digital communication.
Keuka’s program provides “practical, career-entered advising and experiences” that a recent national report on education in the arts recommends, “including a first-year introduction to the principles and practices of building a professional portfolio and a stand-alone, upper-level seminar focused on “Art in the World,”’ said Doug Richards, professor of English and chair of the Division of Humanities and Fine Arts.
“While fostering creative development and personal expression, the major provides the skills and experiences essential for success in the field of design and visual communication. The program’s enhanced emphasis on digital media and graphic design will open up cutting edge opportunities for students as they transition to the workforce or advanced study,” said Richards.
Students may choose to pursue a stand-alone, core-major program in art and design, or an art and design major with any of the following concentrations: advertising/marketing, communication, digital graphic design, small business/entrepreneurship, studio art, theatre arts, and verbal arts.
“The new program has more of a design influence, and reflects that there is more interest in digital media,” said Melissa Newcomb, assistant professor of art. “However, students will not be limited to design, and will learn layout, digital publishing and how to build their portfolios.”
As the “artistic community” at Keuka grows, Newcomb believes there will be more opportunities for students to share their work on campus, build their portfolios, and enhance their marketable skills.
Added Newcomb: “Ever since I arrived at Keuka, I’ve had this big dream of where I want to take the art program. I feel very good about where it is going.”
To explore any of Keuka’s academic programs, request more information.
After almost two years of modern-day “pen pal” communication via Skype, a number of Keuka College education majors finally met – in person – the Slovakian high school students they previously saw on the computer screen.
This group Field Period included education majors, taught by Dr. Denise Love and Dr. Klaudia Lorinczova, both assistant professors of education, and other Keuka students, including several visual and verbal art majors taught by Melissa Newcomb, assistant professor of art. The Keuka Field Period is a required annual internship or exploratory study of 140 hours.
Seventeen students, two faculty members and two parent chaperones traveled overseas in early June to visit the cities of Prague, Nitra, Bratislava and Vienna. Over 11 days, Newcomb directed students in photographic study of architecture and culture while Lorinczova led an exploration of Slovakian education and other unique social, political and cultural traditions of her home country and its European neighbors. Students had already gone through weeks of “pre-teaching” in advance of the trip, learning from Lorinczova a number of cultural anomalies to expect and reviewing a manual on basic digital photography with Newcomb, as well as gaining a basic understanding of architectural styles such as Baroque, Gothic or Rococo.
A last-minute foot injury kept Love confined at home, but ultimately, she was able to coordinate from the couch, helping the two professors “on the ground” navigate unexpected challenges almost as soon as they cropped up. The first biggie: severe flooding in many portions of Prague – the first stop on the trip –shortly after the group arrived. Love offered advice and assistance with the travel agency as the group moved around Prague and then on to other cities, and communicated with Newcomb and Lorinczova via daily Skype sessions.
All three professors recommended “an anchor” back home, given the benefits gleaned in this experience. The three professors had previously structured the trip to include student reflections in words and images, utilizing online blogs as electronic journals. The blogs proved a saving grace for worried parents back home who heard news reports of the flooding much earlier than the students themselves. And while students did post a few photos of flooded streets and commentary on dealing with nonstop rains, images of cathedrals, statues, gardens, public squares, restaurants and cafes far outnumbered them.
In the words of Sarah Hillman ‘13, a final, rainy day in Prague was salvaged with a spur-of-the-moment museum tour, where the whole group saw “paintings, sculptures, and other works from Alfons Mucha and Salvador Dali. They were great!” (more…)