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”
Start with a science lab. Add one chemistry professor with self-described “wacky interests.” Introduce a visual and verbal art major with a passion for photography and painting. Mix together a variety of chemistry experiments and have the student capture them on camera or canvas. What do you get?
The Art of Chemistry, an exploration into the beauty and form caused by a variety of chemical reactions.
Student photographer Kat Andonucci completed a year-long independent study under the guidance of Dr. Andrew Robak, associate professor of chemistry. With Robak casting the vision and directing her in each experiment, Andonucci crafted the compositions, often using a tripod, a remote shutter and a long exposure to create the images.
“We wanted to treat it as a course, the chemistry of things that are neat to look at, to have a clue what they were,” Robak said, pointing out how many science textbooks use photography to illustrate experiments. The two received a $500 grant from Keuka College’s Division of Academic Affairs to help cover costs of printing and framing the images.
When Robak went in search of a student who could help illustrate experiments that would show “the fun side of chemistry,” he contacted Melissa Newcomb, assistant professor of art. Newcomb referred him to Andonucci, sparking the creative collaboration.
“I’ve always been interested in chemistry as art or science as art. You can see from the pictures that a lot of stuff I work with is really cool,” said Robak, who holds a Ph.D. in organic chemistry. He rattled off a variety of compounds, from mercury, with its shiny metallic texture that is “really fun to play with,” to flourescein, which turns neon-green when in contact with water, to glycerol, which refracts light in a way that seems to make objects submersed in it disappear.
Andonucci had to be sure to take several shots of each experiment, capturing images on camera as experiments were conducted several times in a row. She brought fellow visual and verbal art major Erik Holmes ’13 into the process, putting him to work as a hand model in some of the images.
Robak managed to convince Holmes to paint a graffiti mural on a concrete wall. The mural illustrated the chemical structure of concrete itself, and gave Robak an idea for a second creative collaboration with Andonucci. The two teamed up again on a project to create the letter code of select elements of the Periodic Table with paint created from each of the scientific elements themselves. Another Academic Excellence Initiatives grant funded this second project.
According to Robak, all of the pigments Andonucci used to paint the periodic table symbols contain the elements.
Using stand-alone 12×12 canvas squares painted with each element, Andonucci arranged them to hang so that some of the squares appear to be raised and some depressed, creating a more dynamic artwork. As such, the oversize work, she described as “an abstract kind of 3-D Periodic Table” could serve as a permanent reference source in a classroom or lab. In fact, the piece served as the backdrop for a National Pi Day event. Meanwhile, several of Andonucci’s images are now gracing the walls within the science center as permanent installations.
“I’ve got too many ideas and not enough artists,” Robak said. “I’m totally looking for more people to rope into these kinds of things.”
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…)
If members of Keuka’s Class of 2013 are looking for inspiration as they enter the job market, they should check out Stephanie Lange, who was in their shoes just a year ago.
In her time at Keuka, Lange ’12 of Apalachin made quite a mark. While completing a double major in visual and verbal art and organizational communication, Lange helped found and lead an intellectual exploration group known as Tabula Rasa, worked as the graphic designer for the student newspaper, and completed a bronze sculpture installation of a red-tailed hawk as her senior art project.
Now she’s venturing into new ground in the arts, and landed what she calls her “dream job.”
In late January, Lange started work as the program coordinator for the Schweinfurth Arts Center in Auburn. She is now directing a two-week annual conference, “Quilting by the Lake,” for the non-profit in addition to helping promote the Arts Center’s five annual exhibits, communicating with corporate sponsors, and producing and designing the center’s newsletters and other marketing materials.
The annual quilt show convention, held each July on the campus of Onondaga Community College near Syracuse, features more than 30 quilting-related classes and lectures, a quilt show and specialty vendors. According to Lange, while traditional quilting styles and methods are featured, there is a focus on modern quilting techniques involving painting on the fabric and elements of geometry, all of which creates an artistic quality.
“It’s not like something my grandma does,” Lange said. “The precision required for quilting is difficult to master.”
Like others, Lange had been forewarned to expect great challenge finding a salaried, full-time position in the arts field and said that awareness had her raving to her family that this opportunity was amazing. Not only does she help stage exhibits – some in the same measurements she learned as a student assisting with shows in Keuka’s Lightner Gallery – but she can participate in art classes hosted by the Center, as well as meet artists and local residents through Schweinfurth’s special events. (more…)
A trio of seniors are presenting their final art projects – a closer look at their personal journeys – in an exhibit on display April 29-May 24 at Keuka College’s Lightner Gallery.
The Senior Art Show showcases the talents of Erik Holmes of Penn Yan, Courtney French (Massena), and Erica Ruscio (Middlesex). An artists’ reception will be held from 4:30-6 p.m. Tuesday, April 30 at the gallery in Lightner Library. Light refreshments will be served and the event is free and open to the public. The exhibit runs through May 24.The gallery is open during Lightner Library hours, whichcan be found online at: http://lightner.keuka.edu.
According to Melissa Newcomb, assistant professor of art and adviser to the student artists, each one had to prepare an artist’s statement, along with a “thesis” of sorts, representing the culmination of work produced over their time as a student. Throughout this semester, they met weekly for senior art seminar, she said, and from those talks, a group consensus emerged: everybody’s grown.
This group has some of the strongest raw talent of students Newcomb has mentored during her four years at Keuka, she said.
According to Ruscio, the trio named the exhibit “EXPEERIENCE” because it’s “all about our experiences and we hope that people can see that by peering a little closer.”
“There are also a lot of eyes and faces, so we just thought it was a catchy title,” Ruscio added. (more…)