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.
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…)
Like many artists, Kurt Bownell has to balance the commercial with the personal.
The Victor resident is a commercial photographer with a Rochester studio and a client list that includes such corporations as Wegmans, Constellation Brands, Democrat and Chronicle, Unity Health and several universities. The clients commission Brownell for everything from beauty shots of growers, produce and culinary arts to corporate executives in their workplace environments.
His day job keeps him so busy that his personal photographic love – outdoor landscapes – often happens on the fly, such as when he snapped shots of the rolling hills of Cohocton on a pit stop as his family returned from a vacation.
Perhaps that’s why Brownell’s new exhibit at Keuka College, “Up Close and Far Away-Landscapes,” is such a treat for him. The exhibit runs through Jan. 4, with an artist reception Thursday, Nov. 29 from 4:30 – 6 p.m. at Lightner Gallery inside Lightner Library. The exhibit is open to the public; library hours vary and can be found online at: http://lightner.keuka.edu.
“This is what I like to do when I’m not being told what to photograph,” he said. “This is what I gravitate toward naturally. I can go without any agenda and shoot what I feel, what I like, what I find.”
Many of his images, which he refers to as “interpretive landscapes,” are “stitched” composites of 10-20 different shots, melded together to create one final, full panorama for the viewer.
As an artist for nearly 30 years, Debra Fisher shares stories – but she shares them in visual narratives, not necessarily written ones.
Among her many multimedia creations are trifold and quad-fold “books,” which can feature any number of colors, drawings, prints, and other artistic details inspired or culled from the pages of her life. Several of Fisher’s “books” and a massive installation work she calls The Waning October Moon are currently on display through Nov. 8 at Keuka College.
The title of the large work is also the title of the exhibit that is featured in the Lightner Gallery, housed in Lightner Library. An artist reception will be held Tuesday, Oct. 23, from 4:30- 6 p.m. Both the reception and exhibit are free and open to the public.
A few years ago, Fisher spent four months in the hospital, and it was not a pleasant experience.
“They poke and prod and pull you apart,” said the Spencerport resident who leveraged the experience and turned it into “The Predator Series,” a collection of prints of animals in attack mode. Each print features an inset of images from the classic cookbook “The Joy of Cooking,” which she considers humorous takes on Mother Nature and what people do for food sources.
“Man being preyed upon is the bottom line for that [work,] and myself – the object of investigation,” said Fisher, who has taught printmaking, multimedia and drawing for 13 years at SUNY Brockport. Other prints, drawings, and multimedia creations are also featured in the show.
It took two days for Fisher to complete the installation of her signature work in the gallery, and visitors will see a wash of antiqued yellow painted directly on the gallery walls, on which she has displayed three-dimensional objects, including 10 individual prints – of a boy, a boat, birds, and more. Each print was created when Fisher etched the selected work onto copper plates, then inked them. Prints were then mounted on wooden frames with hand-marbled paper around the edges, lacquered in a thin coat of beeswax.
Fisher calls herself a fan of the alternative print-making process. In addition to copper plating, she teaches gum prints, inking, and stamping. Stamps are part of the signature installation, and across the walls of the installation, visitors will see hand-stamped leaves and scarabs, the term for a dung beetle that some in the Egyptian culture believed offered good luck, or a sign of safe passage to the afterlife. Perhaps creating a feel as if entering a room, the installation also features a pair of women’s shoes from the 1940s rested atop a small ,three-dimensional staircase, mantel ledges mounted on the walls, and drapings of coffee-colored fabric swaths with prints of birds in flight.
“It’s déjà vu, the sense you’ve been somewhere before, lived this way, the ebb and flow of life situations and experiences you may have,” Fisher said, adding that even the imperfections of the gallery wall, with its nooks and crannies, fit the essence of her work.
Some of the images of the 10 prints contained within Fisher’s installation are replicas of idyllic landscape images from a print created between 1700 and 1800. Others have been culled from old books, perhaps those with engravings, or from nature. Another print, of a couple’s hands, was pulled from a famous work, “The Wedding,” by Jan Van Eyck, she said.
The Keuka exhibition is the second time Fisher has installed her signature work, and she enjoys discovering how it evolves each time it is recreated.
“The installation is ongoing … and I [already] have ideas for the next time. I have some really large bee etchings that will be mounted on thick cardboard and hovering above the wall. I will also include an elaborately framed etching of a dung beetle,” she said, noting she may add a print of her mother to the work. “One response I had from a fellow printmaker and artist was: ‘This could go on forever – you could work on this your whole life.’”
Visitors to the show will have the opportunity to purchase handmade sketchbooks Fisher has created. The covers are crafted with prints from the exhibition and the sketchbooks feature an exposed spine with coptic bindings (ie: chain-stitched by hand). These handmade creations are available for $25.
The gallery is open during library hours, which can be found at: http://lightner.keuka.edu.