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WCU presents ‘Contemporary Clay’ exhibit, accompanying events at Fine Art Museum

A three-month ceramics exhibit at the Western Carolina University Fine Art Museum opens Thursday, Oct. 6, with a two-day symposium in conjunction with American Craft Week featuring artist lectures and demonstrations. All events are free and open to the public.

“Contemporary Clay, a Survey of Contemporary American Ceramics,” curated by Heather Mae Erickson, WCU assistant professor of art, examines the expanding and evolving use of clay through the work of 25 artists. During its run at the museum, located in the John W. Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center, the exhibit will show the diversity of the medium, from expressive sculpture to functioning objects, she said.

Among the works featured in the exhibit “Contemporary Clay, a Survey of Contemporary American Ceramics” opening Thursday, Oct. 6, at the Western Carolina University Fine Art Museum will be “De mi isla salvaje” (“From My Wild Island”) by Cristina Cordova.

Among the works featured in the exhibit “Contemporary Clay, a Survey of Contemporary American Ceramics” opening Thursday, Oct. 6, at the Western Carolina University Fine Art Museum will be “De mi isla salvaje” (“From My Wild Island”) by Cristina Cordova.

“I am excited to host such a stellar group of ceramic artists and sculptors at Western Carolina University,” Erickson said. “It is exciting to think of how it will affect the students, faculty, staff and visitors. Graduate students will be able to meet with some of the visiting artists one-on-one in their studios and receive critical feedback on their work. This is an opportunity for the College of Fine and Performing Arts to continue to position WCU as a strong supporter of contemporary ceramics as well as the arts in general by continuing to develop strong programming. Having ceramic works of the highest caliber for this amount of time will be beneficial to not only our students, but also surrounding institutions.”

The symposium on Oct. 6 and Friday, Oct. 7, in the 1,000-seat Bardo Arts Center performance hall will feature several clay artists and explore their ideas on traditional and non-traditional functional objects, mixed media installations and the continuing evolution of ceramics and pottery.

A panel discussion on the second day will be moderated by Garth Johnson, curator of ceramics at the Arizona State University Art Museum and Art Museum Ceramics Research Center. The entire symposium will be live-streamed through the webpage bardoartscenter.wcu.edu for all those who are interested, but unable to attend.

The 25 exhibiting “Contemporary Clay” artists are A. Blair Clemo, Linda Cordell, Cristina Cordova, Paul Donnelly, Teri Frame, Lauren Gallaspy, Amber Ginsburg, Gerit Grimm, Del Harrow, Mike Helke, Aaron Hughes, Beth Katleman, Paul Kotula, Linda Lopez, Roberto Lugo, Jeannine Marchand, Walter McConnell, Brooks Oliver, Denise Pelletier, Jeanne Quinn, Anders Ruhwald, Thomas Schmidt, Kevin Snipes, Albion Stafford and Colleen Toledano.

The work of Harrow, a conceptual sculptor and ceramic artist from Portland, Oregon, which consists of site-specific installations, sculptures and limited edition objects, shows an exploration of themes and a range of materials. Many of his sculptures begin as digital models – employing computer software as a tool for generating abstract form, Erickson said.

Another style would be that of Cordova, who lives in Penland and teaches at the Penland School of Crafts near Bakersville, she said. “The human figure is key to her work, primarily with clay. Her moldings recreate various human forms,” Erickson said. Cordova founded TravelArte, an ongoing platform that provides educational experiences within the ceramics medium while immersing students in the creative culture of a particular geographical setting.

The project is supported by the N.C. Arts Council, a division of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources; the Randall and Susan Ward Endowment for the Ceramic Arts at WCU; WCU College of Fine and Performing Arts; WCU School of Art and Design; the Godfrey Seminar on the Business of Craft; and the Fine Art Museum.

The museum is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, with extended hours on Thursdays to 7 p.m. Admission and parking are free. To learn more, go to fineartmuseum.wcu.edu or call 828-227-3591.

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