Ceramic art pieces (part 4 of 5) in the 5th Central Time Ceramics exhibit at Bradley University

Photos and text by Robert Kokenyesi, Ceramic Artist at Beachfront Pottery, Godfrey, IL, USA

The 5th Central Time Ceramics art exhibit took place from February 24 to March 25, 2016 in the art galleries of Bradley University.  This is part 4 of the 5-part report about the exhibited pieces;   here I’ll look at abstract sculptural pieces.    Part 1 included conventional plates/platters, and a video presentation;  Part 2 included bowls, vases and teapots;  Part 3 included figurative sculptural pieces;  Part 5 will be about abstract and other sculptural wall-attached pieces.


"Upstanding" by Margaret Henkels, Austin, TX.
“Upstanding” by Margaret Henkels, Austin, TX.

At first I classified this piece as a vessel, but after looking at her web site I saw many pieces of the architectural affinity.  Here is a quote from her statement: “I am interested in the passage of time and in the possibilities of transformation. I mark a moment (and define a space) by creating an object. The material I work with used to be something else: water dripping on rock produced clay. As I work with it, it becomes something else again.    My method of building reflects my fascination with the possibilities and limitations of architecture. Where and why do I feel at home? Is it structurally sound, and do I care? How much can I get away with? The surfaces refer to the subtle gradations of color and the stony surfaces I seek in a landscape.”

To my eye this piece has similarity to the architecture of Frank Ghery’ pushing structural materials to their limit.



"89/100" by Jenny Foy, Dekalb, IL
“89/100” by Jeremy Foy, Dekalb, IL

This piece won the 1st place award at this exhibit. Jeremy had another piece titled “Low Post” which was a smashed mass of green glazed pots.  Jeremy classifies this series as “Smashed Forms” in his thesis photos.  He says: ” I am addicted to the repetition of movement, creating a personal assembly line with my body.   This physical exhaustion of repetition of an action to create art, is a mix of my athletic mindset in my artistic world.”   So, one would conclude that his art is processdriven; some of his other pieces includes cutting into smashed forms, and the action of the cutting just adds tot he physicality of his work.



"Variations on Center" by Bob Dixon, Springfield, IL
“Variations on Center” by Bob Dixon, Springfield, IL

The brief description on his departmental web sites says that Bob intends to create a strong formal power of the work.  This is due to the use of tradition as balanced against more original concepts.  A balance between structure and spontaneity, the works are organic and free flowing with sculptural lines.

In my eye the architecture (the stacked buildup), and some basic elements of Bob’s constructions (use of geometrical shapes) reminds me of the abstract expressionist style of Peter Voulkos.






"Moving from Center" by Bob Dixon, Springfield, IL
“Moving from Center” by Bob Dixon, Springfield, IL


This piece from Bob is about 4 feet tall, and a very impressive presence.









"The Arc" by Kari Thornton, Gays, IL
“The Arc” by Kari Thornton, Gays, IL

This piece is only the tip of the iceberg of some amazing pieces in the “Cut and reassembled” series by Kari.  Her statement reads: “My pieces are based on traditional ideas and engage in certain cultural appropriations—in form, in design, in glaze choices. However, my work is not postmodern in the sense that I am not making any statements—social, political, conceptual, or even intellectual. There is no meaning or metaphor. I am committed more to the idea of pure beauty. When it is finished, the piece should be like an ornament, exquisitely beautiful.”

The very idea of making a clay piece, and then cut it to pieces, and then rotate the pieces and reassemble them is remarkable.  How the reassembled pieces look is even more remarkable.


"Complement" by Grace Chien, Peoria, IL
“Complement” by Grace Chien, Peoria, IL

The piece is very attractive because of the glazing that creates a raku-like appearance.  She states:  “I have been very fortunate to be able to experience two different cultures. I blend Eastern Philosophies and Western Modernist aesthetic ideas in my work. I always use my work to show my appreciation of the world. My art is an abstract form that often mimics elements connected with nature or figurines.  My love of Chinese Song Dynasty wares leads me to create pieces that are simple in form and color that have a sense of serenity and elegance. I believe that form follows function and glazes should fit the form.”


"Glow" by Jessica Smith, Tuscaloosa, AL
“Glow” by Jessica Smith, Tuscaloosa, AL

Here is another piece where the lack of narration takes a whole lot away from “getting it”.  Here’s Jessica’s statement: “Gummy Bears are a candy I coveted as a child. While not always in the shape of a bear, gummies and candies are ubiquitous in world culture. My sculptural ceramic gummy bears are assembled into tessellating sculptures. I am interested in exploring how this fragmented childhood pleasure of the gummy bear can be a metaphor for comfort, protection and containment.”

So, yes, ladies and gentlemen!!!!! This piece is a composie of hundreds of ceramic gummy bears.  Just sayin’.


"Phalanx" by Delores Fortuna, Galena, IL
“Phalanx” by Delores Fortuna, Galena, IL

Most of the pottery from Delores Fortuna I’ve seen have been incredibly well executed wheel thrown or slab-built pieces.  However, she does experiment with clay, and this exhibit piece represents one of those experiments.  Metal framework covered by several layers 0f clay.  I couldn’t find any info about inspiration or symbolism.





"Cones" by Katie Arndt, Columbia, MO
“Cones” by Kait Arndt, Columbia, MO

These pieces won one of the top awards this exhibit, and when you approach these 3 feet long cones made of interlacing clay ropes, you’ll feel as Kait has intended.  In her own words: “When the viewer encounters my work, I want them to be confronted by tension. It is formed between the preconceived ideas of structure, organization, and stability and the vulnerability expressed through my touch and the precarious presence of the work that often violently deviates from those ideas.”   And if you thought these were just process-driven pieces, think again.  This what Kait says about the meaning of her work: “These forms are representations. They embody my questions. How is it possible to exist in structured social systems and institutions –represented by the grid- while at the same time maintaining freedom and variety as individuals? How do we keep from falling apart under the weight of it? How do we remain?”


"Untiled (Capsule)" at left, and "Gently Rolling with Sunspot (Topography Series)" at right by Brian Kluge, Madison, WI
“Untiled (Capsule)” at left, and “Gently Rolling with Sunspot (Topography Series)” at right by Brian Kluge, Madison, WI

While these two pieces look very different, the motivation behind them is shared.  As Brian states:” there exist certain predispositions that we share as human beings. My current bodies of work reflect an ongoing exploration of some of these predilections. In this work I am dealing primarily with archetypal geometric forms, a palette of ‘basic color’, and an allusion to artifacts.”  He presses clay into molds of geometric shapes to obtain geometric clay forms with deep surface structures.





"Mad River Residue" by Michael Ware, Milwaukee, WI
“Mad River Residue” by Michael Ware, Milwaukee, WI

Michael ware’s pieces stood out from the rest by the raw frozen movement of the clay.  Michael states that he is “inspired by the transformations that occur in the natural world. Focusing on the geological changes within the land I see many parallels between those actions that alter the landscape and the ceramic process. Capitalizing on these similarities I discovered a way of creating sculptural forms utilizing the firing process in a way that loosely emulates natural geologic formations. I think of the gas kiln as more than just a tool. It becomes my collaborator in forging the uncanny amalgamations. Familiar and unfamiliar, these sculptures live in both the man made ceramic world and the natural world.”

In terms of a technique; Michael uses scraps of clay, and fuse them together in the kiln (most likely glazing the clay scraps first).





"Dreamer of Dreams" by Michael Ware, Milwaukee, WI
“Dreamer of Dreams” by Michael Ware, Milwaukee, WI

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