Creative Clay Works

Invitational ceramic show has contrasting work, created creatively, from clay.

The new show at Graham Gallery is not large in terms of the number of pieces from each artist invited to participate, but there is a lot of art for you to see. Eight of the best ceramic artists in the mid west were asked by Angela Graham to be part of this show. I would guess she may have chosen this group because of their contrasting styles and diverse methods. The focus may be in different directions, but the common denominator is the clay.

Visually the work is well organized which helps the show flow between the extreme contrast of styles. The gallery staff is deserving of many kudos of thanks for how they installed this body of work.

In the interest of full disclosure, I need to tell you I know some of these artists very well and others I’ve never met. Since I didn’t have the opportunity to interview anyone in this group, my comments are from my own observations and reaction to the pieces.

Cody Carson Brown has, once again, raised the bar from what here-to-fore have been her functional ceramic pieces. The shapes remind us of the bowls and platters of past shows, but these new works are all about art and very little about function. I don’t want to take the edge off the impact of her new work, so I won’t “explain” what I see. Just view her new work with the knowledge it is some of the most creative examples of where she is taking her art. I think I could make a case that this is the most creative work being done by any ceramic artist in the mid west.

Jerome Dubas is a master of this media. His technical skill is remarkable and causes you to forget how difficult creating shapes out of clay can be. Jerome is working in a “series,” which he often does. He has included humor in his shapes, but look a little deeper. The abstract painter, Howard Hodgkin once said, “What I fear as an artist is that people won’t really look at my work. Once they have seen my art, they think they know it. It is easier to surprise myself with my art then it is to surprise other people.” Jerome is a philosophical thinker and develops many levels of meaning for his work. Take some time to really look.

Shelby Smith includes two trays in the show that are reminiscent of the “boat shapes” he has used in the past. The earth tone glazes he uses may have an island influence, (he has spent time recently in Hawaii), but regardless they have a warm tactile quality. Besides the pistol mugs, he has included cars, a tug boat and a cat.

Jess Benjamin has a studio in Omaha and her reputation, since graduating from Hastings College, has grown to the point she is now widely considered one of the best ceramic artists in Nebraska. She is showing two “Jack pots” which I think are part of the rip rap theme she developed around Lake McConaughy construction. Her other works include corn kernels which can be grouped or purchased as a single piece.

Pat Harpham has created a collection of small “flowers”, bulbs, and pots. The glazes are her black and white motif. Her work is both curious and creative. Their small size allows them to fit in, almost anywhere.

Rhonda Ruby Dibbern now works in Chicago and has integrated ceramic art and functional home décor. Her series of table lamps displays her craftsmanship and sense of design. Each lamp is hand thrown and has a unique contemporary glaze. The shades vary from fabric, to paper, to wood. All are one-of-a-kind.

Garet Reynek’s work is evolving, since he recently graduated from Hastings College. The pieces I saw at the opening event were from his “helmet series,” but I understand he plans on bringing some new work for the show, once the final touches are finished.

Katrina Florell has a ‘variety’ of styles in her work. She is showing two small wall hanging torsos, as well as a large installation piece. In addition she created a life size cast torso which is a very realistic body casting. Compared to the other artists in the show, her work is edgy and will require some contemplation on the viewer’s part.

Spring has finally arrived which reminds us of the changing earth, the earth is the origin of clay and that is the segue to suggest you come and see creative clay now being shown at Graham Gallery.

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About the author: Jerry Daniels

Jeremy Daniels graduated from McCook Sr. High in 1959. He received a BA in Fine Arts from Hastings College in 1963. After almost six years in the military, he worked for Dutton-Lainson Co. in Hastings for 44 years. He was a Vice President and Advertising Manager for the firm. His artworks include most painting media, as well as sculpture. His studio is in Hastings and he can be contacted at jldan@charter.net.

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