Art celebrations: fostering community

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While the competition may be over, the show will stay in the Haggerty Gallery until March 13th. Photo by Paulina Martin.

At first glance, the moderate crowd gathered at the juror lecture, artist and juror reception, and awards presentation for the Regional Juried Ceramics Competition at the University of Dallas looked nothing like a typical UD crowd.

Filling up the Art History Auditorium in the Art Village Monday night were elderly women and a few middle-aged couples, along with a handful of UD students, drinking the free beer, snacking on crackers, chatting or watching the crowd in the foyer. The atmosphere was similar to that of a Sunday Mass at the Church of the Incarnation, one of those strange moments when the infamous UD Bubble and the outside world intersect for a celebration.

At an intersection, too, were the current ceramics pieces on exhibit in the Beatrice M. Haggerty Gallery and “Bio-,” the new showcase in the foyer, featuring works from Texas Christian University artists under the curation of the senior art history majors. The two exhibitions are being showcased simultaneously, with only a suggested transition between the two as one walks through the building.

The reception and award presentation began with a lecture from juror Virginia Marsh, internationally acclaimed ceramics artist and artist-in-residence at UD.

Professor of art Dan Hammett, nearing the end of his last semester with the university before his retirement, introduced Marsh. In his prelude to her lecture, Hammett emphasized Marsh’s skill as an instructor and mentor for UD art students.

“If it hadn’t been for Virginia, knowing she was there to take care of the seniors and grad students, [my job] would have been much more difficult for me,” Hammett said.

Marsh spent her 20-minute lecture reflecting on her formation as an artist, beginning with her undergraduate and graduate experiences at DePauw University and Ohio State University, respectively, and then moving on to her experience building and living on an organic subsistence farm in southern Indiana with her family.

Her sources of inspiration throughout her career have ranged from Chinese rubbings to Japanese calligraphy, and from textures found in the natural world to the sapling branches she eventually integrated into her clay teapot pieces.

In her lecture, Marsh referred to Wendell Berry’s statement:

“Viewing by itself will misunderstand pots.”

She underscored it as an important tenet of all art.

“You must see art in its context — you cannot have art without life,” Marsh said.

The life present in art filled the gallery when attendees gathered to listen to Marsh present the awards of merit and announce the two winners of the competition. Friends from classes long gone reunited to discuss their art work, artists and admirers alike laughed about inspirations for different pieces, and families pointed out their favorite parts of the exhibition.

When the award of merit recipients were announced, Marsh individually singled out Teresa Larrabee’s “GingerMan,” Beverly Fetterman’s “Teapot with Texture,” Sarah Gross’s “Climbers,” Alberto Veronica’s “Daylight Cup” and Monica Winters’s “Monica Winters” and explained to the enthusiastic attendees what she found so beautiful about each piece.

Similarly, Marsh lauded Carol Cook for taking the risk of portraying infirmity and Paul McCoy for the “perfect combination of control and knowing how to let go,” for which she judged them the winners of the competition.

Cook and McCoy will have solo shows at the university next year following their success.

As artists and attendees mingled during and after the awards presentation, a sense of familiarity predominated throughout the gallery. In a way, it seemed as though the unusual gathering had created a small family, drawn together by shared love for the showcased artworks.

Every time a new awardee’s name was announced, everyone applauded, smiled and quietly cheered, as though he knew intimately each person who had won an award. One might say gallery manager Christina Haley’s statement from an earlier The University News article that “art is always about trying to communicate. . .the gallery is kind of a meeting point for that,” came to life in the two hours of the reception and presentation.

For those who missed Monday’s event, there is still time to see the exhibit before it closes March 13. Works that received awards will have notes fixed to the small plaques displaying the artist’s information.

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