Mary Clare Mulhern, Staff Writer
If you’ve wandered through the Loggia in the Art History Building within the last month, you’ve probably happened upon 18 ceramic half-heads displayed on pedestals. Your reaction may have ranged from intrigue to disbelief, from wonder to horror. (“What happened to the other half of their heads?”)
The ceramicist, Verne Funk, is an 81-year-old studio artist living in San Antonio. He won one of two “Best in Show” awards in the University of Dallas’ biennial 2013 Regional Juried Ceramics Competition earlier this year, which made this show possible.
Now retired, Funk taught for several years at Texas Tech University, where he remains professor emeritus. His work has appeared in over 300 shows, and the university is honored to give the general public a chance to view his pieces.
Dan Hammett, chairman of the art department, played an integral role in putting on this show. He laments, “Shows have disappeared. Now there are almost no places for artists to show their work.”
The students at UD, however, luckily benefit from the fact that the art department hosts shows from well-known artists, which are free and easily accessible.
I find “Selections from the Half-Head Series” fascinating. Although the half-heads all have the same general facial features, each one is unique.
A couple of them have extremely realistic paintbrushes or tubes of paint on top of them. It’s incredible that Funk was able to use clay to imitate objects that are made of such different materials.
He also expertly varies the texture; some (such as “Red Ripple”) have a sandy-textured surface, while others (such as “Swimming A-Head”) are so glossy that they seem to be made of glass.
The shading on “Vanilla” and “Icecap” makes the ice cream cones seem real, and honestly, it’s funny to see someone with an ice cream cone smashed into his hair.
“Why did the artist choose this subject matter?” you may ask. You would have to ask Funk himself to be sure, but Les Manning, a juror of the 2013 Regional Juried Ceramics Competition, offers an opinion.
“Verne’s choice of the head is very obvious. It is the most important part of our body. By only using half, he sets the scenario that the head may have deteriorated a bit in aging,” he said.
The piece “Funk on Funk” offers credence to Manning’s insight about Funk’s recognition of the effects of aging. When he made a figurine of himself to stand on a half-head with his own features, Funk portrayed himself with glasses, wrinkles and a cane. He has worked with clay for half of a century and he honors the deterioration that comes with age, rather than ignoring it and glorifying youth.
Resident artist Virginia Marsh has enjoyed having Funk’s show on campus. His work has been on her radar for the past 30 years, and she was impressed by his pieces in the juried show this spring.
“I walked into the gallery and I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, that one has got to be the winner’… It was very compelling,” Marsh said.
Weather permitting, the closing reception is tonight (Monday, Nov. 25) from 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. in the Thompson Loggia in the Art History Building. Funk will give a talk there at 7 p.m. Don’t miss your last chance to see these intriguing pieces!