New work by five regional and international ceramicists — all recipients of McKnight Foundation grants — is opening Wednesday, May 16th at the Arts Center of Saint Peter. Sculpture by Heather Nameth Bren, an assistant professor of art at Northwestern College, and functional pottery by Linda Christianson of Lindstrom, Minn., will be showcased in the Moline Gallery along with work produced by Jonas Arikauskas, a ceramic sculptor and theater designer from Lithuania, Ryan Matthew Mitchell, a Montana-educated sculptor most recently based in China, and Alexandra Hibbitt, an assistant professor of ceramics in Athens, Ohio, who holds graduate degrees from academies in London and Amsterdam. Mitchell’s sculptures, including the piece shown here, are up to 4 feet tall and mix such unlikely materials as porcelain, steel rebar and concrete.
Heather Nameth Bren used her McKnight Fellowship year to explore large-scale work, as well as to identity new and deepen past gallery connections for later exhibition of this new body of work. Bren received her MFA from the University of Kansas in Lawrence and was part of an international exchange at Staffordshire University in Stoke-on-Trent in England. She is an assistant professor of art at Northwestern College. Prior to her appointment at Northwestern she taught at Bethel University in Roseville, Minnesota; Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas; and Lawrence Art Center in Lawrence, Kansas. Bren’s work has been included in such exhibitions as Northern Exposure: A Survey of Contemporary Ceramics in Madison, Wisconsin; NCECA 2009 Clay National Biennial Exhibition, Tempe, Arizona; Not Not Clay: Really Contemporary Works, Minneapolis; and From Our Perspective: A National Women’s Art Exhibition in Farmington Hills, Michigan.
Bren creates conceptually based sculptures that incorporate a combination of traditional and experimental ceramic-making techniques. Bren states; “ I create images and forms re-framed by abstraction and inspired by historical reference. Whether I am handbuilding, casting, re-casting or re-glazing ceramic objects, I always address transformation. The re-appropriation of an existing object re-contextualizes and opens surrounding ceramics in contemporary art.”
Jonas Arčikauskas received both his BFA and MFA in ceramics from Vilnius Academy of Art in Vilnius, Lithuania, where he currently maintains his studio with his wife, Dalia Gentvainyte, also a ceramic artist. In addition to having been a professor of ceramics at Vilnius Art Academy, Arčikauskas has held various positions in the theater world in Lithuania, including stints as the Art Director at Lithuanian National Drama Theatre, a stage and costume designer at Kaunas Drama Theatre, and a decorator at the Lithuanian Russian Drama Theatre. In addition, he has done stage, costume, and makeup design, video installation, and lighting design for dozens of theater productions in Lithuania, Latvia, and Japan. Arčikauskas has received numerous grants and awards for his ceramic work, including four Lithuania Federal Grants. Arčikauskas is interested in ceramics as the “art of personal expression.” Its connection with the earth and its role as a key player in modern interior and exterior design, and modern culture, is of great interest to him. He recently completed the construction of his second “Pit”, which he describes as containing ideas and holding the meaning of an art object and its motivation. “A pit or a hole is a dark side of a human being. Every artist wanders, as Dante had done, through his vision of hell,” says Arčikauskas. His pit sculptures are dug into the floor/ground and lined with high relief sculptural tiles of stoneware and porcelain clay bodies. The pit is covered with a large piece of glass that blends with the floor’s surface. During his residency, Arčikauskas created a composition of 21 sculptural figures. He described the opportunity of sharing creative experiences with his fellow studio artists at NCC as “priceless.”
Ryan Matthew Mitchell received his MFA from the University of Montana at Missoula and his BFA from Montana State University at Bozeman. He recently completed an artist residency at the HAP International Tri-City Wood-Fire Festival in Beijing, Fuping, and Guilin, China. Prior to that, Mitchell was a resident artist under the LH Project in Joseph, Oregon; at Australia National University in Canberra; and at The Clay Studio in Missoula, Montana. His wood-fired sculptures have been included in such exhibitions as Altered Narratives in Phoenix, Arizona; Ceramic Montana at the UC Gallery at the University of Montana; In the East at XYZ Gallery in Beijing, China; and Beautiful Conundrums at Plinth Gallery in Denver, Colorado. Mitchell looks “for meaning and truth in the residue and rubble of our daily world, rather than in the pursuit of our ideals.” His large-scale works average two to four feet in height and employ wood-fired stoneware and porcelain, as well as such mixed media as steel rebar and concrete.
Linda Christianson used her Fellowship year to produce work that will be featured in upcoming exhibitions in England and France. Additionally, she is currently in the process of converting her library of images to a digital portfolio. Christianson received a BA in studio art from Hamline University in St. Paul. She has been a studio potter for over 30 years and maintains a studio and woodkiln in Lindstrom. Her pots have been included in group shows such as La Mesa, Santa Fe Clay, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Yunomi Invitational, Akar Gallery, Iowa City, Iowa; Tablewares: An International Collection, Rex Irwin Gallery, Sydney, Australia; and Ahead of the Need, Schaller Gallery, Red Lodge, Montana. Christianson has presented workshops and lectures around the globe, most recently at North Harris College in Houston, Texas; Sheridan School of Art in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada; and Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Rhode Island. Christianson creates beautiful wood-fired pots which speak to everyday use and function. She states; “The pots must have a compelling visual interest on their own, yet give way to utility. In many ways they act as a stage set: appearing and disappearing at rest and in use.
Alexandra Hibbitt currently lives in Athens, Ohio, where she is the assistant professor of ceramics at Ohio University School of Art. She received her MFA from New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred, a Higher Diploma Ceramics from Gerrit Rietveldd Academy of Art and Design in Amsterdam, and her BA in 3-D design from the Central School of Art in London. She has been a visiting artist at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Arizona State University in Tempe, and the University of Minnesota, among others. Hibbitt’s ceramic work has been featured in such publications as 500 Ceramic Sculptures (Lark Books) and Ceramics Monthly. Recent exhibitions include 3 Weeks at the International Ceramic Studio in Kecskemet, Hungary; In the Margins, the Icehouse Contemporary Arts Center, NCECA, in Phoenix, Arizona; 23rd International Ceramics Symposium Bechyne, the School of Ceramics, Bechyne, Czech Republic; and Souvenirs of Louisiana, Rosewood Gallery, Kettering, Ohio.
While in residence, Hibbitt created a body of work that addresses “the mediation of experience through technology,” the intersections of craft, art and design, and notions of cultural identity. She combined handcrafted and digitally formed materials as she created ceramic forms that will be scanned and later digitally fabricated into medium density fiberboard and Plexiglas.