Annual ceramics invitational gives students a taste of gallery exhibits

Students attend the opening of the Claybody exhibit last week. (Photo by Tim Brown)
Students attend the opening of the Claybody exhibit last week. (Photo by Tim Brown)

Not all art is created equal, and for those still studying  and reaching for their fullest potential, it’s nice to be recognized once in a while. Especially if your professors think you’ve got what it takes to show in an annual exhibit.

“Claybody,” an annual ceramics show in the Student Union Gallery, is an opportunity for students to see their work in a gallery setting, sometimes for the first time. Ceramics professors choose the best student works from the previous year (in this case, 2012) to be displayed.

This year, there is a wide variety of ceramic art in the show; some are functional works, such as plates, but the majority are sculptures.

“Usually there’s more functional pottery in this show, more contributions from the wheel-throwing classes,” said Bailey Arend, a post-baccalaureate student focusing in ceramics, said. “That’s just because the sculpture students this past fall were really strong.”

Arend’s background is in functional pottery, such as vases, but he is experimenting with sculptural elements as well. His piece, “Branches,” is a large vase-shaped structure with cutouts, fired twice and glazed in white, resembling snow on trees.

“This is work that I wanted to make, personally, because it relates to the Alaska landscape,” he said. “This is where I was born.”

Many students in the show appreciate the opportunity to see their works on display in the gallery, whether they’ve been in shows before or not.

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“It’s just nice to see things in the gallery. We’re always in the studio, it’s dirty; you see people work on these things, you see them progress, and you see them when they’re all done, but to see them on a pedestal with the light shining on it with this kind of environment, it’s a totally different feel,” Chelsea Ruwe, another post-baccalaureate student focusing in ceramics, said.

Sara Henry, a senior art student focusing in sculpture, thinks that seeing her work in a gallery is an opportunity for growth.

“It’s better when you get to see all the pieces with the lighting, and with all the other pieces together,” she said. “You get a sense of what looks good in a gallery setting, what doesn’t look good, what colors work. You get a sense of what size they need to be.”

Ruwe’s work, a hanging instillation called “Twenty Three,” is made of 23 covered wires, twisted and kinked similarly to the 23 chromosomes in a strand of DNA, which was the inspiration for the piece.

“I’m really interested in string theory and quantum mechanics and figuring out what life is. Things that we can’t see but experience everyday,” she said. “So, this one’s titled “Twenty Three,” as in the 23 chromosomes, so each strand of DNA is all packed and squiggly and compact, untangled, unknotted string of information.”

Henry’s “Failsafe” is a sculpture of an open stomach with a variety of keys inside. The keys hold a special meaning for her, and are included in several of her works.

“It’s an accumulation of different things, my love of anatomy and the keys. The keys represent all my failures in life.” she said. “It was a way of integrating the assignment with a personal feel to it.”

“I think the ceramics program at UAA is very strong, one of the best undergrad programs in the country, I think,” Arend said. “So what you see in this exhibit is not your typical pottery … you have a lot bigger work and a lot more thought going into the work.”


Claybody” runs from Wednesday, Jan. 30 through Thursday, Feb. 14 in the Student Union Gallery. Admission to the gallery is always free, and it is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday. The gallery is closed Saturday and Sunday.