From Aug. 29 to Oct. 20., Taylor’s Metcalf Art Gallery was the venue for the "Out of Indiana Clay Invitational," where local artists showcased their skills and demonstrated the possibilities achievable with a simple medium like clay.
This event wasn't just a celebration of art; it served as an invitation to explore the adaptability and significance of ceramics in contemporary artistic expression.
Jeremie Riggleman, assistant professor of art, intentionally reached out to artists crafting diverse ceramic works, spanning from functional pieces to fine art sculptures. Throughout the month-long event, an array of ceramic artistry was on display. Presented by local artists and university affiliates, it created an impressive collection of ceramic art on campus.
Functional items such as mugs, vases and plates shared the limelight with sculptures and 2D wall hangings. Riggleman arranged the artworks in a way that encouraged visual comparisons rather than highlighting each artist individually.
Riggleman noted the diverse age range of participants, varying from recent college graduates to retired individuals who could now dedicate themselves full time to their art.
"I've had the pleasure of getting to know each of these individuals in one way or another," Riggleman said. "When I reached out to them and asked if they'd be interested, they all proved to be amazing artists."
Professor Riggleman observed that the regional artists had strong connections to the Taylor community, with several being Taylor alumni or associated with former students.
Among the ten featured artists were Kim Anderson, Martin Price, Susan Denny and Becca Ito, all of whom had personal ties to Taylor University. This connection provided an opportunity for local residents to engage with the artists and their work on a deeper level.
Their creations, ranging from delicate hanging lanterns to large-scale sculptures, showcased their mastery of the art form. Beyond providing a platform for student and faculty artists to learn from professionals, the Invitational also served as a learning opportunity for emerging student artists.
Rachel Smith, professor of art and Gilkison chair, shared how artists in the department used the tactile nature and versatility of clay as a medium for both artistic expression and therapy.
"Clay is an exceptionally significant medium in our department," Smith said. "We have a diverse group of artists experimenting with the potential of this humble material, essentially dirt, and how it can be transformed in countless ways."
The university offers a variety of art degrees, including pre-art therapy, art education and studio art programs that allow students to express themselves through a range of creative means.
Clay is a remarkably versatile and cherished art medium among students, prized for its unique ability to be shaped into a wide array of forms by skilled artisans, Smith said. Its significance in the world of art lies in its exceptional malleability, enabling it to capture both intricate details and grand, sculptural visions.
The "Out of Indiana Clay Invitational" brought clay into the spotlight, showcasing its significance as a versatile and enduring medium for artistic expression.
This exhibition held profound significance for individuals in this Christian community, Smith said. The Invitational's inception drew parallels between the transformative power of art and the metaphors found in Scripture.
"The artists creating work in Indiana are rooted here in some way and in their faith," Smith said. "You can see traces of that faith in their art, in their teaching, and in their creations. It all shines through."
The displayed artwork vividly embodied the concept of humans as clay, with God as the potter shaping their lives. The creative process, much like the Biblical allegory, witnessed humble dirt being transformed into breathtaking works of art, seemingly concealing the source material completely, Smith remarked.
Taylor University and the Metcalf Gallery host three professional exhibitions per year, along with student showcases.
This exhibition as a whole left a mark on the local art scene at Taylor. It encouraged visitors to contemplate the profound transformation of materials and ideas, while also upholding a strong bond between art and faith in the community.