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Similar hands yield varied structures in ceramics exhibit ‘Concurrent’

Among Ohio State’s colossal campus community, a tight-knit group of nine artists can be found spending their days in the basement of Hopkins Hall, using keen perception and acute dexterity to contrive ceramic works for an exhibit opening Friday.

Amid a university population of more than 55,000, a total of 18 students are enrolled in the Department of Art’s ceramics program, with six being graduate students. This allows for a personal environment in which the artists can communicate and analyze each other’s creations — Although their individual approaches span various artistic styles, their works are made simultaneously and from the same medium, which is the theme behind the title of the exhibit: “Concurrent.”

“We’re all in the same area together making work side by side, so we kind of influence each other,” said Britny Wainwright, a ceramics graduate student and teaching associate whose work is set to be in the exhibit. “It’s a distinct community, and we’re all making such different work, it’s a drastic variety.”

The nine artists in the exhibit comprise two senior undergraduates, six graduate students and ceramics lecturer Forrest Gard, who does things slightly offbeat in terms of ceramic community standards, he said.  Although an OSU newcomer, he quickly fit in with the other “Concurrent” artists, especially Jeni Gard, ceramics graduate teaching associate and Forrest Gard’s wife.

“We’re showing a variety in levels of work and a mix of functional and sculptural pieces,” she said. “But we have this binding thing, and that’s that we all like to use clay as a material to create.”

Forrest Gard said he typically shows interactive exhibitions where people play games with an object he made, and he sometimes gives it away as a prize.

“So I’m kind of thinking about the difference between child’s play and adult play, and where the line ends and where it begins,” he said. “Not a lot of people are doing this. It’s kind of off the grid.”

Even though Forrest Gard isn’t bringing an interactive element to his work in “Concurrent” like he usually does, he’s using some of the same items from one of his past installations. These hyper-realistic ceramic baseball caps look like they’re made of fabric with their shadows of folds, dips and creases.

Jeni Gard said she is also interested in people and interactivity, although her work in this show is on the practical side of the spectrum.

“In terms of making, Forrest is so methodical and well-crafted, like, you will not see anything from him that isn’t perfect,” she said. “I, on the other hand, am like ‘I have this idea and it needs to come out now, and I’m not going to spend months preparing,’ because I’m an act-now person.”

Her free-form, abstracted cups, plates and bowls stem from her interest in food, sustainability and the ideas behind sharing a meal. The sentimental value of shared eating experiences will be embodied in a dinner event she’s making dishes for on Oct. 18, “Trespasses.” The dinner is being held at the gallery for visual artists, writers, performers and musicians to engage in speculative dialogue about their works and is set to form the basis of an exhibit in February.

“I like that whether or not we’re eating anymore, these ceramic vessels are still here and still exist as a symbol,” Jeni Gard said. “And they’re not perfectly round and symmetrical because a hand created it, as opposed to the Target cup you maybe would’ve used otherwise.”

The human figure will also have a role in “Concurrent,” such as the work of graduate teaching associate and student Natalia Arbelaez, who is interested in isolating and breaking down the human form. Her sculptures are influenced by herself, her Columbian heritage and immediate environment, she said, although she can’t quite pinpoint the concepts in words.

“This exhibit is really influenced by and about the hand,” Arbelaez said. “Clay is about memory, and pushing into it with your hand to get that tactile quality, and we all make work like that, which is what brings us together: the similarities of working with our hands.”

Graduate teaching associate and student Brittany Helms plays an important part in bridging the gap between the functional and abstract works in the exhibit with her experimental pottery forms, which she makes in about 20 minutes and without a wheel. The quick process is possible because she lets the pieces dry naturally as opposed to firing them in a kiln.

“A lot of the stuff I’m making is just a quick study, and I don’t know what it is getting into it,” Helms said. “I really just use the pots as a base to make something, to make anything, from.”

“Concurrent” is set to open Friday. There is also slated to be a public reception Friday at EASE Gallery, 30 W. Woodruff Ave., and the exhibit lasts through Nov. 1.

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