Top to bottom: Sarah Rossi’s Self Portrait, 18 in. (46 cm) in height, white stoneware, reduction, 2007, undergraduate, Rhode Island School of Design. Rachelle Guenther’s Whiskey Set, 11 in. (28 cm) in height, porcelain, cone 10, 2007, undergraduate, SUNY New Paltz. Amy Goldsmith’s Untitled, 7 in. (18 cm) in diameter, porcelain, 2007, undergraduate, Bowling Green State University.
Top to bottom: Jenn Betts’ Bowl, 5 in. (13 cm) in height, porcelain, 2007, undergraduate, Bowling Green State University. Chrissi Dewald’s Untitled, 36 in. (91 cm) in height, stoneware, 2006, undergraduate, Temple University: Tyler School of Art. Mariella Funk’s A Place for Both of Us, 8 in. (20 cm) in height, earthenware, cone 04, 2007, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
Top: Megan L. Mullins’ Yellow Grid: Along the Lines, 1½ in. (4 cm) in height, engobe, unfired, 2006, graduate, University of Massachusetts–Dartmouth.
Bottom: Brooke Noble’s Set of Cups, 4½ in. (12 cm) in height, porcelain, cone 10 soda, 2007, graduate, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
Top: Kelly McKibben’s Kitchen-aid on a String, 17 in.
Bottom: Bethany Rusen’s Caution House, 12 in. (30 cm)
When the staff of Ceramics Monthly saw the Regional Student Juried Exhibition this year in Pittsburgh during the NCECA conference, we were impressed that this level of quality was being produced by today’s students. Here, we invite the show’s jurors, Kristen Kieffer and Alleghany Meadows, to share their thoughts on this year’s exhibition.
The annual Regional Student Juried Exhibition held by NCECA is an outstanding opportunity for undergraduate, graduate and special students to begin showing their work, and during the largest ceramics event of the year, at that. It provides a comparative glimpse for the students, their professors and the field at large of the work being made by accepted artists from the colleges and universities in that given region.
In 1999, during my own first year of graduate school at Ohio University, I had a piece juried into the RSJE in Columbus by Margaret Bohls and Arthur Gonzales. It was very exciting to be accepted into the show, so I was doubly honored to co-jury this past year’s RSJE with Alleghany Meadows, having had a past connection with the exhibition.
I enjoyed the responsibility of being on the other side of the process. The range of works submitted was impressive, covering almost every ceramic genre, process, scale and style imaginable. It felt important to do the obvious (choose the strongest pieces with promise), while balancing the kind of work accepted. I wanted the show to be as diverse as our subjective tastes and variety of submissions would allow. Two studio potter jurors of similar approximate age and background could be anticipated to have a narrow aesthetic interest, but I think the resulting show proved otherwise. Several people told me at Pittsburgh and after, that this year’s RSJE was one of the strongest exhibitions at the conference, and while Alleghany and I can take a little credit, those comments say something about the next group of emerging artists coming on the scene.
Seeing work in person is, of course, very different than viewing its picture on a computer screen, displayed with dimensions and a minimal description. We both remarked about surprises in size or quality (positive and not), when we first saw the show together in Pittsburgh to decide the awards. This is probably when we realized our differences in some aesthetic choices. Not all of the work accepted into the show was mutually chosen. The accepted pieces were either ones we both agreed on, or only one or the other of us accepted. (An artist with two pieces in the show meant I picked one and Alleghany picked the other.) Since we were purposefully not provided with information about any of the students’ status, the ratio of undergrads, grads and special students only became clear to us during this first walk through. There may have been an understandably higher number of graduate students, but all three categories were well represented in the exhibition.
When I told people I was a co-juror for this student show, I was surprised when some either didn’t know it existed, or thought it was the K–12 show. All college-level students should know about the RSJE (which will change from a regional to a national show in the near future), and submit work if they are eligible. The lack of interest or knowledge was evident by the relatively low number of submissions. I was expecting to look at closer to 1000 images, but only 242 students from every eligible college or university possible in seventeen U.S. states, the District of Columbia and six Canadian provinces submitted a total of 432 works for jurying. Professors should press their students to apply—as it is an excellent way to attract future students who can easily compare schools by the quality and kind of work coming from the program—and assist them in their applications. Most of the images we reviewed were excellent, but some varied from mediocre to bad. If a juror can’t tell the quality of the work because it is on a red fabric background, poorly framed or lit or labeled with undescriptive text (“clay and glaze” is not helpful), it will be declined. This should not be happening, and I was dismayed to see it. Work that is photographed and labeled well, and with multiple views, definitely gets more attention.
It was a pleasure to see pots, tableware, large and small-scale sculpture, wall pieces, figurative and mixed-media sculpture, minimal and complex form, narrative work and tile being made in a region of North America by some inspired students. Newer work by anyone (student or not, young and old) has the potential of looking derivative of that from a given professor or working artist. I was pleased by the absence of distinct influence from this group of applicants. It’s obvious that new and exciting art continues to be made in clay. Competition in the field of ceramics just steepened again.
Kristen Kieffer is a studio artist and ceramics instructor living in Massachusetts. Her work can be seen at www.kiefferceramics.com.
The process of selecting works for the exhibition was both exciting and challenging. Steve Hilton, the RSJE coordinator, the NCECA staff and the staff of the hosting institution were incredibly helpful. It was a pleasure to work with fellow juror Kristen Kieffer. The hundreds and hundreds of images we first encountered presented a wide array of work, from functional to figurative to site specific installation to mixed media. Without consciously setting quotas for specific types of work, we chose work representing the wide array of what was submitted. Curating an exhibition without seeing the actual pieces or the exhibition space is quite a challenge. When we arrived at the exhibition and saw it completely installed, it was remarkable to see the difference in actual scale, surface and form compared to the perceived qualities we originally saw and juried from a computer monitor.
The majority of the work we chose seemed to be idea driven. Perhaps this is a fundamental tenet of work coming out of academic institutions in the region for the 2008 student show. Ideas seemed to drive process for most of the artists. This opened wide the possible ways for working with the ceramic process, with clay being used from slip casting in molds to colored slip trailed on plaster, wheel thrown to coil built, press molded to pinched, and combinations way beyond. Much of the work seemed incredibly labor intensive, with possibilities being explored throughout each stage of the process. With some work, process became language, like with the simplicity of a pinch pot, thin and translucent, the penultimate “first” pot, but the process being taken to an articulate level of communication, with conscious rhythm, touch and form being investigated.
Some work was rooted in history, while other pieces drew from nature or played with pop culture, political, narrative and conceptual content. The depth and quality of the work was inspiring.
As a juror, I found myself in a great position to learn through this experience. Perhaps the most poignant lesson came during the awards selection process, during our first visit to the exhibition. When selecting work for the exhibition, we did not know which schools or levels of education the artists represented. Tasked with assigning certain awards that were undergraduate and graduate specific, Kristen and I struggled to choose works that belonged to each group. We had to make educated guesses. To our surprise and rescue, a seasoned curator and juror, Gail M. Brown, happened to be viewing the exhibition during this process. She shared her insight, encouraging us to “look for work which is raw and unrefined and full of potential” as a way to distinguish between the two.
Alleghany Meadows is a studio potter in Carbondale, Colorado.
Alfred University, NYSCC, Alfred, New York
Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio
Buffalo State College, Buffalo, New York
Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, Edinboro, Pennsylvania
Green Mountain College, Poultney, Vermont
Herron School of Art and Design, IUPUI, Indianapolis, Indiana
Illinois State University, Normal, Illinois
Indiana University Bloomington, Bloomington, Indiana
Juniata College, Huntington, Pennsylvania
Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, Maryland
Miami University, Oxford, Ohio
Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Illinois
The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio
Ohio University, Athens, Ohio
Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania
Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Rhode Island
Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York
School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts
Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Carbondale, Illinois
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Edwardsville, Illinois
SUNY New Paltz, New Paltz, New York
Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York
Temple University: Tyler School of Art, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania
University of Akron, Akron, Ohio
University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, Dartmouth, Massachusetts
University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
University of Wisconsin–Whitewater, Whitewater, Wisconsin
Waubonsee Community College, Sugar Grove, Illinois