I had the pleasure of working as the liaison for the recent ceramic workshop at the University of Florida hosted by H.O.T. Clay. We were fortunate to have Christyl Boger a figure sculpture and professor at Indiana University. Christyl is a fascinating artist who started her career in painting and went on to work as an event coordinator. She fell into clay later in life and has really enjoyed her second career in the ceramic arts. She works predominantly with the figure and frequently the female. They remain bare and unclothed typically crouched or seated. The faces seem void but the posses, hand gestures and the simple or decorative surface speaks to the intent of the piece.
My first memory of seeing Boger’s piece was at my very first NCECA the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts Conference in Baltimore, Maryland. My first ceramics professor has studied at Indiana University where she taught. He told me to stop by the IU booth. When I did, I fell in love with a figure placed in the center of the poster they were passing out. I had no idea who had made it but I never forgot it. I even went as far as to hang that poster in my room for years after.
Along with the help of many others I organized a two-day workshop to bring Christly Boger to UF ceramics. It was a lot of work corresponding, planning, and managing during the workshop. But was it worth it??
I have never made a figure but my interest in ceramics goes beyond my own studio practice and this woman wrapped in an inner tube changed my life. This was one of the first times a piece of art spoke to me in a deep way and I had not even see it in person. I did finally see one of her pieces in person and it was as amazing as I had hoped it would be. Last year, I suggested Boger as a potential artist to bring in, she was voted in and the long process began. I enjoyed the workshop and it seemed as if my love for ceramics and figures in specific has come full circle as I was able to watch her form the face and feet of a figure. This was an amazing experience I will never forget.
My question is why are visiting artists important? What benefit can come from these experiences?
I am sure I could argue over and over again the benefit of seeing, talking, and interacting with artists. I have come up with a few reasons that I will share with you. The first reason is everyone works differently and I think it is refreshing and energizing to watch an artist who does something completely different. Even if your class was working on a coil project if you bring in an artist working with coils I can assure you they will do things much different then you would expect. Second, I think the reality of the artist life is not easy to grasp as a student and bringing in someone who is doing it who can share stories is very important. Third, having someone who has never looked at your artwork spend time with you looking at your work can be beneficial for everyone. It is always a good idea to get perspective from a variety of people. When you are in a classroom with one teacher and only a few students who see your work every day or every week the feedback become similar and for me it starts to mush up in my brain. I look forward to visits from a critical eye that is not familiar with my work. I could go on forever but I have to stop somewhere. If you have questions or comments please feel free to contact me.
I also want to mention that you do not need to organize visiting artists to come from across the country. There are artists living and working in your home community who would love to come into you classrooms
Interested in the figure? a few recommended readings:
Atlas of the Human Body for the Artist by Stephen Rogers Peck
The Figure in Clay: Contemporary Sculpting Techniques by Master Artists