Contemporary Figurative Ceramics Exhibition Opens Sunday, Oct. 3, at the Barton Art Galleries

WILSON, N.C. – The Barton Art Galleries is pleased to announce the “Contemporary Figurative Ceramics” exhibition opening on Sunday, Oct 3, with a reception from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m. This event is free to the public, and the community is invited to attend.

Also on Barton Art Galleries’ schedule is Leslie Ferrin, noted ceramic author and co-owner of the Ferrin Gallery in Cummington, Mass., who will be the featured lecturer discussing figurative ceramics at the Barton College Friends of Visual Arts Dinner on Thursday, Oct. 21.  For additional information about joining Friends of Visual Arts, contact Frances Belcher at 252-399-6357.

Considering that works in this extraordinary exhibition focus on the human figure, it is no surprise that many of the artists present questions concerning human existence or are engaged in a search for spirituality. Melisa Cadell, from Bakersville, is interested in the spiritual being that is represented by each of her figures and the embodied strength of character of those whom her work is based. “Clay allows me the opportunity to form figures who sing of their past and who are witnesses of their history,” shared Cadell.

Asheville-based Ed Byers is another artist exploring the spirit evoked in the form. Inspired by folk movements in the American South as well Africa, his figures are usually represented in a place of joy, peace, and hope.

In the company of these artists, evaluating aspects of life in general, are those illustrating the stories of humanity as a culture. Tinka Jordy, from Chapel Hill, uses everyday imagery as a visual stimulus to illustrate stories and personal dreams. “I attempt to reach a more subconscious level that will hopefully pass thru my personal journey to the universal core,” said Jordy. “It is this core that connects us all.”

Tim N. Taunton of LaGrange, Ga., explores the South and its stories in a surrealistic manner. He presents cultural folklore as realistic and believable, combining elements of real life with metaphorical ones. The challenges of bringing these tales to life somewhat reinvent the story, but as Taunton shared, “For better or for worse, this is part of the process of storytelling.”

Sculptures in the exhibition predominantly consist of hand-built forms, where the artists circle coils of wet clay, smoothing them together, then carving into and adding onto the basic shapes. Figures are then dried, fired in a kiln, and glazed with mineral compounds to provide color. Artist Alison Palmer of Kent, Conn., embraces color in a whimsical and playful way, typically invoking a witty sense of humor.

The surfaces of the works are often as interesting as the poses of the figures themselves. For Carol Gentithes of Seagrove, an intense amount of emphasis is placed on surface decoration. “I think of my work as three-dimensional paintings,” she said. “Layered with stains, glazes, silkscreen emulsions, oil crayons, and glass, the surfaces reveal a micro world of imaginary characters and parodies of contemporary figures.”

As opposed to the usual process of glazing a ceramics piece, Victoria Sexton, from Greenville, paints her works with acrylics. Her figures juxtapose elements of the bizarre with universally recognizable ones. These rich narrative subjects possess a certain comfortable strangeness that is designed to capture the attention of the viewer. It is upon inspection of the details that one gets to the true meaning of the figures.

When beginning a work, many artists have a specific idea in mind, completing a sketching and planning process; however, Debra Fritts of Roswell, Ga., works intuitively, developing her figures along the way. Her work embraces the notion of the sculpture having its own spiritual existence that must revealed as the clay is shaped and molded. Fritts explained,  “These works demonstrate a continuous story of life and the mysteries and rituals in daily living.”

Several artists in the exhibition branch out from traditional ceramics, incorporating found objects with their clay pieces. Nancy Kubale, from Rutherfordton, combines fired ceramics with wood, metal, fiber, and other objects. Joan Rasmussen, of Atlanta, Ga., uses found objects as a way to examine themes of gathering and collecting in one’s search for individuality. Kirsten Stingle, also from the Atlanta area, uses mixed media to tell the viewer about her subjects’ journeys, referencing the past through association with objects.

Because the sculptures in the exhibition represent the human form or human-like figures, the artwork is easily approachable and invites an interchange with the work. Christina West, another Atlanta artist, uses this notion in the creation of her figures. Her figures are usually frozen in mid-gesture and devoid of cultural references or other clues to the meaning. This treatment provides an intriguing ambiguity that makes the viewer want to know more about the subject.

Jaye Lawrence from San Diego, Calif., relies on the viewer to complete a work of art in a more abstract notion. Her figures are fragmented with some human elements being excluded and replaced with random natural and man-made elements. “The roughness and irregularities suggest real bodies rather than ideal ones,” Lawrence shared. “I am fascinated by how a carefully chosen stick, root, or rock can suggest an arm, torso, or head.”

The exhibition runs through Thursday, Nov. 4. The Barton Art Galleries are open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. For additional information, please contact Bonnie LoSchiavo at 252-399-6477 or email: