Southern supports human expression through art gallery


J’Mari HughesReporter

On Wednesday, Feb. 13, the art department held its annual opening reception of the Ceramic Collection in Buley Library and unveiled its new pieces into the collection from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Art professor and gallery director Cort Sierpinski said while some pieces were made local, others are national and international, coming from countries like Mexico, Sweden and Italy.

The ceramic exhibition is on display in the art gallery in the from Jan. 30 to Mar. 28.

Sierpinski said the collection includes 60 different pieces, each one created in a unique way.

“This is a collection that’s been developed probably over the last 15 years,” he said, “so each year when we do annual pottery sales in the Engleman lobby and the money that’s generated from those sales is used to buy pieces in this collection.”

Sierpinski said the collection was started 50 years ago by Mary Lou Alberetti, who taught ceramics, and originally intended it to be a women’s ceramic artist collection. It was not until later that it began to expand.

Sierpinski said the art displays began at Southern about four years ago in the library, the one space the university allocated for it. For years, he said, there was not a art gallery on campus and any creations would be displayed in the lobby or hallways of Earl Hall.

“It’s something we’ve been advocating for for decades and [Southern] is one of the few campuses in the CSU system that hasn’t consistently had an art gallery.” said Sierpinski.

Art professor Greg Cochenet said with the gallery, they can show students the variety of possibilities within ceramics.

“There’s only so much that we can do here at Southern so by purchasing artwork, different firing styles, and different types of clay,” he said, “it’s just a way to show them what could be done and hopefully give them inspiration.”

Freshmen Elia Green and Alex Mickens said being art majors, they both came to the gallery to see what other artists are creating in hopes of inspiration and finding new ways to create different kinds of art.

“Just to see how creative others can be is perfect,” Mickens said. “It’s a cool way for students to connect and see what art is out there.”

Mickens and Green both said that while they do not focus on ceramics, they believe that if they were taught, they could one day make art that would belong in a gallery.

“These are by professional ceramic artists,” Sierpinski said, “so it’s not something that the average student taking a class or two in ceramics is gonna be able to easily do. This is over years of experience.”

Sierpinski said making ceramics is a long process. It starts with clay in its raw, moist, pliable state. Once it dries, he said, it is fired, glazed, and fired once more.

One of Green’s favorite pieces was a stonewall piece by an artist named Vince Pitelka. He said he admired the shape, color and texture and called it “crazy impressive.”

Cochenet said it was hard for him to pick a favorite. Rather than having one, he said he could choose multiple that are all different from one another.

“It’s tough for me because the whole point of the collection is to show diversity,” he said. “There’s so many different styles, so many different techniques that are displayed. When we go to purchase work we try to think of what’s already in the collection and what we could add to it.”

He said the gallery displays almost every possible ceramic technique from those fired with wood to those fired in an electric kiln at a range from 1500 to 2400 degrees Fahrenheit. Sierpinski said he hopes people interested in ceramics can see the wide range of what they can do.

“Art is [a] form of human expression,” Mickens said. “It’s interesting to look at and this art is really cute.”

Terrance Lavin, chairperson of the art department, said the collection is an opportunity for students to be up close to and see how a successful piece of pottery was created.

Photo Credit: J’Mari Hughes

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