Art exhibit examines relationships between teachers, students

Friday, September 12, 2003

Amy Kephart and Colleen Carey McCall both teach ceramics at Southeast Missouri State University. Because of the hands-on, tactile nature of their art, each sometimes gets to watch and learn from the other.

In curating "Crossing Paths," the exhibition of pottery and sculpture now at the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri, Kephart aimed to show how ceramics professors and their students influence each other. From digital images of pottery on a screen to the most basic functional pitchers, the exhibit represents the scope of what is going on in ceramics today, she says.

Kephart invited her own professors and friends from graduate school to contribute work and the work of their students. The art is from Missouri, Illinois, Alabama and Texas.

"This is a metaphor for how we all cross paths in this media called ceramics," Kephart said In a gallery talk during the opening reception.

Ceramics artists naturally share techniques with each other, Kephart says. She describes watching McCall, whose torso sculptures are among the exhibit's most impressive works, build a body from the legs up and then throw the legs away. "She did it just to get the proportion," Kephart said.

"Seeing her do that helped push my technique."

McCall had been primarily a figurative artist before coming to teach at Southeast. Now, in an influence she attributes to Kephart, most of the pieces she makes are functional. Kephart's signature work consists of functional but highly stylized pottery. A new mom, McCall now is making children's dishes and dishes for the family dog.

What's missing in her sculptures is as important as what can be seen, McCall said in her gallery talk.

"I represent the body as something that's hollow -- hollow in a positive sense, as in breath, not a void," she said.

James Thurman, a senior art student at Southeast from Poplar Bluff, said watching the professors work has been an essential part of his education.

He is considering opening a ceramics studio when he graduates.

Feedback from students is important for a professor/artist as well, Kephart says.

"They feed me every day. They challenge me every day in problem solving."

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