Two extremes in clay could be found in the Eisentrager/Howard Gallery. One half is filled with Taylor Sijan’s beautiful, finely crafted functional pottery. The other side is covered with Amythest Hultman Warrington’s sculptural work that uses dripping water to dissolve the clay.
While very different in the use of material and presentation of the ceramics, the two Master of Fine Arts exhibitions are linked as responses to the coronavirus pandemic that sent the artists home for months last year.
In Sijan’s show, “Growth,” the response is visible in the presentation of the work. A handmade table contains two breakfast place settings — plates, grapefruit bowls, cups — arranged side-by-side, reflecting the fact that she and her partner were, during the shutdown, eating together in the morning, a pre-pandemic rarity.
On the shelves on the wall are more grapefruit bowls and other pottery — spice jars, syrup jugs and plates — stored in anticipation of guests coming to share meals as life returns to normal.
Behind the table are pitcher and cup sets on pedestals — set aside, in Sijan’s presentation, by the pandemic and turned, in a sense, into art objects. That is particularly the case with a cake stand with small plates on the top.
The porcelain pieces are universally exquisitely crafted, many covered with brightly colored floral designs, perfectly textured and, as functional pottery, easy to handle.
Warrington’s exhibition, titled “The Weight of It All,” is a very personal and highly conceptual body of work that examines her experience after her husband committed suicide, feelings that were renewed at the onset of the pandemic.
While most of the work was created after the artists were allowed to return to Richards Hall and the kilns, the show’s dominant work comes from 2019, just after the floods that hit the neighborhood where Warrington lives.
It’s is a wooden bed frame, intentionally built to not hold a standard mattress. At the top of the frame are dozens of roses made from raw, unfired clay. On a side of the bed is an indentation shaped like a body in a fetal position smashing down the clay while a stream of water drips from above, slowly dissolving it.
That visual metaphor for dealing with the anguish and pain of her loss sits next to an imposing interlocked stack of “bricks.” Representing hitting a wall in the emotional struggle, the bricks are arranged to allow light to come through, a symbol of hope.
The autobiography in “The Weight of It All” is embodied in the pieces themselves — a two-part wall sculpture finds a casting of Warrington’s hand on one disc and the imprints of her fingers on the opposite and a ceramic pillow with an indentation modeled from her head sits at the door of the gallery.
The show-capping piece that captures Warrington’s work technically and thematically is a curtain of flower petals made of a New Zealand clay that when lit from only one side becomes translucent.
The two clay exhibitions are the final University of Nebraska-Lincoln School of Art, Art History & Design shows of 2021. Like their six predecessors, they present some of the best art work being made, technically and intellectually, in Lincoln.
Reach the writer at 402-473-7244 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @KentWolgamott