Visiting McKnight Artist Resident: Pattie Chalmers

Pattie Chalmers will be joining us in the studios at Northern Clay Center from Carbondale, IL where she currently lives and works. Well known for creating narrative-based functional pottery, figurative sculpture, and installations, Chalmers looks forward to using her time in residence to further explore the nature of objectness and the aura of association by redeveloping themes and explorations to create an altogether new project.

Chalmers received her BFA in printmaking from the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, CA in 1993 and her MFA in ceramics from the University of Minnesota-Minneapolis in 2001. Transitioning from the role of student to teacher, she began work as an instructor shortly after completing her MFA. Having taught at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis and Ohio University in Athens, she has been an Associate Professor at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, IL since 2006. In addition to these sustained posts, Chalmers has led myriad lectures and workshops at art centers, universities, and institutions spanning the United States and in both Canada and Hungary.

Utilizing a variety of approaches during the making process, Chalmers works to create tableaux as an expression of a two-dimensional narrative space made three-dimensional. With fabrications depicting a shrinking of the distance between fact and fiction, her works visualize accounts from varying experiences that are amalgamated to reflect the flux of how things are remembered. She notes, “I am inherently an explainer and a storyteller and through my work attempt to map my experiences—a collage of influences combined with historical and fanciful elements revealing my observations about identity, ideologies, and what I learn about others and myself.”

Over the past ten years, Chalmers has shown work in group exhibitions on five continents, in six countries, and in thirty-two states—totaling over ninety exhibitions. Since 2004, her work has been featured in solo exhibitions at venues including the Craft Alliance in St. Louis, MO, Red Lodge Clay Center in Red Lodge, MT, Hunter Project Room at Hunter College in New York, NY, and Trisolini Gallery in Athens, GA. Chalmers has work in the collections of the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts in San Angelo, TX, The Clay Studio in Philadelphia, PA, and Kamm Teapot Foundation in Statesville, NC. Join us remotely on Tuesday, October 20, at 6 pm CT, for a presentation focusing on Chalmers’ history as an artist and goals as a maker.

Summer 2017: Anthony Stellaccio

Anthony Stellaccio’s creative process begins “at [a] site of memory and of mourning—a cemetery, the home of a loved one, or a historical site to which I can connect emotionally or spiritually. I collect earth and objects from these spaces, sometimes leaving what I can in their place.” He refers to his objects as confrontational and cathartic, acknowledging “the creation of beauty and art is mostly incidental”.

Stellaccio is freelance scholar and artist trained in both fine art and folklore. His McKnight Residency will be an opportunity for the NCC community to observe and engage with a maker who moves fluidly between materials as much as he moves between verbal and visual worlds.

He is a member of the International Academy of Ceramics, the American Ceramic Circle, and the American Folklore Society. Stellaccio is actively involved in the creation of art, writing, museum work, curation, jurying, and interdisciplinary cultural projects. His past appointments include the Smithsonian, National Museum of African Art, and the Lithuanian Art Museum in Vilnius.

After years working to establish a global voice in visual art and scholarship, Stellaccio will use his residency to ground his peripatetic practice with focused studio time. He plans to further develop his current work, which focuses on the acquisition of objects through unconventional means: the use of fired soils, unfired clay, binding agents, low-temperature sintering, and more. Stellaccio hopes to convey the importance of materials through contained isolation and confrontational contrast. He says, “I have only begun to develop this vocabulary and intend to push it to its limits while in residence at NCC.”

Autumn 2017: Kosmas Ballis

Kosmas Ballis asks himself, “What can I do to really push the medium?” He has been in pursuit of this question since graduate school in Tallahassee at Florida State University, where he received his MFA in 1999. He restated and reframed the question, with the benefit of hindsight from almost two decades of research, during a December 2016 interview he gave while in residence at the Shangyu Celadon Modern International Ceramic Art Center. “For me it’s all about the medium and I want to be someone who contributes to the medium,” he says.

In 2001, Ballis was celebrated as an NCECA Emerging Artist. He went on to create powerful sculptures in response to the BP Oil/ Deepwater Horizon catastrophe. The oil spill began on April 20, 2010, in the Gulf of Mexico and is considered the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry. This work was a deconstruction of his “Evolutionary Bouquet” series. 

A former student of Ken Ferguson’s, the foundation of Ballis’ work has always been grounded in formal traditions, regardless of the inspirational content. He has developed a unique way of working with porcelain slip to build his intricate, abstract sculptures, celebrating the delicacy of the material, as well as its ability to showcase a spectrum of saturations and hues. He is driven to explore and exploit the challenges of building vertical clay structures and enjoys all of the effort that goes into making a successful three-dimensional experience, both visually and structurally. 

His efforts caught our jurors’ attention last spring and his road to Northern Clay Center to be the fall McKnight Resident Artist this October has been a busy one. For the past year, he has been working at the Jingdezhen International Studio and the Shangyu International Celadon Museum, both in China. 

Winter 2018: Derek Au

Northern Clay Center welcomes McKnight Artist Resident Derek Au, who will join us from January 1 through March 31, 2018. Derek is one of two artists invited to participate in the McKnight Artist Residency for Ceramic Artists program in 2017. 

Au is American born, of Chinese descent. Educated in the US, he has lived in China since 2008. His work will be featured, not only in summer 2019 during Six McKnight Artists, but also in 2018 in Expatriate Ceramics. Au began the professional journey of life in the sciences, physics specifically, with forays into the Internet and even time working with Greenpeace upon the Rainbow Warrior. Through it all he has managed to retain a sense of inquiry with a touch of idealism, returning to the pottery studio time and again, simultaneously committing to the life of a studio artist as he committed to the life of an expatriate in Jingdezhen, a city known as the porcelain capital of China.

Up until 2013, his work reflected the tradition of ceramics emulating “valuable” artifacts from metalworking traditions in his Planeware series. In these objects, he interpreted the complex environment of discourse between craft traditions, but rather than emulating the surface of metal, as is often the case, he adopted the techniques and tools of metalsmithing to construct vessels with slabs of porcelain clay. The resulting wares call to mind objects rendered with sheet metal. Planeware is a body of work in deference to the trade of the humble tinsmith.

In 2016, he moved on to a new series, Painted, and again, he is interpreting a process. Au explains, “The history of ceramic slip decoration reaches far back into antiquity. Much as ancient pottery emulated more valuable vessels in precious metals, white slips were often applied to darker clay bodies in an effort to increase ‘value’. Many inventive uses for slips have evolved through the centuries....Similar to [the slip technique of] hakeme, the Painted series uses brushes to apply slip. But Painted removes the ‘ground’ of the underlying thrown form, leaving behind only the slip. Thus the decoration determines the shape of the vessel—the form is painted.”

This program is sponsored by the McKnight Foundation and reflects the Foundation’s interest in supporting outstanding individual ceramic artist who have proven their abilities, and are at a career stage that is beyond emerging. More information, as well as application deadlines regarding the McKnight Ceramic Artist Fellowship and Residency programs, can be found here.

Spring 2018: Linda Cordell

NCC’s Spring McKnight Resident Artist is Linda Cordell. Her work, which draws viewers in with the bait of irresistible color, dynamic form, and clinically pristine porcelain, was featured this summer in the contemporary art magazine HI*FRUCTOSE and on the daily news and review journal CFile. Cordell plans to use her time at NCC to investigate her recent curiosity—the framing devices used to present various figurines throughout history. She observes, “Using some conventions of traditional figurines combined with the dissonance of structure and materiality, I hope to create awkward and precarious environments for my animal sculptures.”

We wouldn’t have thought her animal figurines could be presented more uncomfortably, but she has already begun to play with geodesic domes, trusses, and arches as pedestals. She is not just accepting the memory inherent to porcelain, she is encouraging slumping, pushing the material to its limit in order to create fluid movement in a frozen moment. Why would she strive to present nature and the natural through a darkened and uncomfortable lens? Because, as she notes, “violence towards animals has long existed within the tradition of the ceramic figurine, never the star but a bit player, the craftsman's sly reminder of the harshness of life. The portrayal of victimization is a visual shorthand of emotionally charged serious art/ craft. This exploitation of helpless anguish for consumption further victimizes the victim. Inundated with trapped, starving, limbless animals in the ceramic field, my immediate response is to ‘disney-fy’ them. I want to make their agony palatable with humor and beauty. Soften the suffering with sweetness. Not so much a soapbox for animal activism, I see my work as a comment on the calluses we develop through the commodification of violence.”

Linda has been teaching in and around Pennsylvania since 2004, with full-time stints at Edinboro University and Kutztown University. Currently, she is an Adjunct Assistant Professor at University of the Arts in Philadelphia. She received her BFA from New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University, Alfred, New York, and her MFA from Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Her work has been exhibited in the Cheongju International Craft Biennale at the National Cheongju Museum, Korea; the Fuller Craft Museum, Brockton, Massachusetts; and The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas; among others. She is a 1998 recipient of an Evelyn Shapiro Foundation Fellowship and a 2003 Pew Fellowship in the Arts in the category of crafts.

Summer 2018: Ian Meares

Ian Meares was raised along Florida’s west central coast, and was a high school exchange student in Germany. Where he developed an enduring, sensitivity and awareness to borders, cultural exchange and the phenomena of sky, water and geography. Meares earned an MFA in Critical and Curatorial Studies at the University of California Irvine, an MFA in Ceramics and Sculpture from the University of Pennsylvania, and a BA in the Politics and Ethos of East Asia from Eckerd College in Florida. Ian currently lives in Columbus Ohio where he taught at The Ohio State University for 2017-2018. At its nucleus his research and creative work is concerned with the complementarity of ways materials are shaped and how meaning is made. As a multidisciplinarian he is deeply invested in modes of thinking and processes of making, learning by doing is foundational to his theoretical/curatorial, and artistic practices. A major aspect of his studio practice pushes the limits and boundaries of what is known as ceramics, both internally and externally to its discourse. He has participated in residences as well as presented, demonstrated,  and held solo and group exhibitions, in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Canada, England, and across the United States.

Autumn 2018: Bryan Czibesz

“I am at heart a tinkerer, and regularly working with my hands is at the core of how I engage with the world.”

Bryan Czibesz comes to NCC’s McKnight Artist Resident studio from the Hudson Valley, where he teaches at the State University of New York at New Paltz. He has traveled extensively around the country in recent years as a visiting artist doing 3D printer builds at institutions of higher learning. While he is definitely making a name for himself as an artist and educator versed in new technologies, he is grounded in the tradition of object making. He asks questions of authorship and authenticity through varying degrees of engagement and dislocation between the hand and material manipulation. 

Originally from Ohio, Czibesz earned his MFA from San Diego State University and BA from Humboldt State University in Arcata, California. He has shown his work in solo and group exhibitions throughout the United States and internationally, including the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, The Center for Craft, Creativity & Design, the Riga Porcelain Museum in Latvia, and the Ceramics Annual at Scripps College. He has taught at Arcadia University in Pennsylvania and Rowan University in New Jersey and has been an artist-in-residence at The Clay Studio in Philadelphia; the International Ceramics Studio in Kecskemét, Hungary; c.r.e.t.a. Rome; and the University of Hawaii at Manoa. 

In a conversational interview with Shawn Spangler, Czibesz illuminates the draw of technology: “I think about technology as the way humans source sustenance and reconcile the physiological limitations of our bare faculties. It is a continuum that describes the way that we engage with materials physically in the world, as well as the knowledge that is contained within that  manipulation and is exchanged between people across time and space. As a result, I am interested in the tension between what we can do with material technology and its relationship to the actions and reactions of the human body. This is evident in the way hands work in clay, but it also relates to most of the ostensible goals of technology. Technology is a mediation—or a prosthesis—that engages our desire to transcend the limitations of our physiology. The cup, for example, is the first prosthesis for what we can do simply by cupping our hands. From that point forward, each technological innovation can be seen as an incremental removal of the human body from direct experience, all the way up to digital technology and virtual reality, which leaves nothing but digital prosthesis in place of our physical experience in the world. I like the tension this presents between our goals and our actual visceral experience in the world.”

Join us on Tuesday, October 23, at 6 pm for a free lecture on his work in NCC’s library, where Czibesz will share his technological adventures and demonstrate how hand work remains at the core of his engagement with the world. 


Winter 2019: Alessandro Gallo

You may remember Alessandro Gallo’s work from the 2017 exhibition Tempered Beasts at NCC, one of the many exhibitions and collections featuring his work around the globe or from the 2018 NCECA Conference where he was a demonstrating artist. NCC is excited to welcome this world-renowned artist to the McKnight Ceramic Artist Residency, where he will be working to complete sculptures for an upcoming solo exhibition at Abmeyer + Wood in Seattle. While in residence, Gallo is excited to contribute to the NCC community. He says, “Northern Clay Center provides a great working environment and a dynamic community to immerse myself in, exchange energy, ideas, inspiration, and the focus necessary to complete all my projects in the best possible way.

Gallo represents the silent life of his surroundings and the stories of people inhabiting them by creating human/animal hybrids. He employs the animal head as an expressive tool, something between a mask and a caricature that exaggerates inner features. By combining it with the silent language of our body and the cultural codes of fashion, he portrays not only specific individuals, but also the larger groups and subcultures they belong to and, ultimately, the common habitat we all share. Specifically, Gallo makes note of how animals display behavioral patterns and biological features that can be extended metaphorically to humans. He explains, “Donkeys are stubborn, eagles are noble, pigs are greedy. Chameleons can rotate their eyes independently allowing them to observe in all directions with minimal movement, a perfect quality for an opportunistic hunter.”

Gallo is never shy about the inherent humor in his work: “All languages are full of idioms involving animals such as ‘sitting duck,’ ‘monkey business,’ ‘culture vulture,’ ‘rat race,’ and many more.”

Gallo was born in Genoa, Italy, and is now based in Helena, Montana. After studying law at the University of Genoa, he earned a BA at Chelsea College of Art in London. While studying painting, he began experimenting with digital photography, manipulating images to create scenes of animals in familiar city settings. By 2005, he decided to give his creatures a physical presence by sculpting them in clay. Gallo and his anthropomorphic characters have received widespread recognition, with his works being featured in the 237th Annual Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in London and the 54th Venice Biennale in 2011. In 2012, he received a first place grant from the Virginia A. Groot Foundation. In 2014 and 2016, he had solo exhibitions at the Jonathan Levine Gallery in New York.

Join Alessandro Gallo for a free image presentation on Tuesday, January 22, at 6 pm in NCC’s library.


Spring 2019: Ted Adler

NCC’s 2019 Spring McKnight Artist Resident is Ted Adler. A ceramic artist and educator, Adler has been teaching at Wichita State University since 2005. He is looking forward to the time, space, and support that the McKnight Artist Residency for Ceramic Artists will provide for his research, but he is also looking beyond such immediate benefits, noting, “This residency will expand my professional network, which will not only serve me, but my students as well.”

Prior to moving to Wichita, Adler served as an instructor and ceramics studio coordinator for Northern Arizona University's School of Art in Flagstaff. He received his BA from Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, in 1993, and his MFA from Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, in 2002. He has studied with internationally respected artist Toshiko Takaezu, with whom he apprenticed for more than a year in her Quakertown, New Jersey, studio. He also spent two years as an artist-in-residence at the Archie Bray Foundation in Helena, Montana. Over the course of his career, Adler has exhibited work, conducted workshops, and served as a visiting artist at numerous ceramic centers and universities in the United States and around the world.

Now, as a mid-career artist, he is enthusiastic about the opportunity to re-tool his studio practice and connect with new ideas and processes while at NCC. He says, “The materiality of clay and its relationship to metaphor has been a long-standing interest in my work. I intend to further develop combined methods of working both on and off the potter’s wheel to expand the expressive potential of the sculptural vessel.” He is very interested in engaging with other wood-fire artists in the region during his time as a McKnight Artist Resident.

Adler writes, “The rich, varied surfaces of wood firing convey the change and flux of the kiln environment. This process tends to capture the sense of clay’s protean malleability that enhances the way that the objects might be interpreted as a metaphor for the fugitive nature of experience. By using the vessel as an analogy for selfhood, and subjecting it to processes of forming and firing that lend themselves to a sense of transformation (which is both actual and figural), I hope to elicit a sense that our relationship to ourselves and the world around us is more slippery than we ordinarily like to admit.”

Please join us in welcoming Adler as part of the NCC community from April through June. He will present an artist talk on Tuesday, April 23, 2019, at 6 pm in NCC’s Library. This presentation is free and open to the public.

Summer 2019: Leandra Urrutia

Join Northern Clay Center in welcoming our 2019 Summer McKnight Artist Resident, Leandra Urrutia. Born and raised in San Antonio, Texas, she began drawing and sculpting at an early age. Urrutia is influenced by the rich culture and traditions of her Mexican-American heritage. In particular, artifacts and folklore surrounding Dr. Aureliano Urrutia, a controversial and legendary San Antonian, inspired an interest in the figure that continues to this day. Urrutia is a three-dimensional specialist who works predominately in clay. Her art addresses balance in regard to intimacy, attraction, repulsion, aging, and perseverance. Her building expertise ranges from trompe l’oeil to abstraction, with technical proficiencies that encompass image transfer and module making. A committed educator, Urrutia has worked extensively with Zark Strasburger to co-create a unique content-centric experience titled Idea, Process, and Criticism(IPC). This ideation course has been the subject of presentations to faculty and various academic colleagues across the country at conferences that include the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design (AICAD) and the Mid-America College Art Association (MACAA).

Urrutia exhibits her work nationally and internationally. In 2007, she was designated an Emerging Artist by the National Council for the Education of Ceramic Arts (NCECA) in Louisville, Kentucky. In 2014, she was the recipient of the Emmett O'Ryan Award for Artistic Inspiration in Memphis, Tennessee. Her work is included in the Sanford M. and Diane Besser collection and is part of the Kinsey Institute’s permanent collection. Additionally, the Lark Ceramic books, 500 Figures in Clayand 500 Ceramic Sculptures, contain samples of her pieces.

Urrutia is one of the co-founding American members of the Studio Nong Collective, an ongoing international residency comprised of artists and educators invested in creative and cultural exchange. She is Associate Professor of Studio Art and teaches beginning, intermediate, and advanced courses in clay sculpture and idea development. She has been serving the Memphis College of Art community since 2002. She holds a BFA in drawing and ceramics from Southwest Texas State University, and an MFA in ceramics from the University of Mississippi.

Join us on Tuesday, July 16, at 6 pm, when Urrutia will present a free lecture in NCC’s library on her work and life.

Autumn 2019: Hidemi Tokutake

Hidemi Tokutake is from the city of Kariya in the Aichi prefecture of Japan, which is just south of Nagoya. Her ceramic research began at the Seto Ceramic School in Seto, Japan. Seto-city is one of the main centers for the production of Japanese ceramics; the history reaches back to the 13th century. It is also the site of one of the Six Ancient Kilns of Japan, a category developed in the post-war period to describe the most noteworthy ceramic kilns in Japan.

From this rich base, Tokutake moved to Australia, in 2013, where she studied at the National Art School, completing the Master course, majoring in ceramics, and becoming a member of the International Academy of Ceramics. As a current resident of Sydney, she is influenced by the local environment. Pulling from the environment has continued to inform her work as she travels around the globe. She explains, “During my time as an artist-in-residence at multiple locations in both Denmark and America, I searched for inspiration in the local environment. At the University of South Carolina, I found many acorns on the ground. They were huge and unusual to me but the local residents were accustomed to them. They wondered at my fascination with them. In my exhibit there, I made a carpet of acorns. As an outsider I was able to find something beautiful and unique in local nature that was uninteresting and blasé to the locals.”

Most of her work is created by using handbuilding techniques, allowing her finger marks to form the surface of her art, which echo the patterns found in nature. Each work is unique, different in softness and sensitivity, reflecting the intricacies of nature, and through this, Tokutake’s art often emotionally resonates with her audience.

She notes, “My work explores the religious aesthetic aspects of Japanese culture such as Zen calligraphy and Shinto appreciation of nature, within an overall Abstract Expressionist style. I wonder about the birth of nature, the wonder of seeds emerging from pods, the continuum of life, all of which can be likened to a woman giving birth to a child. My sculptures include functional elements, visual features resembling [female] reproductive organs, flowers, seedpods, and other natural forms. At the heart of my work, I aim to bring to focus the beauty, curiosity, and unity between plants and humans.”

Tokutake’s exhibition record includes venues in Japan, Australia, Taiwan, Denmark, Scotland, Ireland, China, Turkey, Indonesia, and the US. NCC is pleased to welcome her to Minneapolis. We are looking forward to seeing our world anew through her eyes. Join us on Tuesday, October 22, at 6 pm, for a free lecture on her work in NCC’s Library, where she will share deeper insights into her work and the experiences of her most recent journeys.

Register for your free spot here.


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