Kilns, Bones and Marisol

On another unseasonably warm day this week (is anyone else completely freaked out about global warming?) Brent & I decided to head out to State College PA to pick up the ceramics pieces he has been working on out there...I didn't understand why he had been spending so much time in the art department at Penn State until I saw it with my own eyes: a magical wonderland of art facilities, filled to the brim with bright & talented professors, artists & students! O, and an on campus creamery who, rumor has it, sells ice cream that is so creamy it is illegal to sell in stores because it will kill you....delicious!

Anyway...the ceramics studio at Penn State is phenomenal, kiln after kiln (pictured above) was available for students and an energy just permeated the entire space as kids seemed to be everywhere sculpting or firing or brainstorming. This feeling of creative wonder extended beyond the ceramics studio too with students roaming the halls crushing charcoal onto a painting with their feet or trying to plasticize raw food or determining the best way to make a head out of cheese balls all while the profs were on hand urging along and offering their own kind of brilliance...! If anyone is actually freaked out by global warming it might be the art students here, a certain natural element was buzzing through a lot of the work including some cast bronze crab legs & ceramic coral (pictured) by one student and mussels & bones drying in the sun (pictured) belonging to another and also some robot and dinosaur mugs (which we most certainly own a few of now!) student's detailed ceramic mushrooms looked so real you couldn't tell the organic from the sculpted! I didn't see too many finished pieces but all of the precise and beautiful work I saw in progress made me really wish I could follow the projects everyone was working on...

The Palmer Museum of Art at Penn State was a weird one...a lot of classical paintings, and pottery but also a really strange array of other genres as well. One exhibit was composed of paintings from the 30s & 40s, a WPA, carnival, Hopper vibe that portrayed weird tableaus of alienated life in painted form. Another exhibit of Hogarth's satirical engravings was pretty neat, social and political commentaries from the 18th century, a precursor to modern political cartoons but with so much more artistry....The one artist I discovered at this museum that has since blown me away is Marisol, a French born, American, Venezuelan & European raised sculptor who is now 82 years old. The piece on display was titled Blackfoot Delegation to Washington 1916 (poorly pictured at top) and it has a crazy history about it: Native Americans invited American artists to contribute art to a World's Fair Pavilion in exchange for a blessing from a Shaman, Marisol was the only artist to respond. The piece that she created for the exhibition was based on a photo taken to commemorate when members of the Blackfoot Indian tribe attempted to negotiate a land deal with the US Government in 1916. There was something so detailed but so rough about her work, depicting something so important and forgotten in a way it will always be remembered- I completely love it! Her other pieces I've since seen online are equally as disturbing in their execution, an edginess in form and content that looks so contemporary in style and vital in content, she is amazing!

...and then there was ice cream! And an impromptu dinner party (at an insanely talented professor's house)! And a trip to a really nice grocery store! And a brief stop at the indelible Helen O'Leary's house (a joy & a wonder whose Irish accent I am convinced makes Brent listen to the Pogues more)! Yes, Penn State Arts...and you thought they were only good for football!



Donna K. is a recent transplant to the Midwest where she can be found exploring culture at large through film programming, writing and her general interest in the world- both on and offline.