45th Annual Ink & Clay exhibition returns to campus for the year of sapphire

By Cynthia Haro, Sept. 27, 2022

The 45th annual Ink & Clay exhibition, located in the W. Keith & Janet Kellogg University Art Gallery, returned to campus this fall for its regular in-person viewing after a year of being held virtually. This year’s gallery marks the 45th year, or sapphire anniversary, celebration of the exhibition through the special theme The Art of Type.

Artists from all over the country were called to submit their most recent art pieces with elements primarily composed of ink, clay or both. In addition to this requirement, the theme asked for the use of text, script, symbols and phrases among other possibilities to demonstrate proper understanding.

The gallery is filled with 90 out of the 300 art pieces that were entered, all of which personalized the guidelines to match the artist’s style. Through this artistic freedom, a unique experience was brought to fruition for viewers to enjoy.

Michele Cairella Fillmore, gallery curator and art collections manager, expressed that beyond sapphires being the main inspiration for the color choice of blue, it was meant to be symbolic and reminiscent. Materials such as clay, ink and even type are typically blue or black — which is another notable color throughout the gallery.

“It was an opportunity to present a challenge to them (the artists) and see how they rose to that challenge,” stated Cairella Fillmore. “We don’t want to repeat the same show every year, after 45 years that gets old. Naturally, the artists evolve and naturally things change but it kind of stepped it up.”

Due to the challenging style of the artwork, many former active participants opted out of this year’s theme.

Cairella Fillmore explained that other artists who withdrew from the competition simply did not have the means to ship out their work due to the recent increase in shipping costs.

“We had to eliminate some pieces from the show that physically they couldn’t get here so we still didn’t exclude those people from the show, we still represented them in the gallery space on site,” Cairella Fillmore said.

Cynthia Haro | The Poly Post

Text panels were put in the place of the artwork with a notation at the bottom informing guests as to why the pieces could not be exhibited at the gallery.

When this tradition first began in 1971, the art world was burdened with the concern that print and clay art were dying forms. It was created to both honor and keep them alive for those on campus wishing to indulge in the free art exhibits and has since continued successfully for 45 years.

For many, art is a means by which the emotions evoked from one’s internal and external world can be explained in a far more explicit manner. Participants of the competition used their artistry to express their thoughts on serious ongoing political issues as well as concepts regarding the pandemic through artistic interpretation.

Artist Joy Nagy showcased the trials and tribulations of immigrants in America through her piece “Give me your tired.”

Using white clay, Nagy mimicked the appearance of crumpled up paper with the poem found on the Statue of Liberty “The New Colossus” written by Emma Lazarus. The poem is written in 25 different languages on 25 clay sheets. Each piece was accompanied by a QR code allowing viewers to scan and hear the poem spoken by native speakers of the language it was written in.

“It’s the power of a voice and it’s connecting you to the person and I think that hearing the translation in native voices is very moving. It was very moving for me. People were very generous in providing that,” said Nagy.

She expressed that her wish for those viewing her piece is to develop a connection with the concept that this country was built on the foundation of immigration. Viewers are asked to understand the value of immigrants and the issues they are subject to daily.

Like Nagy’s political emotivism, first place ink prize winner Sarah Bryant expressed her experience during the pandemic through the piece “I Have Set My Hand Against The Tide.”

Through a collection of Google patent images and drawings of caissons and flood gates, Bryant created the imagery of debris being swept away to symbolize her individual experience being on lockdown during the pandemic. The cluttered metal elements from the print were symbolic to the external threat of the pandemic.

“I started thinking about my environment as sort of a caisson keeping things as bay, not everyone was able to be at home all the time. We were pretty fortunate that we were able to be at home all the time,” said Bryant.

Bryant emphasized the importance of art not limiting itself to being merely a pleasure for the eye, but rather an outlet for self-expression.

Through these intricate art pieces, viewers are encouraged to meditate on and understand the struggles that are faced as a society with depth to develop the mind.

For those wishing to visit the gallery, the Kellogg gallery will be holding the exhibition through Nov. 17. Viewers may still access the virtual gallery and take part in the experience by downloading a suitable version of the exhibition for their devices.

Feature image courtesy of Cynthia Haro

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