Please touch the art
Gretchen Burns | Collegio Writer
Several students, faculty and residents gathered in Grubbs Hall on March 15 to hear about the unique artwork of sculptor Jessica Gardner.
Sarah Stonecipher says she enjoyed listening to Gardner talk about her artwork.
“I really liked it,” said Stonecipher, senior in art. “I thought it was really exciting.”
Portico Bowman, university gallery director, says Gardner was chosen to exhibit at Pitt State by a committee made up of members of the Art Department. She says about 300 schools, artists and groups were contacted and invited to exhibit and Gardner’s portfolio was chosen based on the merit and quality of her work.
Bowman says she was glad so many people came to the lecture.
“We had so many art students helping all day to install the show,” Bowman said. “It was an intimate body of people who had interacted to complete one show.”
Bowman says Gardner brought a new technique for clay sculpture to Pittsburg State University with her exhibit and lecture. Gardner worked out her own form of slip-dipping, which is dipping cloth in wet clay and firing it so that the clay looks like the outfit of cloth that was originally used.
She says she got the idea to work with cloth when she was applying for graduate school and wanted to turn back to her knowledge of sewing and textiles for new ideas.
“I like the idea that you think my work is textiles,” Gardner said. “And you walk up and you find it’s clay.”
Gardner’s work is displayed in the Harry Krug Gallery, which is filled with interactive toys and ceramic figures Gardner hopes will trigger the childhood memories of her audience.
“I want to give people a more interactive and emotional experience,” Gardner said.
Many of the pieces on display are interactive, such as a “Plinko” game, a rocking horse and a chair created to look like a giraffe. Gardner says she chose to create interactive pieces because she wanted the viewer to stay and explore the art.
“I like to give the view a couple of different levels,” Gardner said. “It puts you in a really important frame of mind.”
Gardner laughed as she stressed the interactions between artwork and viewer.
“I had a football player on the rocking horse for a really long time and he didn’t hurt it,” Gardner said.
Gardner studied psychology in school and she says she tries to incorporate it into her artworks. She says most of her artworks are directed at childhood memories.
“I found it really interesting that the first key steps could set someone up to take the next really big steps,” Gardner said.
Gardner says she designed the piece titled “Puppeteer” to show how older siblings have a lot of responsibilities. The piece has a wooden hand crank that raises the younger sibling up. When the crank is let go, the child is dropped to hover inches above the ground.
“People would gasp and freak out,” Gardner said. “It was great. My art made people actually feel something!”
Steve Ford, professor of biology, says he attended the lecture to learn more.
“I find it interesting to come over and immerse myself in a totally new topic,” Ford said.
Gardner says she was glad to have the opportunity to share her experiences during her lecture. She says the gallery was set up fast enough that she was able to demonstrate her sculpture technique in a ceramics class on campus.
“I got to contribute to the excitement and energy of new techniques in clay sculpture,” Gardner said.
Dalton Gainer says he enjoyed the lecture and demonstration, viewing it as a new form for sculpture.
“It was very interesting,” said Gainer, freshman in art. “Seeing the work and then hearing about the inspirations behind it.”
Gardner is an artist from Portland, Ore., and her work is on display in the Harry Krug Gallery in Porter Hall through May 4.