When: March 21-April 15 2016
Where do clay and the apocalypse intersect? For a moment, at least, examples of such crossroads are on display in this group exhibition at the University of Vermont’s Living/Learning Center Gallery. The curatorial collaboration of ONE Arts and ArtShape Mammoth features the primarily clay-based works of four sculptors: Cori Champagne, Amy Joy Hosterman, Jane Gordon and Sande French-Stockwell. Works “simultaneously focus on optimistic perspectives of survival, sustainability and prosperity while exploring the dismal reality of consumption and overuse.” Two works by Albuquerque artist Gordon amass tiny sculptural elements to form larger installations that are visually pleasing but address bleak realities. The first of these is “Replacement System 1,” a pile of open cardboard boxes from which small clay fiddlehead-like plants “sprout.” At her opening talk, Gordon explained her concept: These seedlings were grown by a post-apocalyptic population who know of plants and farming but no longer have the knowledge or experience of earlier humans. When this reporter suggested that her work feels like the stuff of Margaret Atwood science fiction, Gordon confirmed that Atwood’s dystopian tales “directly influenced” her. Colorado-based Hosterman uses clay as a medium of and about sustainability. She digs and processes her own clay in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, using some of it to create her miniature objects, such as the juice box “0% Juice, New Flavor!” Other renderings depict a Dumpster and a claw-foot tub filled with shiny, raku-fired scraps. The latter was originally intended as a brooch for former secretary of state and ambassador Madeleine Albright. Both Roxbury, Mass., artist Champagne and Corinth sculptor French-Stockwell incorporate a little more cheer into their works. Champagne constructs functional “wearable sculpture” that somewhat humorously anticipates a new kind of homesteading. French-Stockwell has made a series of colorful, rough-hewn slab characters, which she says result from an entirely intuitive process. With names such as “Queen Arabella” and “Mother Gaia,” her creations reflect the human potential for exuberance and joy as a counterbalance to the exhibition’s darker themes.