Ink & Clay will celebrate its 40th competition later this month against the backdrop of an ever-evolving art world.
The competition that runs from Sept. 13 to Oct. 23 at the W. Keith & Janet Kellogg University Art Gallery consists of ceramics, clay sculpture, drawing, mixed media and printmaking works that use ink and clay as materials. An opening reception will be held Sept. 13 from 6 to 9 p.m.
Ceramic and print artists from throughout the country submitted their work, making it a national competition for just the second time.
“Despite advancements in technology, I think over the years it has been a welcome thing to keep the more artisanal types of media alive,” says Michele Cairella Fillmore, the gallery director and Ink & Clay 40 coordinator. “I definitely believe there is a place for it.”
Ink & Clay was born in the 1970s during a burst of creative expression in the arts, but, over the years, the technical arts of ceramics and printmaking have waned on university campuses. In many cases, technology-driven art has supplanted the older, more traditional disciplines.
An evolution in art that blends the old with the new is taking place, Cairella Fillmore says.
“You can’t hold back. Artists want to explore further and expand. I think that’s what we are seeing right now,” she says.
And that’s what attendees will see at Ink & Clay 40.
Numerous artists will showcase ceramics that stick to traditions while a younger group of artists will have works that highlight contemporary technological influences.
“After going through the submissions, I do see that there is a lot of top-notch work, and the variety struck me as cool,” says Dave Lefner, an Ink & Clay 40 juror.
Lefner’s professional work also has been impacted by technology. For more than 20 years, he has tried to preserve the art of reduction block printing, a technique that makes a multicolored print with the use of a single block. The time-consuming process, however, has fewer adherents and fans in the quickened pace of the digital world.
“You don’t see a lot of galleries dealing with printmaking or sculpture, so it’s good to see Ink & Clay,” he says.
Other Ink & Clay jurors are Jeannie Denholm, exhibition curator, private collector and art advisor; and Phyllis Green, an artist, educator and curator.
Any artist working in the United States was allowed to enter the competition with an original work, but submissions had to have been completed within the past three years. Any work utilizing ink or clay, in whole or in part, was acceptable. Also, the artworks had to have been created by the artist’s hands in some shape or form, and there was no size restriction.
For this year’s exhibition, the jurors utilized their expertise, objective criteria and personal preferences to select the work. Judging was completed in July.
“What grabs me most is seeing something I have never seen before, or something that provides a fresh perspective to a familiar form or theme,” Green says.
“Second, I seek a sense of technical competence ─ to me, ‘craft’ equals control. I look for a reasonable amount of proficiency by the artist with materials and technique, enough to convince me of the artist’s intention.”
The jurors’ consensus, for the most part, was based on technical skill as well as uniqueness or originality.
“My criteria when looking at artwork is first to look for art that is the most innovative, least common, fresh, and most unique,” Denholm says.
“Next, I seek out how well the technical skill is exemplified – how quality is revealed in terms of materials and execution. Pushing the media in new directions, outside of the norm. Last, but not least, the ‘deeply personal’ interests me.”
There will be $8,000 in cash prizes, which includes two $1,000 Purchase Awards: The James H. Jones Memorial Purchase Award, sponsored by Bruce M. Jewett, and the University President’s Purchase Award, sponsored by the Office of University President J. Michael Ortiz. Remaining awards include 11 $500 Juror Awards and five $100 Director’s Choice Awards.
“You can’t use too much technology with this show because it falls outside the parameters of what ink and clay means. But art is always evolving, so do we stick with tradition, or do we start looking at other ways?” Cairella Fillmore says.
“We have art that is more cutting edge and the question is: Is it traditional? No. But are we still using a traditional material? Yes. At what point do the boundaries start to blur?
“We are blurring the boundaries and we’re starting to see more and more of that with this annual tradition that is Ink & Clay.”
For more information on Ink & Clay 40, visit www.inkclay40.com.
Follow the W. Keith & Janet Kellogg University Art Gallery on Facebook at www.facebook.com/kelloggartgallery.