The Student Activities Center has recently unveiled the newest installment of artwork being presented in the gallery entitled “Eclectic Aesthetics.” It is a student, faculty, alumni and non-university resident showcase of all things ceramic. Admittedly, the idea of pottery does not immediately incite a reaction of jumping up and down in excitement, but many a person trudged through a rainy Stony Brook campus to attend the opening night and reception nonetheless.
Those that attended were surely beyond impressed by the presentation. The ceramic creations on display varied in color, size and technique, from the functional to the avant-garde.
On the practical side of things were household staples executed with the steadied precision of a seasoned veteran. Peggy Yazulla, an avid potter and teacher of over 20 years showed off a group pseudo-flowers and a ceramic zen-like sand garden, both pieces she uses in her own home. Kitty Daniels, who said she was proud to see the work displayed in such a professional way, demonstrated her six years of ceramics experience with glossy, earth-toned bowls and plates, some with a detailed leaf design pressed in.
Meanwhile, other artists displayed more creative innovations in the use of the media. Jessica Panicola made a dark lamp-base in the shape of an inverted human head while a bendable exposed spine protruded from the hole in the neck and ended with a bright light at its tip. Across the room, artist Herb Schay presented three of his creations: a brilliantly red squid, an ostentatiously detailed pirate ship, and a large, colorful bird getting ready to eat a fly naïvely crawling into its beak. Yazulla found Schay’s whimsical creations to be some of her personal favorites, “It’s incredible,” she said, “people’s imaginations. It’s amazing.”
Artists and onlookers alike were able to appreciate the range and variety of the ceramics. Other artwork included unpolished Rubenesque women mid-chat, assorted plate-ware, and a glittering unicorn head. The Pottery Center’s current artist in residence Julia Pomeroy, who is responsible for the organization of the art in the gallery, presented her own crafty work of necklaces and jewelry with some Jackson Pollack-inspired designs splattered across a few pieces.
Craft Center Coordinator, Janice Costanzo knows the Craft Center is a place for learning and creativity. It gives students, faculty, and the non-university community a place to pick up a new skill or to improve on the ones they already have. Above all, she realizes the sense of community and escapism it is capable of emitting, calling it a “refuge” for students. “When you’re doing art you just become in that creative zone and you really can tune out the rest of the world and it just opens up a whole other side of your brain.”
Alumni Chris Vivas and Jim Swerupski both had untitled creations in the show, the former having two pieces of finely-crafted lattice work, while the latter had a glossy and polished bowl with a detailed cut-out in one side. These gentlemen also wholeheartedly agreed with Costanzo’s sentiments, attributing the Craft Center to their ability to further their skills and careers in education within the arts. What they talked about the most was not actually the pottery skills they learned while studying at the center, but the people they met.
“Meeting new people is fantastic,” Swerupski said, “It’s probably the best part.” Vivas boasted of the support the group provides, adding that being there was like having ten new mothers. The center allows people the ability “to do something completely different from what they normally do,” he said, while Swerupski noted that without shows like these artists do not get pushed to the next level.
Although Costanzo could not comment on the future of the Craft and Pottery Centers with the plan for the dismantling of the Union looming, it is clear from the interactions with the artists that these artistic outlets are completely necessary to the community on and off campus. The passion, admiration and graciousness the artists had for one another was more than obvious and the thought of losing something so valuable and memorable is disheartening. But looking past the potential hardships to come, the night was filled with an overwhelming appreciation for the meticulous care and creativity that was spun, molded, baked and glazed into each and every piece of art on display.
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