Kimball Art Center explores the diversity of clay with ‘Groundbreaking’ |

Kimball Art Center explores the diversity of clay with ‘Groundbreaking’

April workshops are available

Kimball Art Center's 'Groundbreaking' artists
  • Christa Assad, Emeryville, California
  • Francesca DiMattio, New York
  • Lauren Gallaspy, Helena, Montana
  • Molly Hatch, Florence, Massachusetts
  • Giselle Hicks, Snowmass Village, Colorado
  • Lauren Mabry, Columbus, Ohio
  • Andy Nasisse, Salt Lake City
  • Alwyn O’Brien, Vancouver, B.C.
  • Adam Shiverdecker, Berkeley, California
  • Akio Takamori, Seattle
  • Kurt Weiser, Tempe, Arizona
  • Christina West, Marietta, Georgia

Humans have worked with clay throughout the ages.

The material has been used for medicine, education and shelter. Mankind has also molded it into bowls, plates and, of course, art.

It is Clay’s role in the art world that fascinates those at the Kimball Art Center, which is why the gallery’s new exhibit “Groundbreaking: Innovations in Clay” gives a new twist to the medium.

The show, on display in the center’s main gallery until April 15, showcases work by artists who reimagine clay’s place in creativity.

“Clay as a medium is interesting for so many reasons: its history, its physical qualities as something that comes directly from the earth, and then also how it naturally lends itself to this interesting push and pull between balance and imbalance and between strength and fragility,” said Exhibitions Director Nancy Stoaks during an email interview with The Park Record. “And the diverse and dynamic ways that the artists in ‘Groundbreaking’ take it are thought-provoking, inspiring and, in a word, groundbreaking.”

The idea for the exhibit has been spinning round the Kimball Art Center for a while.

“Since the reopening of the Kimball Clay Studio in our new location, we have wanted to do an exhibition dedicated to ceramics as a medium,” Stoaks said. “We have a thriving community of makers, and ‘Groundbreaking’ is a celebration of that — an opportunity to bring the work of exceptional artists from around the country and share them with our larger community.”

When the right time came up, Stoaks contacted a variety of artists. (See accompanying list).

“I reached out to and invited each of the participating artists, and selected this particular combination of works thinking about how they each relate to one another and create conversations of form, content, color, approach and more,” she said. “I looked at a wide range of work, and eventually selected artists who are playing with the traditions of clay, and who are taking their approach to form and mark-making to a completely new and exciting place.”

While several of the pieces in the exhibition could serve as functional objects, there are many creations, including figures and other items, where form overtakes any practical application.

“The exhibition brings together a range of work from these deconstructed vessels to abstracted figures, in each case presenting thoughtful innovation,” Stoaks said.

In some cases, vessels seem to defy physics and look as if they could collapse.

“The works are incredibly varied in the way that they push the boundaries of clay,” Stoaks said. “[The late] Akio Takamori’s ‘Squatting Boy in Pink Shirt’ is unbelievable for many reasons, not the least of which is the physical balance of its squatting form. Alwyn O’Brien’s [works of] lacy coils explode our concept of the vessel. Lauren Mabry and Kurt Weiser, each in their own distinctive style, demonstrate a mastery of glazing and other surface techniques. Each of the artists bring something new to form, mark-making and context.”

In connection with the exhibit, the Kimball Art Center will host clay workshops.

“These opportunities are not to be missed,” Stoaks said. “We are so excited that two of the exhibiting artists — Giselle Hicks and Lauren Gallaspy — will be coming to Utah to present workshops and art talks.”

Gallaspy will demonstrate innovative overglaze surfaces on April 1, and Hicks will demonstrate her delicate coil and pinch technique on April 8.

“Each artist will also will be doing an art talk the night before their workshop,” Stoaks said. “This will be an incredible chance to learn some techniques that can be applied to your own work, whether you are a beginner or an advanced ceramic artist.”

“Groundbreaking: Innovations in Clay” will be on exhibit through April 16, at the Kimball Art Center’s main gallery, 1401 Kearns Blvd. Additional clay workshops will be held by artists Giselle Hick sand Lauren Gallaspy in April. For information about the exhibit and workshops, visit

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