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Artist breaks the rules of clay in HUB exhibit

“Deconstructed Form; An Investigation of Silhouette, Contour and Shape” includes about 80 pieces of ceramics and two-dimensional paintings.
“Deconstructed Form; An Investigation of Silhouette, Contour and Shape” includes about 80 pieces of ceramics and two-dimensional paintings. Phoot provided

Clay has always made sense to Stephanie Seguin.

Though anyone can build a clay sculpture as high as they’d like, it will fail if the artist doesn’t pay attention to how the clay responds. It can’t be too wet, it can’t be too dry, and timing is crucial. As a second year MFA student in ceramics at Penn State, Seguin knows how to control the material — now the challenge isn’t the technical side but rather the idea conveyed through the clay.

Seguin is drawn to the endless discovery that sculpting with clay allows. Her latest installation seeks to represent “the space between,” or the process from getting from one thing to the next.

“Deconstructed Form; An Investigation of Silhouette, Contour and Shape,” which is on exhibit at the HUB Gallery through Dec. 4, uses about 80 pieces of ceramics and two-dimensional paintings to show that space.

“I wanted to create a space where a viewer could start to look at these individual objects but also be looking at them as a whole and how they relate to one another,” Seguin said.

The installation is composed of earthy red terra cotta vessels, juxtaposed with white glazed vessels and paintings of the silhouetted pots.

The stark white of the gallery walls and display blocks accentuates the contrast between the elements of the installation.

Seguin used a technique she called “ghosting” to make the white vessels. She built the raw terra cotta vessels first and studied them and then didn’t look at them anymore. Then from memory, she tried to recreate a ghost image of the original vessels. However, memory can alter reality.

“You might see a space in your grandmother’s kitchen — in your head it’s a certain way, and you haven’t been there in years and years, then you go back and it’s not quite how you remembered,” Seguin said. “So in a very stretched sense, that’s what I was doing with these pots.”

Lighting casts soft shadows among the pots, furthering Seguin’s exploration of getting from point A to point B.

Evidence of Seguin’s process can be seen in the striation on the vessels, which she created by layering coils of clay.

Seguin ventured out of her element to strengthen her artistic representation. Albeit a little hesitant, she chose to create two-dimensional paintings to complement her pots. The images show silhouettes of some of the physical pots she created. So in that sense the “space between” is represented in the transition from 2- to 3-D.

Seguin said she arranged her pieces in a specific way to immerse visitors. Instead of separate groupings of pots, they are all interconnected.

“My hope is that when people are walking through they might think, ‘Oh this pot looks a lot like this one over here, and actually I saw one over there...’ ” Seguin said. “So you can start to move through the space versus spending time with one individual object.”

Seguin said figuring out what that space between has been an evolving question for her, one she’ll continue to research and explore through the malleability of clay.

“Clay has always made sense to me because it is something that has a lot of rules, but once you learn them you can manipulate and kind of break those rules,” she said.

A public reception for the exhibit will be held in the gallery from 5:30-7 p.m. Nov. 1.

IF YOU GO

  • What: “Deconstructed Form; An Investigation of Silhouette, Contour and Shape”
  • When: through Dec. 4; reception 5:30-7 p.m. Nov. 1
  • Where: HUB Gallery, University Park
  • Info: studentaffairs.psu.edu/hub/artgalleries
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