Two divergent styles of ceramic creations are animating the Fiber Studio this Final Friday in an exhibit that brings a freshness to the city’s art scene, gallery owner Marilyn Grisham says.
The gallery on Commerce Street is hosting Sheldon and Linda Ganstrom of western Kansas, husband-and-wife artists who both teach at Fort Hays State University. The closing reception of their Bell(e)s and Bow(l)s show features lifelike sculptures of damsels with distinct personalities complimented by intricately fashioned and vivaciously colored glaze creations in the American raku style.
“This is an off-beat-looking show for Wichita,” Grisham said. “A certain number of people every Final Friday say they are so pleased that we do these sorts of shows because they aren’t like shows in any of the other galleries. When it opened last month, several folks said that they appreciate our offering this show especially because it is so unique.”
The show’s distinctness is rooted in the details of the very different art forms that Sheldon and Linda mold from the same source. Sheldon is considered to be among the most masterful glaze painters who work within the American raku tradition. Raku is a Japanese pottery technique that customarily creates lead-glazed earthenware for tea ceremonies. In the American method of glaze-firing, after the red-hot piece is taken from the kiln, it is placed in a metal can with combustible materials such as paper. Those materials ignite, and the fire and smoke react with the glaze to create unique, irregular effects on the surface of the pottery. Sheldon has been working to perfect that technique for more than 40 years, and to fashion it in an individual way.
“He has been in this precise, Oriental influence for a long time,” Grisham said. “A lot of raku is real serendipity. He is very controlled. He is like a scientist that has perfected this stuff over the years.”
Among his notable pieces in the exhibit are “Inside the Village,” a series of three vases colored in black, white and red. The shapes and colors interact well with each other inside neatly cut boxes.
Equally intriguing and more multi-dimensional is “Jaguar Vessel,” a cylinder-like display composed of several parts, with each piece coming from a different firing atmosphere. “It’s just exciting,” Grisham said of taking in that piece.
While Sheldon’s work in clay centers on shapes and colors, Linda has crafted an art form largely out of shaping personality. She has sculpted life-size, lifelike English queens from a bygone era wearing ornate gowns and elaborate hairdos, each with a distinct air about her. The creations are formed in clay from the waist up, with iron-laden skirts anchoring them to the ground.
“The women are all in one, big, wild, top-of-the-line category. The personalities that she gives them are quite interesting,” said Grisham. “Each one has its own distinct character. A couple of them are pretty haughty. The two smaller, younger figures are ornery. ... You know there’s something brewing back in their minds.”
In addition to offering up a different sort of exhibit, Linda wanted to do something to jazz up the closing reception.
“Linda says proper ladies were only allowed to do certain things back in that era,” Grisham said. “Proper ladies couldn’t hold jobs, but they could draw. She’s going to wear a ballgown and be a proper lady drawing the people around her at the gallery.”