3 friends' artwork complementary

When Jana Erwin Durfee, John McCluggage and Eugene Stucky decided to do a show together, it was because of the mutual respect they had for one another's work as well as the fact that they were good friends.

There was no common theme, no specific direction or color restriction that limited them, all of which makes the exhibition that much more intriguing. The artists' works — Erwin Durfee's paintings and the ceramics of Stucky and McCluggage — appear to have been created to complement one another. The earthy tones and textural qualities in each work create a harmonious exhibition that may have come together through kismet.

The exhibition of about 40 works fills a loft space at Diver Gallery on Commerce Street. Though friends, the three artists have been inspired by vastly different experiences.

McCluggage is known for creating large, smooth vessels that have a signature tiny opening at the top. Always experimenting with textures and glazes, he knows the effect he is after when creating a piece.

"I am always trying to make it bigger and better," he says. "For me, so much is about the process and making a strong formal statement. I enjoy seeing how far this medium can go."

McCluggage studied ceramics at the Archie Bray Foundation in Montana, a sort of mecca for artists interested in the medium. It was founded by a brick manufacturer, Archie Bray, after his business foundered.

After his time at Archie Bray, McCluggage spent two years working with monumental bronze sculptures at a Buddhist retreat in California before settling back in Wichita to teach ceramics at Wichita Center for the Arts.

Stucky has been an artist in many fields for 60 years. His resume includes a an array of creative and artistic positions, including florist, clothing designer, weaving instructor and now ceramicist.

"I love to travel in Mexico and to the Orient and I draw so much inspiration from both places," he said. "I mostly just like to take a slab of clay and cut it into pieces and see how the pieces go together."

McCluggage, who is Stucky's instructor, said he works intuitively and fast.

"He always has a strong concept and a construction method and then works intuitively from there," he said.

Erwin Durfee received her bachelor's degree in fine arts at the University of Kansas and her master's degree from Wichita State. She looks at her oils in terms of bodies or groups of paintings rather than individual pieces.

"I always create a body of work around a certain notion or theme and then the paintings in that body have a visual dialogue with one another," she said. "This body of work revolves around a concept that has been with me for the past 10 years or so and has to do with human interaction and scale. In my paintings spaces are somewhat unrelated to the figures and there is a disconnect between the elements."

An example, she said, is going to a grocery store where the oversized space actually puts distance between people and creates interactions that are forced and unnatural.

Although the works of the three are based on different ideas, they complement each other in a way that seems natural.

"I think our work goes together so well because it is all very honest work," McCluggage said. "It is real and sensitive and we have put ourselves out there in our pieces. There are no posers in this exhibition."

If you go

Jana Erwin Durfee, John Mccluggage and Eugene Stucky

What: Exhibition by the three Wichita artists

Where: Diver Gallery, 424 S. Commerce

When: On view through Jan. 20. Gallery hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri., or by appointment.

How much: Admission free.