The Conkling Gallery in Nelson Hall is currently exhibiting the works of Kevin Snipes, a ceramics and drawing graduate from the Cleveland Institute of Art. His ceramic pieces currently on display are very unique, with a variety of techniques and textures as well as surface illustrations.
Snipes has had multiple artist residencies so far in his career, and describes his lifestyle as being somewhat nomadic. Being exposed to many different places and people must be very beneficial for an artist.
Looking at Snipes’ work, there is a very clear style. You can tell that he feels very comfortable and confident with his process and delivery to be able to accomplish such coherent results from a large number of pieces. The silhouette of each piece is unique but feels familiar, and the colorful illustrations on the exteriors blend seamlessly with the shape of the ceramic. I would almost guess that Snipes had drawn the decoration prior to making the actual ceramic, with how well they complement each other.
The illustrations remind me of the sarcastic and emotive styles of cartoons I used to watch, and each character seems to have their own personality. He goes for a somewhat busy scene, with many colors and elements to the background. The characters bend in exaggerated ways and have fairly neutral expressions that make me feel like they’re very at home in the setting he’s created for them. The style of Snipes’ drawings is also very two-dimensional, which works well when combined with how tactile and three-dimensional ceramic is.
Clay is such a versatile material, but it requires you to be very comfortable with using it and knowing its limitations and how to work with them. Finished ceramic works can look very effortless, like Snipes’, but to make a large series of very stylistically similar pieces demands a strong understanding and confidence with the material.
Minnesota State University, Mankato offers ceramics and sculpture classes for interested students to take. They require some basic art classes beforehand to ensure a strong understanding of the basic principles and processes of art, but it’s valuable knowledge to carry through to your projects.
There are both hand-building and wheel ceramics classes offered at MNSU. Hand-building involves, as you can probably guess, using your hands to create works out of clay. Throwing on a wheel is used to create vessels and other objects where you would like a good degree of symmetry, as far as I’m aware. Clay is a very different substance than childhood sculpting materials like Play-Doh, so these classes help you to learn how to actually interact with the medium.
If you’re an artist or someone who appreciates art, I’d encourage you to stop by the Conkling Gallery to look at some very unique and professionally created ceramic works. Kevin Snipes will be delivering an artist’s lecture on Jan. 27 at 7 p.m. in the Ostrander Auditorium, and the exhibit will be live until Jan. 31.
Header photo by Lidia Vassar/MSU Reporter.