Master Class: Art students take over Conkling

Sydney Berggren ® Staff Writer |
Photo by Kjerstin Hall ® Staff Photographer |

Beginning Feb. 8 Minnesota State University, Mankato’s Conkling Gallery will feature the first in the series Masters of Arts in Studio exhibitions that will be open to the public. 

The Master of Arts in Studio is a path art students may choose to refine and develop their craft. Students who have completed undergraduate art degrees but wish to enter the art world often realize they want more knowledge and experience with content and other practicing artists and historians. 

“In the MA they can push past the intermediate and advanced classes into intensive, individual focus and personal aesthetic development,” says Art Department chair Gina Wegner.

The students will graduate with their MA in May. The first to showcase is Harris Deno, an MA in Ceramic Sculpture. 

Deno credits his passion for ceramics to his high school art teacher. He says he was given the opportunity one summer to assist her in cleaning her classroom in the mornings and learned to throw on the potter’s wheel in the afternoons. 

“She was incredible,” he said. 

Deno’s exhibition is titled “Reclaim.” He described how the medium itself is really his focus, as there are so many things that can be done with the material. Throughout the passage of time and formation of clay, so many different things have been created, and people’s minds often go to very different places when considering the material. 

“It’s like how a spark plug may conjure an image of your father or an old antique bird may conjure an image of your grandma. There are just things you can’t control about the perception of clay,” Deno stated. 

This exhibition will also include materials such as carpet, wood, canvases and paint. 

“My wish was to evoke conversations between materials, and relationships between maker and material,” he said. 

While he says he understands his art does not need to be legitimized, and that it will evoke whatever emotions in the viewer that it will evoke, he views it as an “opportunity to share how [he] respond[s] to the works, and [his] own reflections and opinions on them.” 

Deno is participating in an Artists’ Talk 11 a.m. Feb. 16 over Zoom to create conversation around his work and to answer viewers’ questions. The link can be found on the MNSU Art Department Facebook page. 

Deno will be the first of four Masters of Arts exhibitions, and his show will run from Feb. 8-26 in the Conkling Gallery, Nelson Hall room 139. The Conkling Gallery is open weekdays, 9 a.m.- 4 p.m. If you wish to see the showcase but cannot attend during regular hours, you may contact the department at 507-389-6412 to set up a viewing time, or you can take a virtual walkthrough on their Instagram page @mnsu_art.

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