Piedra Falsa created with “gallons of glaze” 

Ceramics is a craft with a strenuous process in itself. Forming clay to resemble the look of stone adds another intricate and time-consuming element.

Ceramic Artists Renata Cassiano Alvarez and Craig Hartenberger tied together months of work to establish their exhibit, “Piedra Falsa,” in Conkling gallery. 

The title — “Piedra Falsa,” Spanish for “fake stone”  — evokes the Mexican artist Luis Ortiz Monasterio’s practice of combining concrete with pigments to cut and polish to resemble stone. 

“We are both admirers of Ortiz Monasterio’s work and we thought it would be a nice wink to him and his process,” Hartenberger and Cassiano Alvarez said. 

The exhibit has been present since Aug. 28 and is coming to a close on Sept. 22. 

“Both of us have a slow process from the planning of the works to the final stages,” Cassiano Alvarez said. 

Cassiano Alvarez’s part features a colorful ensemble of aggregates on stone-like materials. 

“In my process there’s a lot of things that happen after firing,” Cassiano Alvarez said. I carve, polish, glaze again, apply luster, gold leaf, epoxy, and if something doesn’t come out the way I want it, I re-fire and re-glaze until I arrive at a place I am satisfied with. A lot of material, gallons of glaze.” 

Hartenberger’s portion of the exhibit represents the form of the tablet, featuring nine shelves and wall works he created between 2022 and 2023. Hartenberger primarily uses powdered pigment infused into clay. His works are entirely hand sanded after firing rather than a typical glazing process to further resemble a smooth stone surface. 

“This is labor intensive, but allows me to create a unique surface with a lot of depth,” Hartenberger said. 

Hartenberger currently teaches in studio art foundations at the University of Arkansas, and also practices in Veracruz, Mexico. His passion for ceramics developed as far back as middle school.

“I first found clay in middle school when I began to throw on the potter’s wheel. It stuck with me throughout high school and into college,” Hartenberger said. “After college I worked as an assistant to the artist Nina Hole and was able to travel and make my own work while helping her with projects.” 

As for Cassiano Alvarez, her decision to attend art school sparked from her initial infatuation with museums. 

“I came to art first through museums,” Cassiano Alvarez said. “Both my parents were always very adamant that we visited museums and were in contact with different ways of communicating through art.”

With art playing prominent roles in their lives, the two have grown both individually and together from their partnered creations. 

“Art is important because it allows us to communicate beyond words,” Cassiano Alvarez and Hartenberger said. “It allows us to access a part of ourselves that we couldn’t otherwise, a place where we feel things before we rationalize them.”

The two artists will speak 7-8 p.m. Thursday in Ostrander Auditorium, with a closing reception to follow in Conkling Gallery until 9 p.m.

Write to Mercedes Kauphusman at mercedes.kauphusman@mnsu.edu

Header Photo: Piedra Falsa, created by two ceramic artists, draws inspiration from Mexican artist Luis Ortiz Monasterio and his use of concrete and pigment to create fake stone. (Alexis Darkow/The Reporter)

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