Gratia Brown joined the Art Department at Northern State University in 2015 (see The Exponent December 2015 issue). She is lecturer and artist-in-residence and is redefining the common idea of ceramics.
Her pieces consist of multiple fragments, held together by exposé, which is a strong adhesive, or various cords tying the pieces together — but it is also more than that.
“The cords don’t deny the fragments of their individualism,” Brown stated, continuing on to explain her interest in fragments. She recalled her amazement with “the innards of it, and how it was built.” From that point, on she has been trying to interpret that moment through her work.
“Fragments represent to me these hidden narratives that connect us to events and people that are no less important because of their anonymity,” she further explained.
“Recontextualize” is the title of Brown’s solo exhibition, on display January 30 – March 31 in the Johnson Fine Arts Center Gallery.
In explaining the exhibition title, she commented, “It’s a celebration of the fragment and presenting those fragments in a way that people can see them the way that I do.”
Upon a closer look, Brown’s pieces reveal differing pieces with images, colors, text, and even small figurines.
The path to her ceramics style started with using found objects and painting and collaging on pots but never ventured into the realm of functional pottery.
One might be surprised to know that destroying previous works to integrate into new is a process that Brown has found to be very satisfying. “Artists are trapped in this situation where you make waste to create work,” she explained—waste in the sense that creating new works requires resources, with some resources being used or not used and previous artworks no longer representing the artist.
Brown respects the existence of her previous works, but enjoys finding a new visual creation to form them into.
In regards to her show, Brown stated, “This show is from an emotional place, and it’s happily not creating waste.”
More importantly, Brown uses her own artistic vision of reframing various fragments and making individual pieces artistically whole again.
The Johnson Fine Arts Center Gallery is open 9a.m.— 5p.m., Monday through Friday.
For more information contact the School of Fine Arts at 605-626-2497.
Photo credit: Balie Albrecht, Staff Photographer