sculpture/ceramics | KCUR

sculpture/ceramics

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

After seven years of service in the Marine Corps ended with an injury, Joe Williams felt lost until he decided to become an artist

Marco Pavan

“Nobody gets out alive on planet Earth,” says Cannupa Hanska Luger.

He's stating the obvious, of course, but the New Mexico-based artist is also talking about the title of his show in Kansas City: “Life is Breathtaking.”

Courtesy Ami Ayars

In a town like Kansas City, no one has an excuse for sending anything but locally crafted, one-of-a-kind gifts to their relatives in less creative parts of the world.

The artisans who'll be selling their wares at the events below have created something for every person on your list, and buying from them will give you a warm, fuzzy feeling because you’re buying local.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

On a recent Saturday morning, Michael Wickerson was tending a hot fire in his backyard on a hillside near Wyandotte County Lake. At temperatures reaching as high as 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit, the fire was hot enough to melt iron.

Wickerson, an associate professor of sculpture at the Kansas City Art Institute, said working with metal is a great joy for him.

“You catch it, you pour it, you can draw with it,” he said. “You can paint with it. You can sculpt with it. And you can certainly fill molds with it.”  

Todd Feeback / ShadowLight Images

At his sculptor's stand, paleoartist Gary Staab adjusted the expression on a 125-million-year-old predator in pursuit of prey.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

The new Bloch Galleries at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art showcase European art from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. This includes masterpieces of Impressionism and post-Impressionism collected by Marion and Henry Bloch — artists such as Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, and Vincent van Gogh.

But visitors to the galleries might also be dazzled by some of the technological upgrades from sound to lighting. 

billsoPHOTO / Flickr -- CC

The Kansas City chapters of the NAACP and the SCLC are under new leadership. We sit down with the new presidents of these two organizations to hear their vision for the future of KC.

A recent New York Times article said: "Calling Peter Voulkos a ceramist is a bit like calling Jimi Hendrix a guitarist." We learn more about KC's rock star of clay.

Guests:

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

This story was updated on Wednesday at 9:59 a.m.

Two years after an avowed anti-Semite killed three people outside the Jewish Community Center and Village Shalom, a memorial has been dedicated in their honor.

Artist Jesse Small sculpted the three stainless ripples to represent the three lives cut short on April 13, 2014, at the two Overland Park, Kansas, Jewish sites.

courtesy Kansas City Art Institute

Cary Esser, longtime chair of the ceramics department at the Kansas City Art Institute, credits a high school classmate in the 1970s for her introduction to ceramics. 

As Esser recalls, her best friend, Julie, was taking a class, and "truthfully, I didn't know what ceramics was." 

Esser visited the basement classroom and saw her friend throwing pottery on the wheel. "I really had one of those moments where I just looked at what she was doing, and I just said, 'That is the coolest thing. I'm going to do that.'"

courtesy of the artist

A celebration of clay — in all its forms — is underway. More than 100 ceramics exhibitions are on view in Kansas and Missouri, timed with the National Council on Education for the Ceramics Arts (NCECA) conference in Kansas City. 

But as more artists experiment with digital tools, some of the artwork on display hardly seems like clay. Case in point: Unconventional Clay, an exhibition at Project Space in the Bloch Building at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. 

Ryan Collerd / Courtesy of Pew Center for Arts and Heritage

Lauren Mabry has some advice for future graduates of the Kansas City Art Institute.

Mabry is one of the celebrity ceramicists who’ll be in town later this month for the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts. She earned her BFA from the Art Institute in 2007, and less than a decade later was awarded $75,000 in unrestricted cash from Pew Center for Arts & Heritage. In naming Mabry one of its 2015 Pew Fellows, the center lauded Mabry as “a ceramicist whose expressive and colorful ‘dimensional paintings’ … play with form, texture, color and scale and blur the boundaries between ceramics, abstract painting and sculpture.”

Courtesy NCECA

Gallery-goers will see clay everywhere this month, with exhibition spaces welcoming more than 5,000 ceramics artists, students, teachers and fans who’ll arrive in Kansas City for the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts, March 16-19.

This might feel a little overwhelming for casual First Friday attendees.

His name is Otzi, the oldest human in such a complete state. Discovered in 1991 in the Italian Alps, he’s the most studied human in history. We speak with the Kearney, Missouri-based paleo-sculptor who recently completed a replica of Otzi for research and study.

KCUR's Central Standard introduced us to Gary Staab in August 2015. Listen to that interview here.

Kelly Seward / Belger Crane Yard Studios

The traditional art-opening weekend meets the traditional gift-giving season at the following shows and sales, which involve multiple Kansas City artists.

Belger Crane Yard Studios Open House & Holiday Sale
2011 Tracy Ave., Kansas City, Missouri
Artists in their studios sell handcrafted pottery, jewelry, sculpture and ornaments as part of the Kansas City Clay Guild’s Annual Pottery Tour.
Friday, Dec. 4, 6-9 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 5, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Sunday, Dec. 6, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Laura Spencer / KCUR

On July 17, 1981, about 2,000 people gathered at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Kansas City, Missouri, for a dance. What followed was one of the most deadly structural failures in American history.

Shortly after 7 p.m., two 32-ton skywalks collapsed — the fourth-story walkway fell on to the second-story walkway and both crashed into the lobby. The toll: 114 killed, 200 injured. 

Now, more than 30 years later, a memorial honors those who died and recognizes the contributions of the first responders. At a dedication ceremony Thursday morning for the Skywalk Memorial Plaza, many personal stories were shared.

This is the story of a man who built the Garden of Eden in Lucas, Kansas; the man who purchased and cared for the sculpture environment nearly a century later; and the town whose survival increasingly depends on grassroots art.

Gina Kaufmann / KCUR

Sculptor John Hachmeister remembers the first time he saw the Garden of Eden, a mysterious outdoor sculpture environment built in Lucas, Kansas, right after the Civil War.

Courtesy of Gary Staab

You know those gigantic dinosaur models you see in natural history museums, frozen in mid-roar? There's a good chance they were made in Kearney, Missouri by a guy named Gary Staab. From his encounter with Lucy (the famous skeleton of our human ancestor) to a mummified human known as the Ice Man, Gary Staab takes us face to face with prehistoric life. 

Courtesy of Gary Staab

Gary Staab might appear to be an ordinary guy.

He lives in small-town, rural Kearney, Missouri, with his wife, Lissi, and their two teenage sons, Max and Owen. He plays guitar for the Mechanical Prairie Dogs, and is learning to play cello in his spare time.

But for a living, Staab sculpts prehistoric monsters and ancient human ancestors. He constructs wooden skeleton bases, shapes and welds bodies with wire, crafts muscles and eyeballs and molds resin flesh with epoxy.

Kansas City Art Institute

The Kansas City Art Institute's ceramics department dates back to the 1960s – and has a storied history, with larger than life professors who shaped the program like Ken Ferguson, Victor Babu and George Timock. 

This summer, Kansas City firms Helix and McCown Gordon Construction collaborated on a $750,000 renovation of "the old kiln room." 

C.J. Janovy / KCUR

Joe Williams enlisted in the United States Marine Corps after the post 9/11 invasion of Iraq and served for seven years. He survived rocket and mortar attacks. A fast learner and natural leader, he rose through the ranks and was about to start officer candidate school when something went terribly wrong.

Wikimedia Commons

The car is a mechanical work of art. There are people who obsessively design, build and restore cars... and others crash them with just as much passion. From the Art of the Car Concours to the  demolition derby.

Guests:

  • Tony Jones, interim president, The Kansas City Art Institute
  • Mac McLanahan, artist and demolition derby driver

University of Kansas

Elden C. Tefft, best known for his iconic bronze sculptures on the University of Kansas campus in Lawrence, died Tuesday. He was 95.

KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said the campus is privileged to have Tefft’s work.

“Elden’s pieces are such an integral part of Mount Oread — pieces such as ‘Moses’ and ‘Academic Jay’ — that it’s nearly impossible to imagine our campus without them,” said Gray-Little.

courtesy: University of Kansas

More than 50 University of Kansas students, faculty and staff collaborated – over four semesters – to create a public sculpture project. The commissioned art, completed in mid-November, marked the 100th anniversary of the Federal Reserve System.

According to associate professor of art Matthew Burke, the team sifted through a collection of employee memorabilia, such as pens, stamps, and nameplates. 

Laura Spencer / KCUR

The bronze figures on horseback and children riding fish that are part of the J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain near the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Mo., will be removed Wednesday for an extensive renovation.

"This is the iconic fountain for Kansas City," says Jocelyn Ball-Edson, landscape architect for the Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department. "We have a lot of fountains. We love them all, but this is probably the one that gets the most photography and the most visibility."

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

The iconic shafts of wheat and corn that have arched over the east entrance of the building that formerly held the Kansas City Board of Trade were pried off the wall Tuesday after a nearly 50-year running.

Workers with Belger Cartage Service of Kansas City – the same company that installed the art work in 1966 — spent the day wrenching loose bolts and heaving the 4,000-pound bronze sculptures onto flatbed trucks in the middle of Main Street on the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Mo.

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art has unveiled plans for a bold expansion. The museum is talking about greater green spaces, walkways, and more sculptures as part of a gleaming cultural district. The new district would extend a mile in every direction from Oak Street and Emanuel Cleaver Boulevard. It’s a huge statement that could carry some pain as pieces of nearby historic neighborhoods would vanish to make way for this new vision.

Josh Ferdinand / Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

If you’ve walked or driven by the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art recently you’ve probably noticed a flurry of activity on the southeast corner of the grassy lawn. Work is underway to ready the site for the installation of a new sculpture, Glass Labyrinth, a triangular-shaped, glass-walled labyrinth designed by artist Robert Morris, a native of Kansas City, Mo.

Walter Smith / Courtesy Maya Lin Studio and Pace Gallery

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art has commissioned a new work by architect and artist Maya Lin, who's probably best known as the designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. 

Lin’s sculpture, Silver Missouri, inspired by the Missouri River, is crafted from recycled silver, and it’s one in a series of works exploring water conservation. It will be installed in the Bloch Building on November 15. 

Laura Spencer / KCUR

The first floor galleries at the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art are filled with glass display cases. Inside: the glittering black ceramics of Navajo artist Christine Nofchissey McHorse. Her abstract works bridge modern sculpture and traditional Southwestern pottery.

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