Gabriel Smith, Campus Carrier asst. arts & living editor
This past Monday, Alex Kraft, director of the ceramics program at the University of North Georgia, visited campus to give a lecture about her work and inspirations, entitled “Function and Flora in Flux.” The lecture, which took place in the Evans Auditorium (in addition to an online stream) and covered a wide array of works and styles that Kraft has created and been inspired by throughout her career, accompanies her solo exhibition currently on display in the Moon Gallery.
Kraft began her lecture by presenting what she referred to as “bodyscapes,” or works that represent and interpret internal organs. She noted that the grotesque can be beautiful, and said she was inspired in part by the visual interpretations of biological phenomena, like cells, proteins and organs, found in medical textbooks. Many of these works featured bright and vivid colors, which Kraft said helps give way to an interpretive “life force.”
She next spoke about her involvement and interest in the DIY crafts movement; one piece she presented featured clay combined with knitting. Kraft said that at this point, she began shifting away from the internal and towards the outside environment, and away from sculptural work towards functional work. She also recalled being inspired by the patterns of the Alhambra and Antoni Gaudi’s Casa Batlló in Spain.
Next, she spoke about her time in graduate school, where she said she began thinking about “different ways to interpret the representational self,” including applied patterns and functional work. She said that she uses pattern frequently in her work, especially more recently. Kraft also spoke about living in Georgia after having grown up in the desert in Arizona and said that the local climate here feels like a “lush jungle,” which is reflected in some of her work currently on display in Moon. Near the end of her lecture, she provided a list of resources for artists, including workshops, and encouraged anyone interested in learning more about the resources or the lecture to reach out to her by email.
According to Brad Adams, associate professor of art, Kraft can serve as a model for aspiring artists on campus.
“Through her exhibition and talk, we were pleased to have Alex Kraft back to Berry as she models what being an artist is for our students in a clear and relatable manner,” Adams said in an email to the Carrier. “I think she possesses an amazing work ethic and curiosity and couples a strong focus with a willingness to take chances. These are qualities that we are trying to foster with our students.”
With respect to the combination of sculptural and functional pieces featured in the Moon exhibition, Adams said that the mixture helps represent the variety of works that students in the art program can create.
“This connects well with our clay offerings in the Art Program where students can create functional work with clay (usually thrown on a wheel). In the past few years, particularly with the hiring of Professor Dennis Ritter, there have been increased opportunities to pursue more sculptural approaches with clay as well,” Adams said.
Adams also commented that he was impressed by the diversity and evolution of works Kraft has produced over the course of her career.
“In addition to the combination of sculptural pieces with the functional, I appreciated seeing how her work has developed and grown over time but is still based on core interests that are realized in different ways. She is really invested in her work and open to experimentation that results in change and growth. It is interesting to see how many concerns have remained consistent but the work itself changes often. For example, the work I chose for a group exhibition in the Moon Gallery four years ago, which was colorful free-standing sculptures with a playful spirit, has evolved into more monochromatic floral forms that are realized in a more structured fashion,” he said.
As for his favorite piece currently on display here, Adams recalls the wall of domes.
“I used one of the dome pieces to advertise the show and Kraft was really enthusiastic to be able to see seven of the nine she brought installed in the Moon Gallery (these pieces were made in China and only single pieces have been shown in exhibitions to this point),” Adams said. “The wall of domes was the first we installed, and it help organize the rest of the exhibition. In some ways, I see the domes as being representative of many of her concerns that include surface, color, and repetition on an elegant but less complicated format.”