By Raena Doty
Asst. Arts & Features Editor
Rain, shine, or snow, Arts & Ideas continues working happily and persevering no matter what comes its way - like on Feb. 28, when a school closure caused a panel discussion about the most recent Mazmanian Gallery exhibition to be moved to an online format.
Following a snowstorm, Arts & Ideas held their panel discussion on “Record Keeper,” via Zoom.
Currently on display in the Mazmanian Gallery is the “Record Keeper” exhibition, which is about the way artists use clay, a very traditional medium for art, to represent and chart time - the past, present, and future.
The panel consisted of three of the four artists featured in the exhibition - Paul Briggs, Megumi Naitoh, and Elshafei Dafalla.
Students Sam Coombs, AJ Green, and Anaelaine Torregrosa moderated the panel. They prepared questions for the panel members and helped organize attendees who came with questions of their own.
The event started with a few words from Ellie Krakow, director of the Mazmanian Gallery, and Keri Straka, a professor of art.
“The idea behind ‘Record Keeper’ comes from clay’s unique ability as a malleable material to capture and express the evidence of human touch,” Straka said. “This is an exhibition of ceramic artwork that explores how artists use clay - which is one of the oldest artistic mediums - to grapple with time.”
She went on to explain the artists use clay and represent time in different ways. The exhibition features clay tiles, pottery, and even stop-motion animation made using clay.
The panel members were introduced by two interns for the Mazmanian Gallery, Emily Monaco and Jennifer Koeller.
“Paul [Briggs] works primarily with pinch-forming and slab-building processes, and overall his work is about art-making as inner development,” Monaco said. “When I saw his pieces in the gallery, I was stunned. I especially love the pieces displayed on the pedestals and I love the technique he uses to create sculptures that seem delicate yet almost unbreakable.”
While introducing Naitoh, Koeller said, “I was just so taken with Magumi’s work in the gallery as we were hanging the show. The subject matter and the soundtrack are so pleasing and playful that I was drawn in and almost didn’t notice the hidden layers of meaning.”
She went on to introduce Dafalla, saying, “I was very fortunate to be able to participate in his collaborative installation for the show, not only as a gallery intern, but as an artist. The ceramic work ‘Recorded in Earth’ is a literal record of his time spent working with students in the Art Department here at FSU, documenting our community and showing how art can bridge differences.”
Moderators began opening up questions for the artists to respond to their work directly.
Green asked all three artists, “How would you describe your work in the show for someone who’s never seen it before?”
Briggs began with describing his sculpture work. While the audience was shown a photo of his pieces “Visitation Day (Cell Personae IV)” and “Womb (Cell Personae IV),” he said, “I definitely have considered myself a slab builder, a sculptor, for many years, and this is just the most recent iteration of what I would build out of slabs.”
Naitoh’s piece in the gallery is a video clip of stop-motion animation using clay. She said she calls this “ceramation,” because unlike traditional clay stop-motion animation, she has a more limited time frame to work with the sculptures while creating her videos.
She added she’s also the artist behind the channel Yellow Clay on YouTube.
Dafalla then described his own work. His piece in the exhibition, called “Recorded in Earth,” is a collaboration between him and students at the University. The collection of clay tiles includes work from many different students in the Art Department.
“We were talking about past, present, and future, and how we, as human beings, look to ourselves in the three different perspectives,” he said.
He added he also sees clay as representative of human beings in the way that Adam was created out of clay in the Bible.
Torregrosa asked all three artists, “How would you want your artwork or your pieces to touch upon or speak upon racial or societal issues that we’re facing today?”
Naitoh said, “During COVID, when Asian hate was on the rise, that was actually the very first time I thought about myself as an Asian American.
“At that time, I was confronted with it, and I did have a lot of negative energy around that topic, and I was just thinking about how I would turn this negative energy into something else,” she continued.
“So, I thought, I’m going to try to make a walk about it instead of complaining about it or instead of feeling bad about it,” Naitoh said.
Briggs said he didn’t do much work with social justice in his sculpture art until a few years ago. He said his time spent as a pastor involved him with many different social issues, and when he was no longer a pastor, he was more driven to create art about the issues.
He said his time working in a women’s prison affected him the most, and now he has a series of 25 art pieces “because America has 25% of the world’s prisoners.” Two of these pieces, “Visitation Day (Cell Personae IV)” and “Womb (Cell Personae IV),” are on display in the Mazmanian Gallery.
Dafalla said, “In my work, I’m trying to treat the gap between ethnicity, color, gender, generation, language.
“No one from us can claim it as, ‘That is my work.’ So, in part, that brings us together, because we go to the gallery, we see that it is our work. So everyone participating, they will be part of a larger group,” he added.
The last 15 minutes of the event were left free for attendees to ask any questions they had for the artists. People asked questions about why certain artistic decisions were made, what the artistic process looked like while the art pieces were in progress, and what the pieces represented.
In the final moments of the call, Yumi Park-Huntington, the chair of Arts & Ideas, invited everyone to turn on their microphones and use gallery mode to look at each other’s faces and have a moment of community despite the weather outside and the change of format.
The “Record Keeper” exhibition will be on display until March 10.