Fired Up in the Natural State: Contemporary Ceramics

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By Brian Young, Director, Baum Gallery »

Kensuke Yamada, #2 Head      Photograph supplied by the artists

The University of Central Arkansas’s Baum Gallery hosted Fired Up in the Natural State: Contemporary Ceramics, from January 23 – February 14, 2020. This exhibition was co-curated by Brian Young, director, Baum Gallery, and Liz Smith, associate professor and associate chair, art department, UCA

This show featured the ceramics of some of the most prominent ceramic faculty members in the Arkansas. The exhibition included Joe Bruhin, independent artist; Aaron Calvert, Henderson State University; Benjamin Cirgin, formerly University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, and now teaching at the Eastern Kentucky University; Stephen Driver, co-owner, Little Mulberry Pottery; Dawn Holder, University of Ozarks; Jeannie Hulen, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville; Fletcher Larkin, owner, Fox Pass Pottery; Linda Lopez, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville; Mathew McConnell, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville; Helen Phillips, formerly University of Central Arkansas; Liz Smith, University of Central Arkansas; Anna Wagner, University of Central Arkansas, BFA, 2020; and Kensuke Yamada, University of Arkansas at Little Rock.


“Fired Up was an exhibition meant to inspire our BA and BFA students in the field of ceramics. By selecting the work of professionals and academics, I wanted students to see the full range of contemporary ceramics. In particular, our audiences saw a variety of forms and expressions from the functional to the whimsical,” said Brian Young.

Linda Lopez, Actual               Photograph supplied by the artists

In addition to stylistic differences, Fired Up introduced UCA students and staff to the range of possible media that the ceramics field embraces. Along with terra cotta, stoneware, and wood-fired porcelain, many artists in the show embrace non-ceramic materials and media.  Other materials seen in the exhibition included, resin, wood, fabric, metal, feathers, brick and concrete. The exhibition really showcased the range of aesthetic, sculptural and functional opportunities afforded by this amazing material.


Concurrently with the exhibition, Fired Up, the Baum Gallery, working with the Art Department at UCA, included a silent auction of Helen Phillips’ work. Phillips taught ceramics at UCA from 1976 until 2001. Then in 2005, she and her partner Royce Jones converted the Bruno School in Marion County into a home, studio and workshop. In 2013, the artist died and was survived by Jones. In late 2019, Jones agreed to donate a portion of Phillips extant work for a silent auction to benefit the Art Department. For this, Jones has the gratitude of the entire art faculty and leadership at UCA.


Helen Phillips
    House with twigs and rock bundle.         Photograph by Brian Young

The next exhibition in the Baum Gallery will be the Annual Student Competitive juried by Amy Raeshe, Executive Director and Partner of Goya Contemporary. The opening reception will be Tuesday, March 3, 4:00-7:00 PM.

The exhibition runs from Tuesday, March 3, 2020- Friday, March 13, 2020

We hope to see you there!