Washburn student to spark inspiration with ‘Continuum’

Chelsea Howe WASHBURN UNIVERSITY

Fans of ceramic art can soon enjoy the BFA senior exhibition of Ryan Caldwell. His three-dimensional work sparks inspiration for even just the everyday person unfamiliar with the world of ceramics.

The show is called Continuum, which in the artist’s words means, “a continuous changing of events, from one thing to the next. You can’t tell it’s very different, but from beginning to end, it’s completely different.” This is reflected in Caldwell’s own experience at Washburn, gradually growing as an artist.

Every student in Washburn’s Bachelor of Fine Arts program must explore a variety of mediums. Caldwell has experience with drawing, painting and graphic arts but lost interest.

“Then I discovered sculpture and ceramics, and fell in love with the material,” Caldwell said. “The process grabs my attention and really consumes me.”

“In a painting, you can add layers and more stuff on top. With clay, you have to work with it from wet to dry and the firing process. It’s more systematic; you have to let it speak to you.”

This particular show will feature works such as ovals and spheres with soft brick and kiln elements inside them, which have been fired multiple times.

“These pieces are about the sheer magnitude of process in a loose and expressive treatment, and the small micro details I can get on the surface,” Caldwell said about the gallery.

This emphasis on material process is not entirely limited to ceramics. The upstairs portion of the gallery will show his paintings, drawings and prints, mostly done before his ceramic phase began.

“He’s been thinking about this all semester,” said Glenda Taylor, Washburn’s art department chair who serves as faculty adviser to Caldwell. “He’s got really quality work, a variety of types of ceramic work, paintings and prints as well. I think it’ll be an outstanding show. He’s been very self-starting, done a lot of research on his own to find techniques he wanted to explore. He’s thought carefully about what he wants to express.”

The press release for this show says, “Each mark captures a moment of spontaneous decision making that creates a narrative within the piece.” That combines with careful thought to leave Caldwell’s pieces with an underlying tension, an urgent expressiveness which demands the viewer’s attention.

Caldwell is already familiar with the gallery process, having exhibited nationally. His work has also appeared in Thornhill Gallery and four years’ worth of juried shows at the Mulvane Art Museum.

Taylor provided another vote of confidence: “He’s gonna make a place for himself in the ceramics world.”

Continuum will be on display Feb. 9 through Feb. 20 in the art building’s John R. Adams Gallery, open Mon-Fri 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.. There will be a reception on Feb. 20 from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., with more than 150 tea bowls guests can keep.