Alumni display ‘whimsical’ art exhibit

By Beth Byrd, Staff Writer

Two Union graduates stumbled on an opportunity to display their artwork last month in a gallery at Freed-Hardeman University.

The Troy Plunk Art Gallery in the Bulliner Clayton Visual Arts Center hosted a “Objects of Containment” Jan. 26-–Feb. 24.

Paige Ward, who graduated in December 2010 with an art degree, displayed ceramic narrative sculptures such as a doll-sized chair and house. Kelsey Nagy, who graduated in May 2011 with an art degree, featured functional vessels including teacups and vases.

“We are pleased to exhibit the work by Paige Ward and Kelsey Nagy,” said Dr. Barbara England, department chairwoman of fine arts at Freed-Hardeman. “It has a fun and whimsical character that all types of gallery visitors seem to respond to.”

Lee Benson, professor of art and department chairman, learned from Laquita Thomson, FHU assistant professor, that she was looking for artwork to display in the gallery. Benson suggested Ward and Nagy’s work.

Thomson said 45 people attended the night of the gallery opening, with at least another 150 people visiting by the end of February. Thomson, who had met Ward prior to the art exhibit, said she was glad Ward and Nagy displayed artwork because a wide range of viewers could relate with the pieces.

Nagy is a studio assistant and pottery instructor at Botbyl Pottery and Gallery in Humboldt, Tenn. Ward is a shop technician and studio assistant for Benson and teaches at the Mudslinger’s Studio Annex of the Dixie Carter Performing Arts Center in Huntingdon.

Although the two friends create different types of art, Ward and Nagy’s source of artistic inspiration centers upon a common experience they share – their childhood.

“After being introduced to ceramics and clay in high school, I immediately knew it was the medium for me,” Ward said. “It reminded me of my childhood, which was primarily spent outdoors building treehouses and underground forts. I have always loved hard work and making things with my hands, and clay seems to be the most hands-on medium there is.”

Ward grew up in Frog Jump, a rural community in West Tennessee, but she also spent time with her grandfather in Alamo, Tenn., where they built bookshelves and desk caddies from scrapwood.

Ward said each of these experiences helped shaped the person who she is today, as she wanted to build houses and make furniture when she was a child. Ward said what she creates with ceramics is fulfilling her childhood dreams, just on a smaller scale. Nagy was raised in Memphis, where she dreamed of becoming an artist.

“Growing up, my mom encouraged my sisters and me to be creative,” Nagy said. “We were always drawing, coloring and sewing. This emphasis on color is evident now in my work.”

While discussing the similarities between the sculptures and vases, Ward and Nagy found that both types of ceramics were meant to hold things — whether plants inside the vase or a doll sitting on the sculpted chair.
That revelation led to the show’s title.

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The Cardinal & Cream is a student publication of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. Our staff ranges from freshmen to seniors and includes a variety of majors — including journalism, public relations, advertising, marketing, digital media studies, graphic design and art majors.