Two Concurrent Exhibits: Ruote and Conception

Two new, concurrent exhibitions by ceramists Sukjin Choi and Lynn Hilton Conyers run July 6-August 8.  Due to the exceptional nature of and meaning behind these multi-dimensional works, art enthusiasts are encouraged to attend the opening reception and gallery interpretations at 5pm Friday, July 10.

Sukjin Choi’s newly named exhibition, Ruote [Italian pasta resembling small wheels], is an installation of many winding, small wheels which  the ceramist has painted on Spanish clay.  In her artist’s statement, Choi  states her work is “concerned with memory and the tracing of time.  When I see rusted steel rods at a construction site, I think of the passing of time and space.  The rusted skin of the steel presents a beautiful pattern to me.  It reminds me that there is an intimate past fused inside of it….  I bring this sentiment – of how the patterning or skin represents one’s inner self – to my ceramic sculptures.”  Choi holds two MFA’s in ceramics and is an associate professor at JMU’s School of Art, Design, and Art History.

Lynn Hilton Conyers is an award winning artist, teacher, and art advocate.  In this body of work titled Conception, she “invites the viewer to participate in a visual and sensory encounter that includes the components of ceremony, tradition, and ritual… breaking the barriers between artist and audience.”  For this contemporary Raku artist, the ceramic tradition of Raku that began in Japan in the 16th century, serves as inspiration because the fast firing technique is an appealing creative tool.  Even though she uses the element of chance and the unintended effects that result, control and artistry are not absent from her original designs.  The use of fabric impressed into the surface of the clay produces textures that are enhanced when the piece, hot from the kiln, is placed in a chamber of combustible materials.  The resulting reduction atmosphere creates iridescent qualities on the glazed surface which are further incorporated into the total design of the piece through the use of metallic oil-based pencils and oil pastels. The unglazed surface areas become a canvas upon which she paints and draws.  The addition of fiber, wood, and glass or semi-precious stone beads pay homage to ancient cultures and unites the two and three dimensional aspects of the wall plaques. A detail of her work “Talisman IX” is attached.  Conyers earned a BFA from VCU and an MFA in ceramics from JMU.

There is no charge to visit the galleries or to attend the reception and everyone is welcome.  Regular gallery hours are 10am-5pm Monday – Friday and 11am-4pm Saturday (closed on Sunday).

Artist Bios

Born in Korea, Sukjin Choi received BFA and MFA degrees in Ceramics from Ewha Womans University in, Korea, and MFA degree in Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan. She has had twenty four solo exhibitions in the United States, Canada and Korea, and has been exhibited and collected in more than 150 museums and galleries throughout Europe, Asia, and the United States. She has received numerous awards including a Visual Arts Fellowships from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, International Artists Exchange Program Grants from the Lighton Foundation, Medalta Residency in Canada, European Ceramic Workcentre Residency in the Netherlands. She is also a prolific commentator on the field of Ceramics, publishing over one hundred articles for the Korea Times in Washington DC and the Monthly Ceramic Art in Korea. She is currently an Associate Professor of Art at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

For Lynn Hilton Conyers, ceramic artist and retired Waynesboro High School Art Teacher, it is only natural that she would choose a career where she could share her passion for creating art. As an educator, having acquired a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Virginia Commonwealth University and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Ceramics from James Madison University, her personal goals as a ceramic artist were carried into the classroom. She established a Craft Department (1973) and expanded the Photography Department during her thirty four years at the high school. She involved her students in monthly field trips to Shenandoah Valley Art Center and additional trips to the Virginian Museum of Fine Arts, the National Craft Council Show in Baltimore, galleries in Washington, D.C., New York and Europe. Exposing students to all aspects of the professional art world had her students mentoring with local artists/artisans, helping to docent at galleries, acting as “Artist Helpers” at the Fall Foliage Festival Art Show, and “Gallery Hopping” to gallery openings at SVAC and the Association of Virginia Artisans.

Conyers made it a goal to expose her students and community to “real” working artists/artisans and the possibilities of art as a career. With this goal in mind she worked on the steering committee that established the Shenandoah Valley Art Center and the Governor School of the Fine Arts and was an ambassador for the HeART and Soil Artisan Trail. She has served on boards for the Wayne Theatre Alliance, the Blue Ridge Region Art Educators, the Shenandoah Valley Art Center and the Virginia Art Education Association. To give the arts a voice in the Waynesboro Public Schools she served as Fine Arts Department Chair and director for the Celebration of the Arts. She founded the Craft and Photography Guild, a club sponsoring school and community service for art students, while engaging them in art activities that contributed to art scholarships, field trips, and professional artists’ workshops.

Her dedication to being an advocate of art brought her recognition from the Virginia Art Education Association with an award of Art Teacher of the Year for the Blue Ridge Region (1986), the Shenandoah Valley Visual Artist Award (1990), Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers (1990), the Dawbarn Award (2004), Virginia Art Education Association Retired Art Educator of the Year 2013 and Virginia Art Educator of the Year 2014. In 2008, the Alleghany Highland Art Network recognized her as one of their Superior Craftsmen and the Artisan Center of Virginia selected her as Master Artisan in 2015. Her artwork has been displayed at university galleries, fine art centers and in private collections as far away as California. She has received a Best in Show Award at the Fall Foliage Festival Art show and the Southern Highlands Art Festival which are the top awards among the numerous awards she has received for her contemporary ceramic work.

Windtuck Pottery LLC, designed and built by Conyers and her husband, Scott Conyers, is located in Lyndhurst, Va. and is a HeART and Soil Trail site. This is her space for creating her artwork and allows her to pursue her love of teaching for James Madison University, Virginia Commonwealth University, Blue Ridge Community College, the Shenandoah Valley Art Center, and run workshops for schools and private groups or individuals. After retiring from Waynesboro High School in 2007, Conyers continued to develop special programs for the school system, teach at the Shenandoah Valley Governor School for the Visual Arts, for the Artisan Center of Virginia Outreach program, and the Talented and Gifted Art Program in Augusta County.

Having been born and raised in Wise County, Va., Conyers was exposed to the mountain artisans from the Southern Highland Guild. Family members were quilters and woodworkers with rich creative traditions that were a part of everyday family life. Her parents recognized their daughter’s love for art and hired professional artists to teach her privately since there were no art classes in the schools. Due to their nurturing, she went to VCU and there, took her first class in ceramics. A bonding with the medium followed and it became her major studio art as she pursued a degree in Art Education.

As all artisans find, life-demands pull them in diverse directions and they are often told you cannot do or have it all. For Conyers, the dilemma of being mother, wife, teacher and artist was solved by working late at night while the family slept. What luck it was to have a family that helped with art shows, exhibits, and the home front so the “all” could happen.

Conyers’ initial training in ceramics at VCU started with wheel throwing stoneware pottery. One class in Raku began a love affair that persists to this day. The ceramic tradition of Raku that began in Japan in the 16th century, serves as inspiration because the fast firing technique is an appealing creative tool. Even though she uses the element of chance and the unintended effects that result, control and artistry are not absent from her original designs. The use of fabric impressed into the surface of the clay produces textures that are enhanced when the piece, hot from the kiln, is placed in a chamber of combustible materials. The resulting reduction atmosphere creates iridescent qualities on the glazed surface which are further incorporated into the total design of the piece through the use of metallic oil-based pencils and oil pastels. The unglazed surface areas become a canvas upon which she paints and draws. The addition of fiber, wood, and glass or semi-precious stone beads pay homage to ancient cultures and unites the two and three dimensional aspects of the wall plaques. Conyers plays with a variety of themes: Blowing Scarves, Conception, and Guardians, defining them through her work.

From the artist, “Contemporary pottery has dared me to challenge established traditions while exploring and experimenting for the sheer joy of discovering a new approach to the craft.” She continues to work as a contemporary ceramic artist and an advocate for art, devoted to sharing her knowledge with others.