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“Material Histories" opens September 29

“Material Histories" opens September 29

College of Fine Arts Staff | Sep 19, 2017

“The Tea Project,” a collaborative effort by the artists Aaron Hughes and Amber Ginsburg is part of the exhibition and symposium "Material Histories," on view September 29–October 22, Nelsonville and Athens Ohio.


School of Art + Design exhibition, symposium and performances tackle local and global political, cultural concerns

The School of Art + Design presents the exhibition Material Histories: Cultures of Resistance, on view at The Majestic Galleries in Nelsonville, September 29–October 22, with an opening reception September 29, 5–9 p.m. and an accompanying day-long symposium, October 13 at The School of Art + Design, Mitchel Auditorium, Seigfred Hall.

What is the role and agency of an artist in a time of international political, economic, and cultural uncertainty? How can a material such as clay be used to make art that is a reflection of its’ historical impact or make an empathetic connection between individuals from across the globe? The exhibition Material Histories: Culture of Resistance, and the related symposium address these questions as an inclusive dialogue.

This unique exhibition, curated by Alex Hibbitt, chair of OHIO’s ceramics program, brings together contemporary artworks that range from the monumental to the performative, highlights concerns ranging from our relationship to natural resources, the weight of family histories, the human toll of the “war on global terrorism,” and includes established and ongoing projects as well as brand new artworks. Exhibiting artists include: Amber GinsburgAaron HughesShauna MerrimanMJ BoleShay Church, and Linda Swanson.

An Interview at WOUB 91.3FM [09-29-17]:


A full installation of “The Tea Project,” a collaborative effort by the artists Aaron Hughes and Amber Ginsburg will be on display throughout the exhibition. Built around 779 porcelain teacups cast from Styrofoam cups, one for each individual that is currently, or has been, held in extralegal detention in the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp since 2002, “The Tea Project” is coming to Nelsonville from its recent display at The Human Rights Watch Booth at EXPO in Chicago.

“Tea Performances utilize the space created when someone sits, sips, and reflects over a cup of tea to ask questions about one’s relationship to the world: a world that’s filled with dehumanization, war, and destruction; a world that’s filled with moments of beauty, love, and humanity.”—Aaron Hughes

Amber Ginsburg and Aaron Hughes,

Amber Ginsburg and Aaron Hughes work collaboratively to uncover moments of beauty, poetics and shared humanity within little known military histories. Through the Tea Project, an ongoing series of installations and performances, they create scenarios that allow audiences a role in telling the story of our country's current involvement in war, detention, and torture while offering counter-narratives to disrupt the numbing effects of violence.


Two “Tea Performances,” with Aaron Hughes, in conjunction with the “Material Histories” symposium, are planned October 12 and 14. Both are open to the public, and free, registration required.

Three new artworks by artists Shauna Merriman, Linda Swanson, and Shay Church, conceived specifically for this exhibition, will be constructed in the gallery over the space of five days. These works connect with the region’s 200-year industrial history with clay and draw from the ways we interact with our surroundings from the days of Ancient Rome to the present moment in Athens, Ohio.


Shauna Merriman

Shauna Merriman is a sculptor interested in explorations of personal and communal histories as they relate to constructions of identity, internalization and projection, and perceptions of inclusivity, objectification and otherness. These topics are often tied to geographical locale and geologic materials in artworks and installations.


Shauna Merriman spent 2 months working in the OHIO ceramic studio during the summer of 2017, researching and making a large sculptural work addressing the geological and social history of the Hocking Valley Coalfield, which stretches from Athens in the south up between the Sunday and Monday Creeks through Nelsonville, which was it’s “industrial locus.” Merriman spent time traveling around the region talking to local residents and says “tapping of resources and reclamation efforts have created a continually shifting terrain, but one where wealth and power have not come to locally accumulate. Residents shared with me both intense pride for and shame in their surroundings, speaking of an intellectual and cultural divide from “outsiders”. The work is a consideration of the privilege that is afforded some based on a topography of experience as determined by place. It is also an examination of what notions we have of the discarded, and how the ideals and identity that shape culture reshape the environment.”

Linda Swanson

Linda Swanson is an artist whose interests are grounded in the metamorphic nature of ceramic materials and processes. Her work engages the enigmatic properties of matter at an elemental level and the capacity of wonder to question how and what we know.

In ancient Roman times, the most important ceremony in founding a city was the ploughing of an initial furrow in the earth called the sulcus primigenius, which delineated the territory of the new town as sacred. In this boundary rite, ploughing reverently enacted the holy marriage of earth and sky, as the condition for human life in potential harmony with the cosmos.
In the context of the Material Histories exhibition, Sulcus Primigenius is an installation of a field of powdered bentonite inscribed with a single furrow that is watered. In ancient cultures, tilling the earth possessed a ritual dimension, increasing and realizing its inherent fertility. As the clay absorbs the liquid, it swells and erupts into a blossoming of earth whose potential is now distilled and concentrated through industrial processes. Yet the furrow is also an open wound, the violation of an otherwise inaccessible primeval order.

Shay ChurchShay Church's temporary clay installations have included life-size whales and elephants left to fall apart in abandoned buildings, parking lots, outdoor spaces and galleries.


For the exhibition, artist Shay Church will build a 15ft square Buddhist temple inside the gallery out of wood and raw clay. Known for his raw clay sculptures of creatures such as life size blue whales and elephants, which are built in parking lots or other outside spaces, and which slowly deteriorate as the clay dries and shrinks, Shay will work with OU students to build “Borobudur." Inspired by his own experiences traveling in Indonesia as a young man, and by Martin Luther King Jr’s sermon (titled historically) “Unfulfilled Dreams.” This work is his personal attempt to reconcile the current social and psychological climate with his identity as an artist.

The exhibition at the Majestic is timed to coincide with a celebration of ceramics this fall that stretches across South East Ohio, and is included in the South East Ceramic Trail that includes exhibitions and events throughout the region.

MJ Bole, artist.

"I am a collector, a categorizer, and a seeker of the extraordinary, all of which create the strata in my work which includes sculpture, drawing and handmade artists books," said MJ Bole. Image courtesy of the artist.


Mary Jo Bole is an artist who focuses on her family history, and describes herself as “a product of a faded Victorian Culture.” Growing up in Cleveland Ohio, surrounded by family heirlooms and trunks of old clothes, she was also keenly affected by untimely deaths in her family, which makes her work poignant and reconciling. The faded industrial landscape of Cleveland, the sprawling city cemeteries, with their monuments to the movers and shakers of the glory days of the city, and her immersion in the punk scene in the 1970s and onwards combine to give her work as she says “a sardonic, humorous and provocative quality.

MJ Bole's Clay Belt Bus Tour (Oct. 20, 2017)

Artist Mary Jo Bole will be giving a guided all-day “Clay Belt Bus Tour,” introducing participants to the ruins of factories that didn’t survive, as well as those that persevered into modern success stories. Today, these factories make bulletproof vest components, pizza stones, turbine parts and more! Participants will visit Haydenville, Logan, New Straitsville, Zanesville, Athens, and more! Along the way, the tour will also see examples of ceramic influences in architecture, cemetery monuments and mining history.

Symposium (Oct. 13, 2017)

A day-long symposium, Friday, October 13 in Mitchell Auditorium, Ohio University School of Art + Design, will bring together artists Danielle Julian-Norton (moderator), Amber Ginsburg, Aaron Hughes, with Loren Lybarger and Ziad Abu-Rish for discussions and artists presentations.

This cross-disciplinary symposium focuses on the role and agency of the artist in a time of international, political, economic and cultural uncertainty. Exhibiting artists are joined by Ziad Abu Rish, assistant professor in the Department of History, and director of the Middle East and North Africa Studies certificate program and Loren D. Lybarger, associate professor in the Department of Classics and World Religions and moderated by Danielle Julian-Norton, faculty in sculpture at Columbus College of Art and Design, Columbus, OH.

Complete Event Schedule can be found here:

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