Scientific Ceramics at Moss-Thorns Gallery

By JOHN BILLINGER

Tiger Media Network

On January 19, the Moss-Thorns Gallery of Art opened the exhibit “Terra Et Intus” in the Patricia A. Schmidt Gallery. The exhibit showcases Kansas artist Mark Freeman’s complex and intricate ceramic works. It is open to the public and will be showcased at the Gallery until Friday.

Freeman is a native of Ellinwood. Ironically, he first became acquainted with ceramics in High School during detention. 

“That art teacher, instead of giving me detention, he would actually punish me by making me mix clay in their clay-making machine for his pottery class,” Freeman said. 

Freeman and one of his works. Any sculptures with a label that reads “NFS”(Not For Sale) are his favorites.

From then on and with the teacher’s encouragement, Freeman found a passion for making sculptures with clay.

He continued doing art throughout Barton County Community College, eventually graduating from Fort Hays State University with a bachelor’s in Fine Arts with an additional bachelor’s in Science. At present, he’s working on getting a Master’s in Fine Arts by May.  His exhibit is actually a part of his master’s program. 

“Our MFA students will have to have an exhibition showcasing their time in their specific program that they’re in” said Colin Schmidtberger, director of the Moss-Thorns Gallery of Art. Between his education and creating sculptures, Mark is currently a 3D art instructor at Barton County Community College.

His highly detailed, complex, and intricate pieces currently displayed are quite a sight in person, and can make one go, “How did this get made?” 

According to Freeman, everything in ceramics is about timing. By his estimates, some take days, others weeks, maybe even months. Typically, he has two or three projects at a time.

He makes his own glazes, a process that he says makes him “kind of a mad scientist.” It’s a very complicated road, with trial and error. 

“I’ve always got a new clay recipe that I’m trying. Where do I want it to fire more brown or more red? All the work on display in that show, are glazes that I’ve formulated and mixed myself,” Freeman said. “All that textural surface you see there is the culmination of all my research. You’re not seeing my failures. You’re seeing the good stuff.”

Speaking of science, one can also see that biology is a source of inspiration in his art. 

“It’s something that I’ve always been interested in,” he said. “I’m really interested in fungus and bacteria, I’m also a big Sci-fi fan, so a lot of that bleeds into the work. It’s easy to find new inspiration.”

Many artists try to project messages in their art. However, Freeman does not put himself in that category. 

“I really don’t like art that just spoonfeeds you the context or subject matter of what it’s about. I really like art that makes you lean in and question what the heck it is you’re looking at, and what it’s about. I feel it’s more important for the viewer to look at that, and take from it what they will,” he said. 

Freeman’s work has also been shown at the Vernon Filley Art Museum in Pratt, the Midtown Gallery in Hutchinson, the Shafer Art Gallery in Great Bend, and many others across the state.

The Moss-Thorns Gallery is open Monday through Friday, 9 am-4 pm. 

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