NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Over the past several years, Bethel College’s Fine Arts Center Gallery has featured at least one exhibit a year of work by a Bethel alumnus.
So in this year 2012-13 in which the college celebrates its 125th birthday, gallery coordinator Rachel Epp Buller, assistant professor of art, decided to do a year of alumni shows.
The first one, “Nate Ferree: Cyborg Clayworks,” opened Friday, Aug. 31. A reception for the artist is planned for Thursday, Sept. 27 (the exhibit’s closing day), 6-8 p.m., to coincide with regular “Fourth Thursday” events in Newton and North Newton.
“I wanted to have this year’s gallery lineup coincide with the Bethel 125th happenings, so invited a variety of alumni artists to show,” Epp Buller said. “It’ll be a range of media: ceramics; painting; prints; assemblage.
“I’m not sure there was a particular method [for who I invited],” she continued, “but I wanted to show a variety of media to both students and community and to invite alumni artists who hadn’t recently shown in the gallery. In the last several years, we’ve hosted shows by other alumni such as Gesine Janzen, Lora Jost, Chris Janzen and Jennifer Miller.”
The Fall Festival show – which opens Oct. 5 with the artists’ reception scheduled for the Friday evening of Fall Festival, Oct. 12 – will be a group show with current and former Bethel art faculty.
In addition to Epp Buller and David Long, Bethel professor of art, the show includes former faculty Gail Lutsch (1981-2009), Merrill Krabill (1989-2001), Bob Regier (1965-92), Paul Friesen (1960-89) and Miguel Almanza (1968-80).
“It seemed appropriate to showcase the work of former and current faculty,” Epp Buller said, “since alumni of many ages come to that show and would have connections with some of those faculty members.”
Other Bethel alumni artists showing in the FAC Gallery in 2012-13 are Conrad Snider, North Newton, Carolyn Wedel, Salina, and Joseph Loganbill, Newton.
Nate Ferree, who currently lives and works in rural Missouri, attended Bethel from 1995-97. Other details he shares include “BFA from Truman State University, Kirksville, Mo., 2000; MFA from Bowling Green (Ohio) State University, 2004; started Cyborg Clayworks, 2008; world takeover, 2019.”
In his artist statement, Ferree says: “Functional pottery makes the foundation of my artistic life. I strive to design and develop accessible items for daily use.
“I seek simplicity in both glaze and form with a measured tolerance for variation. I embrace variation within parameters of low-tech standardization. In production, my body and brain control an ancient machine updated with electricity to manipulate a material that helped make civilization possible.
“Beyond controlling the potter’s wheel as a tool, I connect to it. It becomes an extension of my body. I become cyborg.
“The repetition of producing multiple familiar forms affords my brain the luxury of slipping into nebulous thoughts on the nature of man and machine. Our ancestors became cyborg when they implemented the first tool. Since the first extension of our bodies, we are all cyborg.
“Sculpture allows a way into my machine dreams. Out of my nebulous thoughts, little pinpoints of insight emerge. Crystalline beings shimmer in the primordial ooze of my brain. Working in a soft, malleable material, I reproduce these characters into this world. From soft, amorphous beginnings, they take on shape and detail and finally solidify into reality by fire. I look through their eyes and catch glimpses of an emerging narrative, its roots ancient and branches infinite.”
Regular hours for the Bethel College Fine Arts Center Gallery are Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., and Sunday, 2-4 p.m. (closed during the college’s fall, Thanksgiving, Christmas and spring breaks). There is no admission charge.
Bethel College is the only private college in Kansas listed in the 2012-13 Forbes.com analysis of premier colleges and universities in the United States and ranks in the top five “Best Baccalaureate Colleges” in the Washington Monthly annual college guide for 2012-13. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA.