September 6th, 2023
The first show of 2023-24 in the Regier Art Gallery, “Drinking from a New Well,” closes Thursday, Sept. 21, with a reception for the artists, Tom and Pam Voth, from 6-8 p.m. at the gallery.
The exhibit features the Voths’ ceramic artistry, ranging from wheel-thrown to hand-built functional and decorative pieces.
The Regier Gallery is located in Luyken Fine Arts Center on the Bethel campus. Regular hours are Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., and Sunday 2-4 p.m. There is no admission charge.
For about 30 years, Tom Voth had “significant experience in stained glass,” but didn’t touch clay until he was in his late 50s.
He knew, he says, that he “was not going to be a production potter. I typically don’t make many of the same thing. I see work in clay as a never-ending experience of exploring and experimenting.
“Admittedly, I had a period where I fixated on making tile, nearly 11,000 by the time that had run its course.”
An example of Voth’s tile work can be seen in an unusual set of portraits that are part of the exhibition.
Made entirely of hundreds of tiny black and white tiles, the faces in “They Took a Stand” range from the world-famous, such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi, to the barely recognized, such as Karla Jean Mueller, an American humanitarian aid worker kidnapped and killed in Syria in 2015, and civil rights leader Rev. George Lee, assassinated in Mississippi in 1955.
“You are invited to view to view these portraits not simply as art but as real people whose lives were lived and taken from them for things they believed in deeply,” Voth’s statement says.
“It is my hope that as you look into these faces, you will think deeply about their significance for you and ask the question, ‘What do I stand for?’”
Pam Voth learned to love ceramics early in her artistic life but, like Tom, took a while to dive fully into it.
She always loved making things, she says, and worked in papier mâché, drawing and painting as a child. Her mother, Marlys Penner, a painter, was a particular interest.
Voth studied ceramics with Marvin Bartel at Goshen (Ind.) College.
“I lived [for a long time] with the perception that if I were to pursue good ceramic work I needed a gas or wood kiln,” she says, “which was out of the question, since I and my family moved [often] and there wasn’t access to equipment of that caliber.
“So I spent over 30 years assuming I couldn’t do ceramics. It was after we moved to Wichita in 2004 that I met several mid-fire ceramic artists and discovered a community pottery studio where I learned it was possible to create good pottery in an electric kiln.
“We were active members of the studio for several years where I also began to teach. It was exciting to be back in clay after a three-decade hiatus.”
Voth’s principle mode has been wheel-throwing, mainly functional pieces. However, “over the past couple of years, I have delved into hand-building, making larger artistic pieces. I have found pleasure in making slab and coil-built planters and vases.
Voth currently teaches ceramics at Tabor College in Hillsboro and enjoys “introducing students to pottery and the never-ending variety of work in clay.”
“Drinking from a New Well” showcases many aspects of the Voths’ work. In addition to larger pieces and the tile portraits, there are tiny pots, tea bowls, boxes and cricket houses, along with hand-built tools (brushes and roller stamps).
“Inspiration is drawn from many places and experiences,” says the artist statement. “It is hoped that as you view the show you will find something new and be drawn to drink from a new well in some way.”
Bethel is a four-year liberal arts college founded in 1887 and is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel was the first Kansas college or university to be named a Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation (TRHT) Campus Center, in 2021. For more information, see www.bethelks.edu