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Ceramics artist looks at how art faculty “picture peace”

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Potter and ceramicist Gregg Luginbuhl has focused much of his energy over the past several years on how art faculty from Mennonite colleges and universities – of which he is one – have used images of peace in their work.

Luginbuhl, professor of art and chair of the art department at Bluffton (Ohio) University, will give this year’s Greer Lecture at Bethel College on Nov. 2. The illustrated lecture, entitled “Mennonite College and University Faculty Picture Peace,” features the art and thought of 15 artists from five Mennonite colleges and universities on the subject of peace and peacemaking.

Luginbuhl received the C. Henry Smith Peace Lectureship for 2003-04 as a result of his proposal to survey the work of present and former art faculty at Mennonite colleges and universities to identify and document images of peace. The outcome of his project was this lecture.

Rich imagery, artists’ statements and video clips are incorporated into the presentation, which includes more than 100 art works representing a broad variety of two- and three-dimensional visual art media. The 15 artists come from Bethel College, Bluffton University, Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va., Goshen (Ind.) College and Hesston College. To be included, faculty must have been associated with the schools for a minimum of five years at the time Luginbuhl was putting the lecture together and have enjoyed a continuing, if not full-time, relationship with the institution for that period of time. Artists featured from the Bethel community include Gail Lutsch, Robert Regier and Paul Friesen (also associated with Hesston College).

In 2003, Luginbuhl published “The Very Picture of Peace” in the anthology Teaching Peace: Nonviolence and the Liberal Arts (Rowman & Littlefield). The essay explored how peace has been pictured in the art of the Western world, distinguishing between anti-war art and art that pictures or promotes peace, and using the work of two former Bluffton art faculty members, John Klassen and Darvin Luginbuhl, to help draw this distinction. The essay also suggested several ways in which the condition of peace has been reflected in the work of current and historical art figures and movements.

With the C. Henry Smith grant, Luginbuhl expanded on the ideas in the essay to explore “ways in which faculty at Mennonite institutions, those persons within the denomination who teach art and think about this discipline, have pictured peace, or have wrestled with the subject in their art and thought,” he said. “While eyewitness accounts of war, and anti-war images, are documented as part of this inquiry, I am particularly interested in visions of peace. I have outlined visions of peace in the work of these artists that are personal, community-oriented and global in scope.

“The study has sought to discover how peace church theology is reflected in the work of Mennonite faculty artists,” Luginbuhl continued, “and if they are, in any sense, spokespersons for peace through the process and products of their art activities.”

Luginbuhl will present “Mennonite College and University Faculty Picture Peace” on Thursday, Nov. 2, at 7:30 p.m. in Krehbiel Auditorium of the Fine Arts Center. The lecture and reception following are free and open to the public.

The reception will also mark the opening of a show of Luginbuhl’s work that will be on display in the Fine Arts Center Gallery through Dec. 1. The show, “Recent Ceramic Work,” includes wall plate sculptures, porcelain sculpture and free-standing forms. The wall sculptures began with wheel-thrown plate forms that were altered and embellished while the fish forms involve the artist’s variation of the raku process and color glazes.

“Typical of my recent artistic output, the mix of sculptural forms shown here embraces a variety of approaches to the ceramic process,” Luginbuhl said, “porcelain sculpture, raku fired wall sculpture and free-standing forms, polychrome earthenware sculpture, soda fired stoneware, porcelain vessel forms and functional porcelain pieces.”

All express “an ephemeral combination of form, color, texture and movement,” he added.

Luginbuhl has a B.A. from Bluffton and an M.F.A. in ceramics from the University of Montana, Missoula. He has exhibited pottery and ceramic sculpture in regional and national exhibitions, received many awards for his work and had his work included in many public and private collections. Now in his 31st year of college art teaching, Luginbuhl taught at the University of Findlay (Ohio) for eight years before returning to Bluffton.

“I like to maintain a regular schedule of art-making, even when my teaching schedule is most demanding,” Luginbuhl said. “I produce different kinds of work at different times as the school schedule evolves, but steady involvement heightens my experience of life, builds the expressive quality of my work and informs my teaching.”

The late Dr. Robert C. Goering, a native of Moundridge and a 1948 graduate of Bethel College, and his wife Amparo Goering, Wichita, initiated the Greer Fine Arts Endowment at Bethel College in 1979 in memory of Milford E. Greer, Jr., a native of Geuda Springs, Kan., and a close friend of the Goerings. Greer was interested in literature and music and excelled as an artist. He died in an auto accident in 1972 at age 45. The Greer Lecture Series brings visiting artists and scholars in the areas of music, visual arts or theater to the Bethel campus.

Fine Arts Center Gallery hours are Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday afternoon, 2-4 p.m. The gallery is closed Nov. 22-26 for the Thanksgiving break.

Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and has been named a Top Tier college by U.S. News & World Report every year since 1998. For more information, see the Bethel web site at www.bethelks.edu.

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