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Sculptor’s work employs water and trees, humor and irony

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Sculptor Mark Cowardin, Overland Park, will be the next guest artist to show his work in the Bethel College Fine Arts Center Gallery.

Cowardin’s show, “Ins and Outs,” opens Friday, Jan. 29. There will be a reception for the artist Friday, Feb. 5, from 3-5 p.m. outside the FAC Gallery. The reception and exhibit are free and open to the public.

Cowardin has a bachelor of fine arts degree from the University of Kansas and earned his M.F.A. in sculpture from the University of Arizona in Tucson. He currently is assistant professor of art at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park.

“The focus of my work is the point at which humans and the natural world intersect,” Cowardin says. “I am extraordinarily interested in the disconnect between people and the origins of the things they consume. After living in the Sonoran Desert of Tucson for a few years, I was particularly struck by the use and misuse of water. This observation quickly made its way into my sculptures in the form of absurd plumbing fittings.

“Many of my sculptures incorporate found tree parts that metaphorically take the place of pipe or conduit. Fabricated faucets and fittings create a direct, absurd and whimsical link between humans and nature. Plumbing and electrical wiring work perfectly as an analogy for humans while providing the conceptual correlation to my ideas of interconnectivity. With a background in construction and carpentry, I developed an understanding of the functionality, as well as an admiration for the aesthetics, of plumbing and wiring. The implied function of the fittings is the central element of many of my sculptures.”

Cowardin employs humor and irony in his work in order to appeal to a wider viewing public and “to soften the edges of conversation about serious issues.” He adds, “I have a persistent belief that art possesses much more than just the ability to entertain, but also the capacity to inform, educate and inspire.”

“Ins and Outs” will be on display in the FAC Gallery through Feb 26. Regular gallery hours are Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., and Sunday, 2-4 p.m. Admission to the gallery is free.

Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and was the only Kansas private college to be ranked in’s listing of “America’s Best Colleges” for 2009 and one of only two Kansas colleges listed in Colleges of Distinction 2008-09. For more information, see the Bethel Web site at

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