Ulrich welcomes new season with focus on accessibility, faculty contribution

Students, faculty, and fine art enthusiasts flooded into the Ulrich Museum of Art Thursday for their Fall Exhibition Opening.

As gallerygoers entered the Ulrich, they were greeted with the first exhibit of the new collection, “Solving for X = Accessibility.” This exhibit is the second part of a series of exhibitions in collaboration with WSU scholars across all disciplines.

The installment focuses on spotlighting notable research on campus — as well as making fine arts accessible to people with disabilities. “Solving for X” features three-dimensional pieces that can be felt and experienced. They even include braille descriptions of the art itself.

Continuing their walk throughout the museum, visitors slowly found themselves ushered through a hallway until they hit the massive elevator that hauled crowd after crowd to the second floor — the home of two new exhibitions.

The second-floor gallery features “Clay Currents: The Wichita National Ceramics Invitational” and “Teachable Moments: The XXII Faculty Biennial”

With the help of ceramicists Ted Adler and Brenda Lichman, Ksenya Gurshtein, curator of modern and contemporary art, organized the two rooms that featured “Clay Currents.”

“What we aimed for was to give as much breadth as possible about contemporary ceramics — what it is that artists do with clay today,” Gurshtein said.

Ceramic pieces, taking the form of immaculate cloud-shaped vessels, brushed past a setting sun. Ceramic figures that ranged from the inhuman to the mundane lined the walls and crowded tables in the center of the room.

John Neely, a ceramicist and professor at Utah State University, displayed teapots so small they could fit in the palm of your hand.

“Teapots are kind of a popular subject for contemporary American ceramic artists that don’t drink tea, and consequently, they become sculptures instead of functional — but those are functional pots,” Neely said.

“Then having said that, that’s a vehicle for me to explore the technology of ceramics. So, I’m trying new techniques and new materials to gratify my own kind of, we’ll say, curiosity.”

Since “Clay Currents” is an invitational, Neely and all the other artists were invited by the Ulrich to display their works. Neely said he knew the people who organized the show, as well as many of the other ceramicists invited.

In a larger gallery on the second floor is “Teachable Moments: The XXII Faculty Biennial”

This is the biennial’s 44th year.

The biennial faculty art exhibition was started almost immediately after the museum was opened in 1974, according to Gurshtein. Every two years, faculty are invited to display their recent work as part of the long-standing tradition.

The faculty’s work ranged from sculptures to photography — and even an installation that brings its audience directly into a horror movie. Most of the art was provocative — either making viewers think more in depth about a certain topic, or in more extreme cases, inducing a knee-jerk emotional reaction.

Larry Schwarm, former photography professor at Wichita State who retired last spring, had three of his photographs on full display.

One of Schwarm’s photographs depicts a bird’s oily smear left a window, paired with a poem by former WSU English Professor Albert Goldbarth.

“This is a very personal piece,” Schwarm said. “My wife died very unexpectedly this summer, and the person I was just talking to, Albert Goldbarth, wrote that poem for her — for her service.”

Schwarm said he took that photo some years ago, but at the time, it didn’t match the rest of his work. However, today, he said it fits perfectly with Goldbarth’s poem.

Visitors mingled with each other, discussing the art.

“It’s really great to see so many students here,” Gurshtein said. “I really, really appreciate that.”

“Solving for X = Accessibility,” “Clay Currents,” and “Teachable Moments: The XXII Faculty Biennial” will be on display until Dec. 8. The Ulrich Museum of Art is open to the public Tuesday through Sunday. Admission is free for students with a WSU ID.