John Utgaard: there and not there

Oct 2nd - Nov 1st, 2009

John Utgaard was one of three artists awarded a solo exhibition for the 2009-2010 exhibition season. He received his BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute and his MFA from the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University in 1999. He is presently an Assistant Professor, teaching ceramics, at Murray State University, Murray, KY.

Utgaard is known for his incredibly quiet and sensitive sculptures. Whether large scale floor works or table top in scale, his work integrates an organic and natural sensibility with a controlled architecture and structure. Juxtaposing hard line with soft edge, flat planes with textured planes, and with incredibly thoughtful surfacing and glazing, Utgaard orchestrates wonders.

Utgaard's sculptures can be deceiving in their simplicity, which is truly part of their strength. Through observation and time his work reveals itself, allowing the viewer to travel over its landscape, exploring each hidden crevice or void within. The surfaces of the sculptures perfectly accentuate and bring to the front that which Utgaard wishes one to focus on, with the glaze surface flowing and pooling reflecting light in vastly different ways.

In writing about his work Utgaard states, "I have always had vivid dreams, and though I have never been a religious or superstitious person, I have always believed that my dreams had significance. The fact that there are large parts of myself that I can’t experience in waking life is deeply fascinating and disturbing to me, and it motivates much of my work as an artist."

"I think of the things I make as geological, biological and psychological relics, as if my mind were a site of excavation. Wet clay records the work of our hands and reflects the softness of our bodies as well as the plasticity of our thoughts. When we fire it, it becomes like a fossil—hard, dead and stony, but with the evidence of a time when it was soft and alive in someone’s hands. I am attracted to how clay can speak of our living bodies but at the same time of our mortality and of the span of geologic time."