WSU Museum of Art showcases faculty artist retrospective

BY HANNAH LAMBERT | Evergreen reporter

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One of ceramicist Ann Christenson’s T-shirts proudly depicts a child breaking a pot with a baseball bat and the words “I hate ceramics.”

“I’m always having problems (with my work),” Christenson said. She added, “We love it, but we hate it. It’s such a tough master.”

Christenson began teaching at WSU in 1990, and coordinated the ceramics program. Her art has been shown all over the world, and she spent time traveling and working at kiln sites in China. Her work is currently on display in a Fine Arts Faculty Focus Exhibition at the WSU Museum of Art, which runs from Aug. 18 to Sept. 13.

The Museum of Art alternates large group faculty shows with a biennial exhibit to celebrate a recently retired faculty member, in this case, Ann Christenson, said Debby Stinson, marketing and public relations manager for the Museum of Art.

Since her retirement a year and a half ago, Christenson and the Museum of Art have been hard at work putting the show together.

“We’re awfully proud of her and the work she’s done, and this is the least we could do,” said Zach Mazur, curator of education and collections for the museum.

This retrospective exhibit spans decades of Christenson’s work, although all of the pieces present a cohesive theme and build on what she’s made before.

“It’s like a conversation you’re having and you just keep having it,” Christenson said. “Designing new ways to talk about things.”

Cultural and historical contexts are present Christenson’s work, as are metaphors, she said. But one of the strongest parts of her creative process is the “echoing back and forth between the natural world and the constructed world,” she said.

“There are so many layers to her work and so many juxtapositions,” Mazur said, emphasizing the balance between chaos and beauty. He also noted Christenson’s unique blend of steel and ceramics.

Christenson began adding steel to her pieces after returning to graduate school in the ‘80s. She described the addition as a supporting instrument to help make the sculptures larger, as well as a way to contrast the fragility of ceramics with the industrial element of steel.

“The work doesn’t look like it’s frozen,” Mazur said. “It looks more organic, like it’s moving or wavering at points.”

The museum will hold an opening reception at 6 p.m. Thursday in the Museum of Art gallery. Christenson will speak at 7 p.m. Admission to the museum is free.

Once the exhibit ends, Christenson said she plans to enjoy her free time and “sit in a chair, look at the sky and daydream.”