Linda Lighton sculpture

Ceramic Works Range From Elegant to Quirky

Review of "Hybridize" show published on The; Springfield, Missouri
March 27, 2006

by Camille Howell

Work by a trio of highly-regarded ceramic artists is on display at the Missouri State University Art & Design Gallery.

Linda Lighton is a graduate of the Kansas City Art Institute, John Goodheart is professor emeritus at Indiana University, Bloomingdale, and Tim Mather currently teaches at Indiana. The latter is well-known for his expertise in the history of ceramics, in addition to his artwork.

The execution is flawless, the designs well-rendered and deeply thought-out - these are experienced artists with lots of talent.

Their finished products, however, are going to be what you make of them. I saw everything from funerary urns to near-pornographic plants. All three artists work hard to produce highly-realistic, finely-finished products, and in the process they leave a lot of room for interpretation.

The exhibit begins in the front room with the work of Lighton, which focuses on rather anthropomorphic plant life. In the media material circulated for this show, it says that Lighton "explores issues of gender and identity metaphorically using effusive color and a vocabulary derived from flora and fauna." That's a polite way of saying these plants display their near-human genitalia in a way that would make Georgia O'Keeffe blush.

I enjoyed Lighton's work, especially her large wall and floor pieces on the left side of the front gallery. I also appreciated the humor in some titles such as "Diva Kay," a plant with its mouth opened as if to sing.

All Lighton's plants become more than strictly little flowers in the garden - these have definite personalities, and often, they have the equipment to back up those personalities in a pretty strong and visceral way.

In the lower gallery, Goodheart displays a beautiful series of classically-shaped, wheel-thrown pieces, almost all gleaming white and wrapped in wire mesh. Each sits on its own simple, elegant stand.

I found these works to be sophisticated and understated, enjoyable as a group but also rewarding to study one at a time. I did get the feeling, however, that any of these pieces would be a nice place to store my ashes for eternity after I'm dead.

The exhibit wraps up with the creations of Mather, who shares the back gallery with Goodheart.

Mather works in high-glaze porcelain and forms interesting compositions from disparate, small everyday objects. Motifs are repeated over and over throughout Mather's pieces.

Mather is fun in a weird way - he may show us a furry little animal with a duck's head, or a duck with a dinosaur's face. One ear may be a hand, the other a ring or hooved animal's leg.

I did think that his work got a bit repetitive, but then that could be said also for the other two artists. Still, the repetition didn't pack the same punch as the repetition of Goodheart's cool, elegant shapes or of Lighton's brightly-colored, highly-exciting plant life.


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