These are some of the ceramic displays in the Dairy Barn’s Gallery Shop. 

The Southeast Ohio Contemporary Ceramic Trail stretches 52 miles from Athens to Zanesville. Scattered along its path are galleries committed to displaying the best of modern ceramic artwork.

Jane Redfern, director of the Dairy Barn Arts Center in Athens, said ceramics have always been a huge part of southeast Ohio’s culture. With so many students learning ceramics and glasswork from Ohio University and Hocking College, she said it seems natural to feature ceramics exhibitions.

The Dairy Barn’s current exhibition is Contemporary Ceramics 2015, which opened Sept. 18 and will remain open till Nov. 22. 

Redfern said the exhibition, which was curated by OU faculty members Brad Schwieger and Chuck McWeeny, gives the Dairy Barn an opportunity to showcase some of the best contemporary ceramics artists in the country.

Contemporary Ceramics 2015 is comprised of more than 60 pieces from 25 different artists. Schwieger and McWeeny’s curator statement says they sought to create a national exhibition, and that featured artists are from all across the U.S., from Alaska to Maryland. 

“Exhibited works are a showcase of artistic expression and adaptation to outside cultural and other external forces by outstanding artists,” they said.

One featured artist is Thaddeus Erdahl from Princeton, New Jersey, whose pieces “Should Have Been,” “Duty ‘OP 3’”, and “Duty ‘OP 4’” are based on his experiences in the military. “Should Have Been,” a realistic presentation of a man’s face made to look like it was carved from the bow of a ship, stands opposite “Duty ‘OP 3’” and “Duty ‘OP 4’” in the exhibition, putting Erdahl’s figurative works in contrast to “Should Have Been’s” stark literalism.

During a gallery tour, Redfern said the curators sought to bring together pieces that had a diverse figurative narrative, as well as pieces that are classified as “useful,” such as cups, teapots and serving trays. 

The show’s diversity included room for plenty of wall-hanging pieces, such as Mel Griffin’s painted pieces “Aves IV” and “Whales,” both of which feature large, flat tiles of clay that have been painted with birds and whales, respectively. 

Redfern said Matt Wedel from Albany, Ohio, who contributed his whimsical free-standing piece, “Flower Tree,” is the only artist living locally. Wedel also has been featured at the Kennedy Museum of Art, in the exhibition “Matt Wedel and Matt Merkel-Hess.”

Many other local artists often submit ceramics to open-art calls, she added. Because OU and Hocking College have so many ceramics students, the Dairy Barn has had plenty of pieces to choose from for its mixed-media exhibitions. It just made sense, she said, to have a show that was entirely full of ceramics.

The Dairy Barn spearheads the Southeast Ohio Contemporary Ceramic Trail in conjunction with the Zanesville Prize for Contemporary Ceramics. Christine Golden, who won last year’s prize, has three pieces in the Dairy Barn’s 2015 exhibition: “In Memory of a Tender Caress,” “In His Shoes” and “Flying With Waxed Wings.”

Ann Judy, who founded the Starbrick Gallery in Nelsonville, said the Zanesville prize is the largest in ceramics: $20,000.

This year, the prize’s organizers reported that 368 artists submitted more than 950 pieces. Winners and finalists will be displayed from Sept. 25 to Jan. 2, 2016, at the Zanesville Museum of Art.

Other current events along the trail include:

Last week of September – Hocking Hills Artists & Craftsmen Association’s annual fall show and sale – Logan

Sept. 26-Oct. 25 – Majestic Galleries is hosting “Danielle Armbruster: Man, Myth, & Magic Ceramic Sculpture” – Nelsonville

Redfern said she hopes the Dairy Barn will do another show like Contemporary Ceramics 2015, but said they’ll have to see how 2015’s exhibit is received. She encourages ceramicists and all other artists to submit to the Dairy Barn’s current call for art: OH+5.

OH+5 is a “regional, all media, juried exhibition of contemporary artwork,” according to its flyer, and aims to promote art from Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.

Deadline for submission is 5 p.m. on Nov. 16. The subsequent exhibition of pieces will open Jan. 8, 2016.

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