Every year, professors go on sabbatical and take a break from their work here on campus. Lynne Chytilo, ceramics and sculpture professor, has used her sabbatical before as an artist in resident at the International Ceramics Center in Kecskemet, Hungary as well as at the Virginia Center for Creative Arts. This year Chytilo decided to spend her sabbatical right here on campus to continue teaching and working on her own project.
“My semi-sabbatical (teaching part time both semesters) allows me to continue teaching and maintaining the ceramics program while dedicating half the week to my clay work in my studio,” Chytilo said.
The project that she is currently working on is a series of sculptural ceramic heads, which require intense wet clay work and patience. A few days after her work becomes semi-dry, she goes back and refines the form. She then allows it to dry for several weeks.
“My current series of work tells stories about families,” Chytilo said. “Some of the characters I create I know, some I do not. Their stories are re-told and range from crazy untrustworthy uncles to mentally broken brothers.”
Chytilo explains the clay process behind her final pieces.
“Sculpting with wet clay has an immediacy that allows for an expression to be captured easily,” Chytilo said. “Once dried, the form must undergo a series of firings that are brutal. Physically, chemically and psychically, the clay endures a whole host of changes to its properties. In some ways this process mimics some of the hardships people must endure.”
Chytilo shared the meaning of her project, explaining that it really focuses on the human experience.
“Since most of our lives we live in our heads, I wanted to give form to an internal world,” Chytilo said. “In one group of works, I focused on the notion of memories that are initiated through the senses. Four separate large heads each with a different enhanced facial feature, such as an enlarged nostril or ear, are lined up but oriented off kilter. Inside of each is a small clay object that has inspired the memory, such as a lawn mower that is evoking a dreamlike memory representing a childhood experience through hearing.”
To date, Chytilo has made 22 ceramics heads that are all in various stages. One titled Aspiring is currently housed in the Lansing at the Michigan Art Education Juried Exhibition. While she waits to hear about acceptance into two other juried shows, it is her intent to continue the series into the fall. Once the entire collection of heads is complete, they will be displayed in the college gallery along with two other ceramic artists from the area.
Photo via Albion College