Students help artist Shay Church bring ceramics installation to campus


Caleb Danielson - The State Hornet

Foreground: “Eagle Pose” by Alessandro Gallo, an artist from Helena, Montana; background: Innards, a mixed media piece by Oakland artist Arthur Gonzalez. The Library Gallery’s latest art installation, “Concurrent/Conventions: A Spectrum of Contemporary Ceramics, will open Feb. 15.

Alex Daniels

The Library Gallery at Sacramento State will hold a reception on Feb. 15 for the opening of its latest art installation, “Concurrent/Conventions: A Spectrum of Contemporary Ceramics.”

The exhibit features work from artist Shay Church. Church is a studio artist who makes ceramic art with a focus on animals. He has traveled all over the country from his home studio in Kalamazoo, Michigan to install his sculptures in public spaces and galleries.

Church said that sculpting is a personal love of his and he prefers it over other mediums because of its hands-on nature.

“I have always built things,” Church said. “I used to build houses and I do a lot of ceramics and work with clay. It was a combination of my two interests. I just like getting dirty, cutting things and building things. It’s like building a treehouse on steroids.”

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For the ceramics exhibit at Sac State, Church said he is bringing to life a mythological seven-headed Hindu horse in a piece he calls “Churning of the Milk Ocean,” which he said is based on an event in Hindu mythology that created creatures and gods.

“I’m not even going to try to pronounce the horses name for you,” Church said. “I don’t want to mess it up.”

It’s Uchchaihshravas.

“I am reading books with my 7-year-old daughter and she’s really into horses,” Church said. “One of the books we were reading was about the mythology of horses and she was fascinated with this horse. I had never heard about it or seen that image, and I was just intrigued to recreate that and put that image back in the world in modern context.”

Church said that an event like this on campus is an example of how people working in clay and ceramics are interpreting the world around them and incorporating their own unique perspectives into their sculptures.

“There’s a wide variety of work that brings different perspectives within the medium,” Church said. “I think it’s clear when you come into this space that people are using material in different ways and have completely different messages and things to say with the material.”

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According to Church, the size of his projects are often too much for one person to handle alone. Instead of hiring a team to bring around with him, Church enlists the help of members in the communities where he’s installing his sculptures.

In this case, help came from John Klaiber and a few members of Sac State’s Ceramics Club.

“We’re all being trained by (Church) right now,” said Klaiber, the president of the Ceramics Club. “The experience has been great so far, and I wasn’t going to miss out on the opportunity to work on a project with 1,500 pounds of clay.”

The exhibit will be open to the public for viewing starting with the Feb. 15 reception.