Saint John's University to Host Visual Arts Exhibit

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November 21, 2001

Collegeville, Minn. - Saint John's University will host "Body of Clay, Soul of Fire: Richard Bresnahan and Art from the Saint John's Pottery," from Dec. 9 through Feb. 8, in the Alice Rogers and Target Galleries, Saint John's Art Center. The exhibition is part of a tour featuring Saint John's resident potter, Richard Bresnahan, along with Jerome Foundation artists and Grotto Foundation apprentices.

The exhibit presents a wide spectrum of artistic expression, from dynamic, non-representational sculpture to utilitarian wares. While some of the work echoes Bresnahan's style, with its subtle coloration and irregular splashes of natural ash glaze-effects fired in the studio's massive wood-burning kiln, others reflect the independent directions taken by the artists after working in the studio.

The exhibit and tour are sponsored by Target Stores and Marshall Field's Project Imagine, with assistance from the Jerome Foundation. Fine Arts programming also receives funding from the Minnesota State Arts Board and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Born in North Dakota in 1953, Bresnahan began his study of ceramics at Saint John's. He went to Japan his senior year as an apprentice under Nakazato Takahsi, a thirteenth-generation potter and the son of a "Living National Treasure." Over the next three-and-a-half-years, Bresnahan acquired a vast knowledge of potting techniques, kiln construction and firing methods, earning the title, "Master Potter."

Upon returning to the U.S. in December 1978, Rev. Michael Blecker promised to make Bresnahan an artist-in-residence at Saint John's, where he set up his first studio in the summer of 1979. Since then, he has worked with and trained emerging artists and student apprentices receiving fellowship opportunities from the Jerome and Grotto Foundations.

In 1993, Bresnahan began building a massive wood-burning kiln in Minn., which he named after his mentor, S. Johanna Becker. With the help of thirty volunteers, he completed the project two years later, in October 1994. The wood-burning kiln is 87 feet long with a 37-foot long backpressure tunnel, making it widely acknowledged as the first of its design and the largest kiln in America. Preparation for the firing of the kiln takes months to orchestrate. Thousands of pieces of pottery and sculpture fill its three chambers. And, since 1995, a community of students, friends, family and volunteers have come together to bring the Johanna kiln to life.

"Body of Clay, Soul of Fire: Richard Bresnahan and the Saint John's Pottery" is a book (Afton Historical Society Press, 2001), telling the fascinating story of Bresnahan's professional and personal life and describing the community of artists that have gathered around him and Saint John's Pottery. It also offers insight into Japan's handmade ceramics and apprenticeships, as well as a lively history about the Benedictine monks who founded Saint John's Abbey in the 1860s.

In conjunction with the release of the book, Saint John's University has organized a traveling exhibition throughout the Upper Midwest. Many of the works of Bresnahan, Jerome Foundation artists and Grotto Foundation apprentices will be on display. Exhibition dates are below.

Gallery hours for the Alice R. Rogers and Target Galleries are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday to Saturday. Extended hours are on Thursday until 9 p.m. For more information or to schedule a tour, call the Saint John's Art Center Gallery office at 320-363-2701.

The College of Saint Benedict for women and Saint John's University for men are partners in liberal arts education, providing students the opportunity to benefit from the distinctions of not one, but two nationally recognized Catholic, Benedictine, residential undergraduate colleges. Together, the colleges challenge students to live balanced lives of learning, work, leadership and service in a coeducational environment.

Exhibition Dates

Dec. 9, 2001 - Feb. 8, 2002

Alice R. Rogers and Target Galleries, Saint John's University Art Center

April 19 - June 16, 2002
Visual Art Center at Washington Pavilion of Arts and Sciences, Sioux Falls, SD

Sept. 11 - Oct. 19, 2002
University of Minnesota - Morris

Nov. 2, 2002 - Feb. 5, 2003

North Dakota Museum of Art, Grand Forks, ND

January 13 - March 15, 2003
Tweed Museum, Duluth, Minn.

June 5 - July 13, 2003
Phipps Center for Arts, Hudson, Wis.