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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Ceramic artist Beth Lo steps into the studio at Carleton

<, a ceramic artist and professor of art, came to Carleton on Monday, Oct 5, to share her work with the Carleton community.

Lo was born in Indiana and went to college at the University of Michigan where she received her Bachelor of General Studies degree. After finding an appreciation for art, Lo went to the University of Montana, where she received her Master of Fine Arts degree. Lo is now at her alma mater as a Professor of Art.

Kelly Connole, a Carleton studio art professor and ceramic artist, is also from Montana. Her success in the art world, Connole says, has a lot to do with her first ceramics professor, Beth Lo.

Monday was the first time in twenty years that Connole has seen Lo throw on a wheel, and the experience was an emotional one. She said it reminded her of the first time she saw Lo throw and how quickly she fell in love with the craft.

It was clear last Monday in Connole’s Introduction to Ceramics class how influential Lo could be. In the two and a half hours that Lo spent with the class, she demonstrated throwing porcelain vessels, trimming, carving, and decorating with slip. As she worked, she talked about her experience with clay and her connection with the craft. She said more than once that she does not consider herself an expert potter.

She even apologized at one point saying, “I hope I’m not boring you.”

One of the things Connole respects most about Lo, she said, is how humble she is. She says that it is a trait common in ceramic artists and one she greatly respects.

Mark Olsen, a junior history major in the class, found the experience rewarding. He expressed a sense of amazement when he discussed watching Lo work and felt encouraged when he saw such an experienced artist work in the same manner that he has been taught.

During her talk, Olsen was especially intrigued by some origami inspired pieces that she had included in her presentation.

The piece entitled “Rabbit, Crane, Rabbit” consists of three separate ceramic forms that perfectly resemble the origami animals. The curves and folds of the clay look effortless, natural and as light as paper.

At the peak of her career, Lo has found a calling in her work. She has a strong focus on her Chinese-American background and her family. Her Chinese heritage has had a huge impact on her artwork, which is evident in her use of calligraphy and her references to origami, mahjong and traditional Chinese pottery and figurines.

After her son was born in 1987, he also become a subject in her pieces and inspired her to look into the world of parenting. Her current work is part of a series, which she has entitled “The Good Children.”

The series is vast and consists of vessels on which she draws and carves images of children being stereotypically ‘good children.’ In these pieces the forms are three-dimensional but the images are two-dimensional.

In her more sculptural pieces, the children themselves take on a 3-D form and become the objects on which she carves and draws. These relationships between dimensions are constantly being challenged and make her pieces especially engaging.

The images are simple and true and have a sense of humor that caused Lo herself to laugh about them as she showed slides at her talk on Monday night. Her work is straightforward and accessible while also conceptually strong.

At this time a small collection of Beth Lo’s pieces are being exhibited with Kelly Connole’s work in the Carleton College Gallery.

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