COLUMBIA — In the center of MU’s George Caleb Bingham Gallery are several pedestals, each a base for a ceramic piece by Katherine Johnson. The texture and form of her works, as well as the ideas behind them, reflect the delicate balance between humanity and nature.
Drawing from her early life in a farming community, Johnson’s focus is on this unseen and constantly shifting tension. She finds clay a good medium for expressing this.
“The material itself is constantly challenging,” she said.
Johnson’s ceramics are part of the exhibition “Vantage Points,” which showcases the work of five visiting faculty members in MU’s Art Department: John B. Murdock, graphic design; Matthew Ballou, painting and drawing; Chris Daniggelis, printmaking; and Daniel Farnum, photography.
One of the most eye-catching pieces, Johnson’s “Trunk,” looks like a section of a tree trunk — rough-like bark on the outside but smooth blue ceramic on the inside. Her intent was to set up a situation unfamiliar to the viewer, “of land in water and water in land.”
In much of her work, Johnson makes structures that look like houses. She models them after barns, sheds and buildings, emphasizing the mark of humans on the landscape.
Johnson said she doesn’t want to control how people view her work.
“As an artist, you present it and each viewer sees it in a slightly different manner according to their background.”
In the corner of the gallery is the work of the photographer Farnum. His series “Growing Up” evokes impressions of his childhood in Saginaw, Mich. Farnum seeks to capture the essence of suburban living, particularly the sense of unsupervised play. His pictures start inside the neighborhood and move beyond its well-watched bounds.
One of these photos is of a wooden bike ramp with a beaten trail behind it; no child is present, but a child’s presence is felt. In the background, hills speckled with electric lines and houses represent the suburban life nearby.
“I’m actually on top of a hill, so I have a higher perspective in the picture,” Farnum said.
The bike ramp, he said, carries a “sense of monumental placement, also distant from suburbia.
“This is where I grew up.”
The photographer finds similarity between his work and that of Ballou’s paintings and drawings.
“The landscapes and groups of people convey a subtle feeling of turmoil,” Farnum said. “I feel like there is a tension, an idea of a memory, for me.”
“Vantage Points” not only contains pieces of art but also pieces of the artists themselves. Each artist comes from a different part of the country, Johnson said, so this exhibition is an opportunity for “the public to see who we are, just the same as we are getting an idea of what Columbia is.”