School of Art showcases award-winning alumni, Ohio artists’ work in ‘Best of 2022’ gallery


Asha Blake

Kristin Morris’ statue “Ricardo” is displayed in the exhibition. Morris recieved the Brian Lonsway Memorial Award for Humor in Craft for her work.

Chloe Robertson and Grace Clarke, Reporter

Eighty-three award-winning works of art, including work from Kent State alumni, are now on display at Kent State’s Center for the Visual Arts.

The university is hosting the Ohio Designer Craftsmen Best of 2022 gallery in the Center for Visual Arts through late September.

Ohio Designer Craftsmen is a nonprofit organization working to enhance communities through exhibitions, education and development of fine craft artists. The Best of 2022 allows artists to win awards and scholarships to encourage them to continue to create. This year, more than 20 special awards were given to artists showcasing exquisite and unique craftsmanship.

Director Emeritus of Ohio Designer Craftsmen, Betty Talbott, selected the 83 works, all of which are made by Ohio-affiliated artists, from a pool of 293 submissions.

The exhibit showcases works in yarn, cotton, clay, glass, fiber, wood, metal, upcycled material and mixed media. The variety of the gallery provides an opportunity to see different techniques, Turner said.

“At least from a student perspective, I feel like this is part of what they’re looking to be,” he said. “There’s research happening in all forms.”

The annual juried exhibition made its original debut in the Ohio Craft Museum located in Columbus before traveling to Kent’s campus. After touring statewide for 39 years, the organization works to curate fine crafts and artwork in Ohio.

“We have a long-standing relationship with the organization and museum. We were open all through COVID-19, but we didn’t run as many shows for obvious reasons,” Turner said. “I think now that programming is kind of going back a little more back to the way it was before the pandemic, hopefully, people will be able to get more actively involved.”

Some artists whose work is on display include Benjamin Johnson, Rachel Suzanne Smith and James Bowling, all Kent State alumni.

Smith created a wearable wallpaper made from waterjet-cut, aluminum, silver, steel, powder, coat and vinyl decals.

“If you look at Rachel’s work, the big wallpaper piece, there’s laser cutting and all kinds of different technologies there that aren’t necessary just for art,” Turner said.

The piece earned Smith a $1,000 Challenge Award of Excellence.

One of the sculpted pieces in the exhibit, titled “(W)hole,” was sculpted by Bowling, who is also a professor at Otterbein University teaching art, ceramics and sculpture.

“(W)hole” by James Bowling is made out of stoneware, underglaze, glaze and gunmetal wash. Bowling was one of the exhibited artists in the Center of Visual Arts gallery. (Asha Blake)

Based on the practice of traditional craftsmanship, Bowling is influenced by the California Funk ceramic style of the ’50s. His work is a collection of ceramic sculptures capturing the essence of the human experience in his eyes. The sculpture “(W)hole” is inspired by the experience of the pandemic and healing from its repercussions.

“Our wounds become a part of who we are and our own identity,” Bowling said. “They are always there, but there’s also the healing process that incorporates them into our experience and who we are as individuals.”

Bowling said his time at Kent State showed him a sense of professionalism and community which resulted in him choosing the university for his graduate degree.

“I felt that there is, and continues to be, a strong faculty there that pushes you … the depth of experience that the faculty had is what made me confident about attending,” Bowling said.

More of Bowling’s work can be found under his artist profile on Instagram, @jimubowling.

“This is the strongest art program in the state, by far,” Turner said. “The only MFA (Master of Fine Arts) in Northeast Ohio. The research happening by our faculty is in art history, education and art studio — everybody is trying to catch up to us now.”

The gallery will be open from 10 a.m. through 4 p.m. through Sept. 29 at the Center for the Visual Arts.

For more information on the show and other local art exhibits, visit here.

Chloe Robertson is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected].

Grace Clarke is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected].