“Wild Clay, Field Paper” brings students home


What if progress meant going backwards? The exhibit “Wild Clay, Field Paper” at the ASMSU Exit Gallery asks the same question.

A show put together by MSU assistant professor of art Dean Adams and Josh DeWeese, “Wild Clay, Field Paper” asks us to consider where our materials come from. “Traditionally, what one could make out of clay was determined by what the clay dictates,” Adams pointed out. “Wild Clay, Field Paper” features clay materials often harvested locally. Some of the pieces even use glaze made from ash from burned local materials and plants.

This focus on local materials connects “Wild Clay, Field Paper” to the College of Art and Architecture’s symposium titled “A Critical Rediscovery of the Northern Rockies.” Adams hopes that by using local materials, opportunities will naturally come about to teach art students “earth science and geology, or the history and culture connected to a clay deposit.” He also hopes to highlight the local regional materials and how those can transform work and create identity.

Clay and paper make up the show — but these media are not always separate. Upon a closer look at some of the paper prints, little flecks of mica peek through. The paper is hand-made, giving it a thickness and personality your class notebook is sadly lacking and, with the addition of some clay, it becomes even more curious. This hybridization of two mediums, usually kept separate, is unusual and subtle, but easy to appreciate.

The paper also is made from natural plants found in Montana, weeds included. It’s an interesting way to use things commonly seen as problematic and transforming them into something useful and beautiful.

Ultimately, “Wild Clay, Field Paper” came from the International Wild Clay Research Project (IWCRP). The partial brainchild of Adams, IWCRP aims to bring awareness to local clay and the power it has to create natural tangents into avenues other than art; putting on a show at the Exit Gallery is a perfect way to illustrate this power.

Sukha Worob, a local artist and MSU graduate, experimented with Hounds Tooth, Horsetail Grass and St. John’s Wort for the show. Another student, Abigail Flanagan, received an undergraduate research scholarship to do her work, adding to the list of innovative names featured in the Gallery.

Adams is proud to note how helpful MSU has been in working with the artists. “The university has been very supportive of this at all levels.” Adams noted with enthusiasm. At a school known more for its more STEM based majors, giving support to artists is something MSU should be proud of and try to continue.

“Wild Clay, Field Paper” is at the Exit Gallery in the Strand Union Building from Oct. 6 – 19. The Exit Gallery is open 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.