Exhibition displays professor’s ceramics

By Sean Leary

An exhibition showcasing the nature-inspired ceramics of NIU assistant Professor Yih-Wen Kuo opened Thursday afternoon to an audience of over 50 students and faculty.

“I take my inspiration from nature, from organic objects found in nature, and abstract and interpret them in my own personal way,” Kuo said, whose work is on display at the Altgeld Hall art gallery.

Kuo’s work is soft and serene. It is a pleasant communion of circular organic shapes with intermittent squares and jagged edges cut into individual pieces to create a sly tension. The pieces are smoothly glazed and colored hues of ocean blues and rich greens.

Kuo, an assistant professor of ceramics, is here at NIU as a one-year visiting student teacher. He was chosen from a selection of nationwide applicants who applied for the position, said Ron Mazanowski, associate professor of ceramics.

Applicants were chosen on the criteria of quality of work, personal exhibition record and recommendations, Mazanowski said. “(Kuo was chosen because) he is quickly gaining a national and international reputation,” Mazanowski said.

Kuo was born and raised in Taiwan, where he worked as a potter. In 1985 he came to the United States and gained a master’s of fine arts in ceramics from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.

It was his beginning as a potter though, that Kuo believes helped him better understand the dimensions involved in sculpture.

“I see ceramics like I would see a pot—with both inside and outside space. Traditional sculpture is seen from the outside only, but in using both the inside and outside, the inside becomes a symbol,” Kuo said.

The symbols the work represents stem from Kuo’s philosophies on his work as a part of nature.

“I see the inner space as a symbol of a tomb, or a womb,” Kuo said. “We come from the earth inside space, within nature, and also within us there is a spirituality.”

Kuo has had his work exhibited in galleries across the United States. He is represented by a gallery in Chicago, and has had showings in Cincinnati and New York.

Student reaction to Kuo’s work was very positive.

“(The work is) very mystic, it sets a mood which I can dig,” said senior John Lovell.

“Being from his classes, it’s nice to see his work in the final stages,” said Jenny Horn, a senior majoring in ceramics. “His work gives you a quiet, serene feeling.”

Kuo’s work will be on display until June 9. The art gallery is located in Altgeld Hall Room 208-3.