February 6, 2013

Jessica Pope
Communications and Media Relations Coordinator

VSU Graduate Returns, Opens One-Man Ceramics Exhibit Feb. 11

VALDOSTA — In 2004, Mathew McConnell left Valdosta State University, armed with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in studio art and the knowledge, skills, concepts, and sensitivities necessary for a professional artist.

On Monday, Feb. 11, McConnell will return to his alma mater for the opening of his one-man show, Everyday Something New, in the Fine Arts Gallery. He will present a gallery talk at 3 p.m. An opening reception will be held from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. 

“He was an exemplary student, and it is no surprise that he has gone on to do so well,” shared Julie Bowland, VSU Fine Arts Gallery director and Department of Art professor. “His artwork is exciting and provocative. It will be thought-provoking, and I think it will really get people asking questions. There is no easy explanation for what he does, and in part, that is why we have invited him here. His work will challenge and hopefully inspire.”

McConnell was born in 1979 in Johnstown, Pa., and currently serves as a visiting assistant professor of ceramics at the University of Arkansas. He holds a Master of Fine Arts in ceramics, which he earned in 2009 from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

“Very simply, I came to specialize in ceramics because of VSU’s ceramics professor, Michael Schmidt,” said the artist. “Like any great instructor, he took me under his wing at just the right time and showed me the way forward into a career path that suits me well. Mike was instrumental in setting me up with some early opportunities, including the chance to work as an assistant to Don Penny, the former VSU ceramics professor, for a couple of years. It is pretty much because of these two wonderfully generous men that I chose to pursue my own career in art.”

McConnell noted that there are many things that clay does well, and “my work takes advantage of the versatility of this mundane material.” Other than that, he said that he honestly does not see the medium as extraordinary or superior to others. He creates with it because “it simply happens to be the medium that I am most fluent with.”

McConnell’s work has appeared in solo and group exhibitions in Pennsylvania, Colorado, New Zealand, California, Florida, Montana, Washington, Arizona, China, Nebraska, Virginia, New Jersey, Oregon, Ohio, Illinois, and Georgia. He has been a summer resident and long-term resident at the Archie Bray Foundation in Helena, Mont., where he was awarded the Lilian Fellowship in 2011 and Sage Scholarship in 2007. In 2010, he served 10 months as an artist in residence and visiting lecturer of contemporary craft at Unitec in Auckland, New Zealand.   

“I’m proud and thrilled to return to VSU,” he said. “I have family in Valdosta, and this show, for me, feels like a homecoming of sorts. It’s an opportunity to share with my family and friends some of the things I have been working on for many years now. I also think it is important for students at VSU to see someone who is out there making progress as an artist and educator, that started in the same studios they are working in.”

The VSU Fine Arts Gallery is located on the first floor of the Fine Arts Building, at the intersection of Brookwood Drive and Oak Street. The gallery is open from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Fridays.

Contact Julie Bowland at (229) 333-5835 or jabowlan@valdosta.edu to learn more.

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