Two Nebraska ceramists selected for NCECA juried student exhibit

Max Henderson, Vessels, 2020, 10” x 5” x 6”, porcelain and maple.
Max Henderson, Vessels, 2020, 10” x 5” x 6”, porcelain and maple.

Two Nebraska ceramists selected for NCECA juried student exhibit

calendar icon27 Jan 2021    user iconBy Kathe C. Andersen

P.J. Hargraves, “Gathering Pot,” 53” x 24” x 24”, ceramic, cone 6 salt fired stoneware, porcelain glaze and rare earth oxide.
P.J. Hargraves, “Gathering Pot,” 53” x 24” x 24”, ceramic, cone 6 salt fired stoneware, porcelain glaze and rare earth oxide.

Lincoln, Neb.--A School of Art, Art History & Design graduate student and an alumnus were two of 40 student artists nationwide to have work accepted into the NCECA (National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts) Juried Student Show, the most prestigious and competitive juried exhibition held for students in the ceramics field.

First-year Master of Fine Arts student Max Henderson and alumnus Patrick “P.J.” Hargraves (M.F.A. 2020) had work selected for the exhibit, which will be held at the DAAP Reed Gallery at the University of Cincinnati Jan. 27-March 20, 2021, in conjunction with the 2021 Virtual NCECA Conference March 17-21.

Jurors Jessika Edgar and Malcolm Mobutu Smith selected 41 pieces by 40 artists from among 287 works submitted by 165 students for the exhibition.

“I was thrilled to hear my piece was accepted into the exhibition because this was my last opportunity to apply to the NCECA National Juried Student Exhibition,” Hargraves said. “It is very affirming to know my hard work in graduate school at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln is being recognized by the national clay community.”

Henderson, who is originally from Phoenix, Arizona, was also excited to learn his piece was accepted into the NCECA exhibition.

“It was actually a piece I made specifically for my grad school application for UNL,” he said. “This is my third time presenting work in the show, so I’m really excited to represent UNL and my faculty—Pete Pinnell, Margaret Bohls and Eddie Dominguez. It’s also great to present work with P.J. Hargraves, who recently graduated from UNL. I had the opportunity to see his MFA Thesis at the Eisentrager-Howard Gallery here on campus. It was a wonderful show.”

Henderson discovered his love for clay when he took a high school beginning ceramics course his freshman year.

“I had no interest in art, so I was trying to get my required art credit out of the way early,” he said. “But the moment I made my first pot, I was like, ‘Guess I’m doing this for the rest of my life.’ I love clay because it showed me that poor people of color, like me, also deserve beautiful objects. It was exciting that I had the skill set to now make them myself.”

He received his B.F.A. in ceramics from Arizona State University and did a post-baccalaureate at the Penn State University prior to coming to Nebraska to pursue his M.F.A. In response to the pandemic, he became a founding member of the B. Well Collective, in State College, Pennsylvania (now La Serra Collective in Denver, Colorado).

He’s unsure of what this recognition means for his career, but it gives him hope.

“Like it’d be cool to have some billionaire collector love my work, but I can only dream,” he said. “For me, being in the show simply feels reassuring. There’s a lot of anxiety and uncertainty that comes with choosing art as a career, but being 1 of 40 nationally selected artists offers a glimmer of hope. For now, I’ll focus on my remaining 2.5 years here at UNL because I have no clue what’s next, and that feels terrifying and liberating.”

Hargraves will have his piece, “Gathering Pot,” in the exhibition.

“My large-scale ceramic sculpture is made of stoneware clay and is fired in one of our large salt kilns at UNL,” he said. “The salt firing is a specific technique where you introduce ordinary salt into the kiln at peak temperature. The salt volatizes and coats all of the work in the kiln with a shiny clear glaze, enhancing the juicy surfaces of my heavily glazed work.”

Hargraves started working in ceramics in 2013, as an undergraduate student at the Tyler School of Art at Temple University.

“I love the immediacy of working in clay, as well as all of the experimenting that goes into developing glazes and surface treatments,” Hargraves said. “Ceramics is the perfect combination of art and science and allows me to work on several ideas at once in the studio.”

Hargraves said his experience at UNL was “amazing.”

“I was able to make huge leaps in the studio because the program provides plenty of time and space for studio explorations,” he said. “The ceramics program at UNL helped propel my career during school and has prepared me to continue to advance the field after graduation.”

Hargraves is currently a resident artist at the LUX Center for the Arts in Lincoln, where he teaches classes for children and adults.

“I have been applying to ceramics and art foundations faculty positions across the country, as well as other artist residencies,” he said. “The studio and teaching experience I gained while at UNL make me a strong candidate for these future opportunities.”

Hargraves said having his work in the NCECA Juried Student Show will help him in his future career.

“This show means a lot because this is an opportunity for many people who have never seen my work to experience it and become familiar with me as an artist,” he said. “This is a well-respected annual exhibition so this will look great on my resume as I apply to faculty positions and other opportunities after graduate school.”