By Joseph Pratt
The Southern Ohio Museum and Cultural Center (SOMACC) is currently welcoming the community to view two different exhibitions before they exit on Sept. 4. The two galleries include “The Melting Pot: Cultural Fusions” in the Richards and Mehser Galleries and the “Best of 2015 Craft Exhibition,” which comes directly from the Ohio Craft Museum, in the Kricker Gallery.
Each exhibition comes from resourceful and skilled master artisans and crafters.
The “Melting Pot” show features work completed by artist Naysan Mcllhargey, who is from Yellow Springs, Ohio. His trade is unique, because he works on classically wheel made of wood fired forms.
“He, himself, is a blend of cultures,” Artistic Director Charlotte Gordon said. “His mother is Iranian and his father is Irish, and so he has grown with this blend of cultures, food, traditions, and rituals; he has had a very rich upbringing. He was then trained as a master potter and throws a hundred pots a day, telling a story in each piece.”
Gordon explained that Mcllhargey has trained by traveling, studying pottery from various parts of the world, which he uses in his own work.
His methods of forming the pottery is also unique.
“His firing methods are very, very interesting. He has built this gargantuan wood fired kiln. Wood fired ceramics is the oldest form of fired ceramics in which you stoke a fire for days and days to get temperature up,” Gordon explained. “The fire gets so hot that the wood burns and the ash starts to blow around the kiln and actually melts and glazes the pots. It gives every pot, depending on the location of the kiln, vastly different variations, because the final product depends on drafts, weather and temperatures. This firing technique is amazing.”
Gordon said that the gallery features a wide array of his work, from large completed projects to various works that are in different levels of progress.
“I am very pleased we could bring this type of work to Portsmouth,” Gordon said.
The Kricker Gallery’s “Best of 2015 Craft Exhibition,” reminds guests that Ohio artists can take everyday items, such as coal or ripped cloth, and create works of art that have useful practices, such as functioning as a table or a blanket.
“Ohio really brings forth what is happening in crafts across the U.S.,” Gordon said. “Quilts have become paintings, they are no longer something to snuggle up under to keep warm. We are seeing this with all sorts of craft mediums.”
The Ohio Craft Museum has been successful in recent years, despite the trend of similar organizations not doing so well. The partnership with the Southern Ohio Museum also grows with each trip they make during the alternating years between the Museum’s Cream of the Crop gallery.
“I judge each artwork based on my understanding of composition, materials, craftsmanship, creativity, techniques, and style,” Juror and Executive Director of the Ohio Craft Museum Beth Ann Gerstein said. “I look for artists who have their own vision, master a technique, tell an interesting narrative, push the boundaries and take risk.”
Gordon said that she was very impressed with this year’s show and believes the juror achieved the goals she set out to reach.
The Southern Ohio Museum is at 825 Gallia St., in the heart of Portsmouth’s downtown area, and has two entrances. The entrance on Gallia leads to the lobby and the Sixth Street entrance features a handicapped ramp. The museum is open Tuesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturdays from 1-5 p.m; closed Sundays, Mondays and major holidays. A museum official can be reached at 740-354-5629.
Reach Joseph Pratt at 740-353-3101, ext. 1932, or by Twitter @JosephPratt03.