Local art teachers show paintings, ceramics and sculptures at Sweet Briar

January 26, 2017 | Janika Carey

Amherst County High School teachers Maryellen Barron and David Emmert spend a lot of time focusing on their students, with little time left for their own creative projects. But the artists get a lot out of it in return.

“Midas’ Heir,” Maryellen Barron, acrylic, 2016

“Midas’ Heir,” Maryellen Barron, acrylic, 2016

“Teaching has greatly changed my work and has made me experiment more within the vast field of ceramics,” says Emmert, who has taught at ACHS for 12 years.

The ceramics instructor is now showing some of that work at Sweet Briar, along with Barron, who has been teaching art at the high school for six years. The exhibition opens at 5 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 2, with a reception in Benedict Gallery — a space that housed works by ACHS students last semester, notes galleries director Karol Lawson.

“I wanted this year to carry forward that celebration of artistic talent in our community by calling attention to the teachers’ professional accomplishments,” she says. “The show will be followed by a two-person show [later this] semester featuring elementary school art teachers.”

Barron is planning to show mostly acrylic paintings — her favorite medium.

“The main series of paintings was inspired by the Lewis Chessmen, a collection of medieval chess pieces found in Scotland in the 1800s,” she explains. “In the process of research, I became fascinated with the miniature carvings and their expressive features. The most unusual character is the berserker, a shield-biting soldier unique to the Norwegian culture, leading some scholars to believe the sculptures were made in Norway or Iceland. Each of the queen pieces is carved with a mysterious ‘face palm’ gesture.”

In addition to her job at ACHS, Barron also teaches children’s classes and art workshops at Second Stage in Amherst. She moved to the area in 2011 — after graduating from the University of Toledo with a degree in art education — to “experience a climate with more natural beauty and less winter.”

Fellow transplant Emmert is equally affected by his physical surroundings, noting he draws much of his inspiration “from encounters with nature.” At Sweet Briar, he is showing both functional and sculptural pieces created largely over the past year. Emmert has been working with clay for more than two decades, exploring wood-fired and salt kiln building, soda firing, stoneware, terracotta, low-fire earthenware, cone six glazes, wood-fired porcelain, sculpture and multiple functional forms.

“American Bison Study #1,” David Emmert, 22 in. x 14 in. x 6 in., cone one, terracotta, 2016

“American Bison Study #1,” David Emmert, 22 in. x 14 in. x 6 in., cone one, terracotta, 2016

Introduced to art at a young age, he began sculpting, coil building and wheel throwing in elementary school. His senior portfolio earned him four silver keys from the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. Emmert continued his education at Thiel College and Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. He won several awards during his final year at Edinboro, including the Ceramics Department Outstanding Student Award.

Emmert shows his artwork in juried, group and solo exhibitions around the country and curates the national exhibition “The Battle of the Bowls,” which celebrates contemporary ceramic achievements. To learn more, visit www.davidemmert.com.

Gallery hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The gallery closes when the College is not in session; it is recommended that visitors call ahead to confirm hours. For more information, email Sweet Briar galleries director Karol Lawson at klawson@sbc.edu or call (434) 381-6248.

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