THIRD STREET GALLERY ARCHIVE: 2017 EXHIBITIONS: Morphic Structures: Ceramic Works by Shannon Sullivan and David Zdrazil

Humboldt State University Third Street Gallery presents, Morphic StructuresCeramic Works by Shannon Sullivan and David Zdrazila two-person exhibition of ceramic sculpture and ceramic vessels by artists Shannon Sullivan and David Zdrazil (pronounced DRAY-zel). The show runs April 1 through May 14. The objects in this exhibit reference a variety of phenomena found in the natural world. Geology, crumbling cliffs, stormy landscapes, and vibrant growth are among the shared references in the works made by Sullivan and Zdrazil. 

The artists use the ceramic process itself to link these environmental experiences with the objects they make.  Clay and glazes transform between states of soft and flowing to dry and solid throughout the forming and firing process.   The resulting pieces are a condensation of geologic time, enduring yet fragile.

Shannon Sullivan’s ceramic sculptural discs are reminiscent of peering through a microscope onto specimen slides that might have mineral formations as well as biological structures. Her curiosity with micro imagery was born from growing up with her mother who worked in a medical lab. Images unseen by the naked eye that require closer investigation has been an inspiration in her work, which explores the nuances present in the living world. “The work asks the viewer to question their relationship with place” to evoke the feeling of intimacy with the world that surrounds us. Sullivan’s ceramic pieces have been included in the book, 500 Ceramic Sculptures. Her accomplishments also include having worked as an artist in residence in Jingdezhen, China at the Pottery Workshop and at the International Ceramics Research Center in Skaelskor, Denmark.

David Zdrazil’s work is a fusion of traditional and contemporary pottery styles from the East and West.  His wood-fired ceramic vessels call upon geometric ratios, textures, historic processes and materials that Zdrazil has extracted from his surroundings. Sustainability plays a large role in his work, as he often makes use of locally found materials. He describes his work as “chunky style” in reference to the textures and masses he employs in his design as well as for the way he combines his materials. Zdrazil claims  that, “Truth to materialsis a theme that is found throughout my work—the “clayness” of the clay can be smooth, chunky, flowing, cracking, pure and unrefined all at once.” After building his first wood fire kiln in 2001 he has explored various aspects of kiln design, including hybrid and hydrogen fueled kilns. Zdrazil’s work has been presented in publications such as Luxe Interiors and DesignCeramics MonthlyCeramics Technical and The Log Book.

Both from Wisconsin, Sullivan and Zdrazil have known each other since the late 90s and have studied, worked, collaborated, and exhibited together extensively. Sullivan and Zdrazil’s work has been exhibited in galleries and museums nationally and internationally. They have presented at the National Council on Education for Ceramic Arts in the U.S. and at international conferences in France, Australia, Germany and Denmark. After many years of friendship, they were married in 2011. They both teach art at College of the Redwoods in Eureka, California where they share a studio at their home.

Shannon Sullivan and David Zdrazil’s Morphic Structures is produced by Humboldt State University students. Students enrolled in the Art Museum and Gallery Practices Program participate in the daily management and planning of shows at the gallery.  The gallery provides real-life opportunities for the students to develop their gallery and museum skills, which in turn provides them with experience that will help them to enter the job market. Many students who have participated in the program have gone on to careers in museums and galleries throughout the nation. 

Exhibition Schedule and Location
A reception for the artists will be held at HSU Third Street Gallery on Saturday, April 1 from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. during Eureka’s monthly Arts Alive program.   The exhibition will run from April 1 through May 14. The gallery is open Tuesdays through Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. and is closed on Mondays. Humboldt State University Third Street Gallery is located at 416 Third Street Eureka, California. The gallery was recently relocated and renamed after 19 years in its former location on First Street in Eureka. For more information, call (707) 443-6363.


Artist Statement by Shannon Sullivan

These sculptural flats are formed using various ceramic techniques and materials, finished with mixed media details. They combine the experience of looking through a microscope, with the disk-shaped petri dishes where samples are grown and examined. The compositions investigate relationships between micro and macro aspects of the living world. Human intervention in the landscape imagined through aerial imagery plays a role in how the circular planes are developed.  My work celebrates and hybridizes intersecting patterns and prevailing ideas rooted in natural growth, transformation, and decay.

Zooming in and out, the disks delicately portray agricultural hotbeds, changing continental boundaries, shifting waterways, migrating oceanic phenomenon, seasonal shifts, and geologic trends. Ideas merge to create forms that are sensitive and familiar, yet maintain a mysterious quality. The work asks the viewer to question their relationship with place. How do you see the world changing around you?

Imagery that evades the naked eye or requires close investigation has always been a source of inspiration in my work. My curiosity about systems in the natural world was born from growing up with a mother who worked in a medical lab, where access to microscopes and x-ray imagery informed my visual vocabulary and sense of wonder from a young age. From my perspective, the more intimately we notice the world around us, the more we appreciate our place in this complex web of life.


Artist Statement by  David Zdrazil

Organized chaos, the beauty of imperfection and the overlapping of spontaneity and control are common themes in my work. I combine inspirations from the natural world with established ceramic styles to create an aesthetic that reflects my own life experience and values.  I often describe this as “chunky style” not only for its appearance, but for the conceptual mixtures that it consists of.

Sustainability and collaborative group efforts like wood firing influence the work I make.  “Truth to materials” is a theme that is found throughout my work- the “clayness” of the clay can be smooth, chunky, flowing, cracking, pure and unrefined all at once.  I develop glazes and clay bodies that often include local natural materials in order to make a connection to my environment.  I prefer to use wood fired kilns for my work because of the rich surfaces produced by the atmosphere.  I feel that the laborious process somehow infuses the work with more value and integrity.

I use geometric ratios, textures, and processes that elude to my interactions with the world around me.  The familiar vessel forms I make allow for interaction and function while relating to the ancient and elemental parts of ceramics.  The aesthetic of my work might transcend a literal message while it embraces serendipitous moments in life and the creative process.