Fertile Ground

This exhibition highlights the legacy of Elaine Lorenz, who nurtured rich experimentation in sculpture as a professor of art at William Paterson University from 1971–2020. Lorenz finds inspiration in landscapes ranging from the meandering streams of the Berkshire Mountains to the narrow slot canyons of the Southwest. She views nature as an example of sculptureits contours, textures, and crevices are a source for both artistic creation and meditative reflection. 

This survey of over twenty years of Lorenz’s artistic career incorporates works by her former students who similarly re-imagine their surroundings through the discovery of new processes, techniques, and materials. Several of Lorenz’s pupils advance practices that were integral to her ceramics instruction, embracing the physical properties of clay and complex methods of hand building, firing, and glazing­­. Marcos Salazar demonstrates the expressive potential of clay in his towering sculpture of precariously balanced human heads. Leslie Adler’s tree stump and Kara Kovach’s rock formation deftly emulate nature through sophisticated firing and glazing processes. Amal Elnahrawy and Deborah Guzmán Meyer draw parallels between the life cycles of clay and those of plants and creatures, in a similar vein to Lorenz’s empty seedpods, which are metaphors for decay. Sarah Van Vliet comments on toxic relationships in her life-size bust, calling to mind Lorenz’s ‘Birds of a Feather’ series that conveys often tenuous and precarious social interactions. 

Lorenz has also served as a role model for exploring diverse materials including wood, metal, concrete, fiberglass, and encaustic over a wire armature while pursuing new technologies for fabricating large-scale sculptures. David D’Ostilio melds metal casting with 3D modeling and printing to inventively redesign utilitarian objects. Diana Jean Puglisi and Jason Schneider experiment with ordinary and unconventional materials, employing pincushions and cardboard to probe the interaction between materials and forms and reveal undulating patterns and textures. The works in this exhibition reflect a common visual language that emerged through the exchange of ideas, knowledge, and technique.