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MC Alumna Combines Realistic Portraits, Abstract Concepts in Ceramic Sculpture

posted Aug 24, 2012 in CAMPUS EVENTS

The blend of realism and abstraction in Michaela Groeblacher's ceramic busts has garnered her national attention and awards – among them the National All Media Craft Show in Wichita; first place in the "Real People" national show in Woodstock, Ill..; and a Kansas Artist Craftsmen Association "Master's exhibition" in Topeka.

But sometimes the toughest show of all is the one you do at home. Groeblacher, a 2005 alumna in visual arts from McPherson College, will have 15 works of art on display in Friendship Hall for the first art exhibit of the 2012-2013 academic year.

"I want to do my very best," Groeblacher said. "It makes me a little bit nervous, because I want everyone to be proud of what this college produces."

The exhibition, called "Silent Conversation" is a collaboration between Groeblacher and Dr. Kim Stanley, professor of English at McPherson College. It runs now through Sept. 28 and includes a special reception at 7 p.m. Sept. 7, followed by a gallery talk beginning at 7:30 p.m.

Groeblacher has created realistic ceramic busts, but with each there is some fantastic element – a woman sprouting wings from her arms and a second face hidden in her chest; a girl with one arm made from a branch, who is bowling apples at pins with chicken heads; an old woman crowned with egg shells and ringed with candles, which are lit on special occasions.

"It talks about people, it talks about us. It talks about humanity," Groeblacher said. "And then the abstract part goes beyond all that."

A poem by Dr. Stanley is paired with each sculpture and is usually on a similar or parallel theme. Groeblacher called it "Gesamtkunstwerk" a German phrase meaning "total artwork" or "universal artwork" and is usually applied to opera to describe how all the elements of a performance – lyrics, music, staging – all work together to create a larger whole. In the same way, the poetry and the sculpture combine to create a more meaningful whole.

This collaboration began after Groeblacher heard Dr. Stanley recite some of her poetry at a reading.

"I was blown away and it just hit me: This woman thinks the way I do," Groeblacher said. "She thinks in words and I think in images. I think Kim and I complement each other's work and elevate it to a completely new level."

Groeblacher was hesitant to bring up the idea to Dr. Stanley, but said it was "like running through an open door." That first collaboration led to the 2010 exhibit "Parallel Tones", and works from that show constitute about half of the current exhibit.

Groeblacher is currently the artist-in-residence at Bethany Home, a long-term care facility in Lindsborg, Kan., and said she loves having residents as her models and answering the questions of those watching. That interest in older faces shows in the exhibit.

"I'm so fascinated by older people's faces," she said. "They are just so beautiful. Every thought we think and every feeling carves the faces over the years."

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