The work currently showing at McPherson College’s Friendship Hall looks like it was created by Victor Frankenstein... if he’d been a Kansas farmer.
Ron Michael, curator at the Birger Sandzén Memorial Gallery in Lindsborg, Kan., sculpts and draws artwork inspired by the natural landscape and soil of Kansas. He makes subtle twists and inventions, however, to add a mysterious and creepy undertone to many of the simple pieces with a weathered look.
It’s like walking into a natural history museum from an alternate dimension. The look resulted from his memories helping his grandparents on their farm and his love or old monster movies.
“I’m working with organic imagery,” he said. “Trying to relate the idea that there are mysteries beneath the soil.”
Not only do the ceramic works reflect the landscape of Kansas, much of the material in the pieces is from the soil of Kansas. Whenever possible, he collects Kansas clay, which he processes by turning it into watery slurry and filtering out roots, rocks, limestone and other materials that could end up exploding a piece when fired in the kiln. The process is more labor-intensive than simply using commercially prepared clay, but Michael finds the results merit the extra work.
“I’ve always been very interested in using things you can collect locally,” he said. “I just thought it would be a lot more interesting to use materials that are readily available and recognizable from the area.”
A selection of Michael’s work will be on display at McPherson College through Sept. 30. More information and images of his work are at www.ronmichaelart.com.