Furniture, ceramic art beautify Lockhart Gallery

“Contemplative Interiors: Furniture and Ceramics” opened Wednesday Feb. 6 and will remain open until March 13. Artist Kala Stein and artist James Johnson collaborated to create the gallery layout. Johnson specializes in furniture and Stein specializes in ceramic work (Annie Renaud/staff photographer).

Students milled around the spacious Lockhart Gallery on the night of Feb. 6 to observe the art around the room. The Lockhart Gallery had an open reception for their new exhibit called “Contemplative Interiors: Furniture and Ceramics.” 

The gallery is located on Main Street within McClellan House, and serves as a blend of public and residential space. The Lockhart Gallery is a cultural and educational resource for Geneseo as their mission is to exhibit, preserve and enhance the SUNY Geneseo Art Collection.

The “Contemplative Interiors: Furniture and Ceramics” exhibit carries a mixture of the artist Kala Stein’s ceramic work and artist James Johnson’s furniture.

Stein creates ceramic pieces add a lot of color and liveliness to any space. She often works with private clients on custom pieces for the home and hospitality industry. 

“Some of my pieces are functional,” Stein said. “I like to have the owner or user enjoy it and notice all the details. The experience of use is important.” 

Stein emphasizes the handmade element of her art and she is greatly inspired by architecture, as many of her pieces use various geometric shapes and intricate lines. She has a real talent for turning functional items into stunning pieces of art.

“My muse is architecture and natural line quality,” Stein said. “It might be a graceful line, like an outline of a body or a silhouette of something found in nature. I like simplicity and structure.” 

The gallery looked more like a home than an exhibit as the both artists’ pieces were set up together; Stein’s beautiful wine cups sat on Johnson’s cherry wood coffee table.

Johnson’s furniture is constructed with a variety of wood types and is a change from the more traditional furniture shapes. He even incorporated lights into a few of his furniture pieces.

Johnson is a furniture maker who also works with sculpture and wood burning. He highlights the natural beauty of his materials while making the pieces, as he does not stain the wood but lets its color speak for itself. 

The pieces in the exhibit ask the viewers to think about the objects that make up a home. It pushes viewers to consider the beauty in functional tools used every day. One of Stein’s favorite aspects of her art is the effect it has on an environment.

“Some [ceramic pieces] are decorative pieces for a home or interior space,” Stein said. “I like that they would enhance the space and provide beauty and a rest from the outside world.” 

The exhibit also starts a discussion about the art people put in their homes and not just what is hanging on a wall. Visiting assistant professor of art history Alla Myzelev is the curator of the exhibit. She found the work expressive in the gallery’s space. 

“I see the exhibit as being innovative in terms of taking space that is a gallery but also residential and putting objects into that space and making it transformative,” Myzelev said.

The exhibit pushes viewers to come to a public space that feels more like a home than a gallery and think about the beauty that can be drawn out of traditionally neutral objects. It allows one to admire a different kind of art than the usual paintings. 

“It is important to have something innovative so students can see and appreciate this type of art,” Myzelev said. 

The Lockhart Gallery and its exhibit “Contemplative Interiors: Furniture and Ceramics” push toward acknowledging the beauty that can be part of functional, everyday items. Often overlooked, these items finally can be recognized as art. The exhibit, which runs until March 13, recognizes artists who love the simplicity of nature and the value it has in creating art.