Insight into visiting artists

Published 10:48 am Tuesday, March 29, 2016

By Carly Shaia

Special to the Farmville Herald

Walking into a ceramic studio, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the amount of table space taken over by heaps of clay, slurry-stained tools, and completed works waiting to dry or be painted. Visually it’s overpowering, but as a student it is incredibly empowering to see the amount of work a single person can produce.

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Longwood University is always looking for ways to bring real-world opportunities to its students. One of its newest methods is the Visiting Artist Program hosted through the art department.

Both artists Mackenzie Lenhart and Vianney Clausse, Longwood University’s 2015-16 visiting artists, found out about the opportunity through Adam Paulek, Longwood University’s assistant professor for ceramics.

Through their connections to Paulek, as well as last year’s visiting artist, Dan Molyneux, the two artists applied for the program, and both were accepted as artists. They now share a large studio in the basement of Bedford Hall on campus.

The studio is divided into two workspaces, one clearly Lenhart’s and the other Clausse’s. Clausse keeps his workspace mostly clean with his finished products waiting to be painted to have clay decals added. Lenhart’s, however, is much more organic, with wet work spread throughout his tables along with traditional tools such as animal bones. Although the pair’s styles may be quite different, they work well together and formed a fast friendship.

Clausse is from France, previously living in Quebec before travelling to the U.S. for the first time to come to Farmville.

“I’ve been in the art field for quite a long time,” said Clausse.

Clausse estimated he started working in the arts around the age of 10, beginning with Chinese calligraphy. “(I had) never been involved with anything for such a long time (at that age),” Clausse said. After finding his passion, Clausse continued his classes and travel all while learning about art. Clause said, “It’s a good thing to be very focused.”

Now as an artist, Clausse concentrates on using clay as a canvas for his drawings and decal arts. “I wanted to bring in my drawing skills on a ceramic surface,” said Clausse. He describes the process as a mix of “tattooing the clay” and adding bright colors and geometric designs to his pieces.

Lenhart fully discovered Longwood from his coming back and forth to town from his residency in Cub Creek Foundation, a non-profit program for ceramic artists in Appomattox. “It’s a good studio,” Lenhart said. The studio Lenhart and Clausse work in a mostly glass-front studio. “People get to see you work (in here),” said Lenhart. He describes his work as “native,” using clay found in the surrounding area, firing the clay in a local pit-fire system and using other traditional practices. “I like using traditional practices, but I’m a realist and use contemporary practices too,” said Lenhart.

Both artists feel Longwood gave them the opportunity to buckle down and focus on producing large bodies of work.

Their work will be on display at the LCVA in April.