Welcome into the beguilingly nebulous world of ceramic artist Dick Hay, who retired from the faculty of Indiana State University in 2006 and now holds the title there of professor emeritus of art.
From late August through late September, an exhibition of some of his
life's work will be presented at the Halcyon Gallery
Somebody on the advisory committee of her
Texas-based film company who was familiar with Hay's
ceramic art had suggested him as a subject.During their initial conversation, Kelly told Hay
that her prospective story line for the film was to open with her strolling down a city street with a film crew and becoming intrigued by lights inside an art gallery.
By fortunate coincidence, not long before the film producer called him, Hay
had already agreed to have a showing of his
ceramic work at the Halcyon Gallery
.The film producer is now in the process of conducting interviews with some of Hay's
former art students who will provide background on his
life and work.
One of the ironies of Hay's life is that although he
has a worldwide reputation as one of the foremost contemporary ceramic artists, he
has always been relatively unknown in the Wabash Valley (he lives in rural Brazil) except by local artists and art students.His
ceramic work has been sold in galleries and displayed in museums as far-flung as Moscow, Lithuania, Spain, Japan, Korea, and all across the United States.He
has also given more than a hundred college lectures in Europe, Asia and the United States.
"Only rarely have I shown my work around Terre Haute except on the campus," acknowledges Hay
grew up in Maine and Ohio."My parents got me started in art quite simply," he
recalls, "They gave me a box of crayons, and I've never stopped making art.Fortunately, they never tried to discipline my inclinations, get me to be like everybody else - repressed."When Hay entered Ohio University to begin work on his undergraduate degree, his goal was to become a high-school art teacher.
Part of the art education curriculum required that he
take a course in ceramics.As fate would have it, during his
sophomore year he
enrolled in a class taught by professor Henry Lin, a master potter who had immigrated to the United States from China. (Lin's daughter, Maya Lin, later was the architect for the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. As an undergraduate, Hay
often did babysitting with Maya at the Lin home.)"I loved everything about professor Lin's class," said Hay, "and especially working with clay, which is really nothing but high quality dirt.
...From Ohio University, Hay went to Alfred University, New York State College of Ceramics, where he received a master of fine arts degree in 1966.
has settled in the Wabash Valley, hundreds of his
former ISU students have gone on to have celebrated careers as ceramicists and high-school teachers and college professors with positions at universities all around the world.The National Council for Ceramic Art has rated ISU as having one of the 10 best ceramic art schools in the United States.
...During the get-togethers, Hay always enjoyed telling a story about Lyman's most memorable ceramic art presentation as a graduate student: "One semester everybody but Lyman showed their work on a table in an art department building.
"The teaching mastery of Dick Hay
came from the fact that he
had a case-by-case approach to his
students," Krasutskaya recalls."He
would not impede our creative processes no matter how mad, but he
didn't encourage stupid impulses, either.He
constantly pushed us to have a critical approach to our own art - and that meant that he
didn't want us to engage in safe thinking like saying 'flowers are beautiful' or 'puppies are cute.' He
wanted art to communicate to the viewer, to generate an emotional response of some kind.If we had a technical problem in implementing our vision, he
helped us figure out how to solve it.He
would turn over the entire art building - if necessary - to help us facilitate our work."
In appreciation for Hay's
inspiring teaching, at the time he
retired, many of his
former students gathered from around the world to stage a retirement party in his
honor and give him tickets for two to Barcelona, Spain, and $3,000 spending money.But Hay has not slowed down from being a producing ceramic artist.
If anything, now that he
is not teaching he
has more time for his
work than ever.He
says that he
is a night owl who will work until the wee hours.To stimulate his
often steps outside from his
studio into the darkness and gazes at the colors of the heavens and the slight glow of light enveloping Terre Haute to the west of his
Clay County home.
"The challenge for ceramic artists, or any kind of an artist, is to explain what they are about in ways other people can understand but also in ways people haven't seen before," says Hay
It's the intrigue that gets people engaged with something - the quest to find the big one like the narrator Ishmael related in 'Moby Dick'
told about Captain Ahab's obsession with the legendary white whale.People love reading about extraordinary characters willing to risk their lives to catch their dreams; in a similar way, art lovers want to find subjects to look at that hook their minds - art that transports them from their ordinary lives."Hay
says that every four or five years he
basic background structure for the artistic themes he
is exploring.A few years ago he
moved away from vessels to big, deeply textured ceramic bowls, which he
uses to contain recognizable and not-so-recognizable shapes and images.
explores this newest phase of his
art, Hay pours into his
textured bowls a frothy soup of chunky ceramic forms - sort of a box of intellectual animal crackers that makes viewers of the bowl's contents puzzle about the eyeful.Some odd figures resemble geometric shapes; others are blocks with less familiar markings like the soles of shoes.Most shapes in Hay's quasi-geometric stew have no basis in human symbolic thought.He
believes these images are the ones that pique the most thinking.
"I hope that people who study my art might be set free, even if only temporarily, from their long-existing mental boxes," says Hay
...For a farewell: Retired Indiana State art professor Dick Hay is creating one of his vessels for departing Indiana State President Lloyd Benjamin.
...Funneling creativity: Some of retired Indiana State art professor Dick Hay's latest creations are funnels with holes that may be plugged with corks or marbles.
Random patterns: Dick Hay's
cups, like his
funnels, feature a random pattern made from various items he
has found in the area.The patterns are sometimes painted.
Back in the day: Dick Hay
has this photo of himself on the wall of his
home studio near Brazil.Hay figures it was from his
early days as a professor at Indiana State
Sign it so they'll pay you: Dick Hay's
signature on the side of one of his
creations in his
studio in Brazil.