Fair Shares by Chandra Debuse will be on display in the Truman State University Art Gallery until Friday, November 20.
In this exhibition, narrative imagery and symbols enliven ceramic forms. Debuse wanted to communicate the division of resources in everyday life. The artist used oversized hoarding jars to show abundance, flowers to symbolize the desirable assets that have been cultivated and earned through hard work, and the fencing around the jars act as protection of one’s assets from intruders.
Squirrels are one focus of this exhibition. Debuse has been working with the metaphor of squirrels as hoarders and intruders for many years. She has heard numerous stories of squirrels wreaking havoc in people’s lives — from chewing electrical wiring to stealing garden tomatoes. Recently Debuse’s house was broken into, and caused her to reflect on the mindset of an intruder.
“Making the work for Fair Shares allowed me to consider the thief’s perspective and realized that he was just helping himself to what he thought he deserved,” said Debuse. “Although I am still angry about the break-in, creating the pieces for the show helped me to feel less violated and see some twisted humor in the situation.”
In this exhibition, Debuse explores the entitlement of getting “my fair share”. She uses playful metaphors to imply the difficulty humans sometimes face when they coexist with animals in the same area. The artist hopes people will reflect on their own entitlements and the complications of sharing domestic spaces.
A unique part of this exhibition is the #CollabColoroingJar. Most viewers are restricted by time constraints and never get the chance to truly absorb gallery work. Debuse wanted to give the viewers an opportunity to get involved in her artwork.
“The #CollabColoringJar is my attempt at persuading the viewer to engage with a piece in an art gallery and perhaps best exemplifies the spirit of Fair Shares,” said Debuse.
There is a large jar with colored pencils and visitors are welcome to color on the exterior of the jar. If the contributor snaps a photo of their addition to the jar and post it to Instagram with the tag #collabcoloringjar and tags @chandradebuse, they will be entered for a chance to win the jar at the end of the exhibition. In doing this, Debuse hopes the winner of the jar will constantly be reminded of the collaboration of others and revisit the ideas of Fair Shares throughout their life.
Debuse has been working with this theme for many years, however she challenged herself technically when making these pieces. In the past, she mostly worked with porcelain, but she switched to red clay body for this project.
“A departure from my familiar clay body gave me freedom to loosen up my technical approach to building and surfacing the pieces,” said Debuse. “The work in Fair Shares is larger in scale than work I have ever made. The red clay is warmer and adds an earthiness and a depth to the imagery that I have not previously seen in my work.”
She approaches practicality with a touch of make-believe. Naturally occurring patterns are rejuvenated in an abstract and simplified manner. Bouncing lines and frolicking animals coexist on a platform that gathers human interest. The intricacies of each individual piece can only be fully experienced in the hand of the viewer. By exploring the ceramics, observers can find many quirky traits that they may not have noticed if they were merely observing it on a shelf. This exhibition teaches viewers that an enriched life is born from moments sparked by playful imagination and respect for shared spaces.
By Anna Lang