The Parthenon

Emerging artist earns state recognition

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Childers’ recent series of works was influenced by the structures of dilapidated buildings that are exposed across West Virginia.

Childers’ recent series of works was influenced by the structures of dilapidated buildings that are exposed across West Virginia.

Courtney Childers| Submitted Photo

Courtney Childers| Submitted Photo

Childers’ recent series of works was influenced by the structures of dilapidated buildings that are exposed across West Virginia.

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When young artists gain recognition for their work, it is usually an early indicator of promising talent.

This is exactly the case with ceramicist Courtney Childers, a senior student, whose work is currently featured in the new art exhibition “Emerge.” The Tamarack-sponsored exhibit is on display at Charleston’s Robert C. Byrd Courthouse.

“It’s super exciting, because I really adore West Virginia,” Childers said. “The fact that they are showcasing artists who are just now emerging is important to encourage them. It shows that the state cares.”

Childers said she was thrilled when an email from ceramics professor Frederick Bartolovic led to her work being included in “Emerge.” It wasn’t until her time at Marshall, however, that Childers’ artistic passion led her to work in this medium.

“I started out in between graphic design and an interest in photography, but I didn’t want to sit behind a computer for the rest of my life. That scares me,” Childers said. “I took my first ceramics class in college. I got hooked because it’s really difficult. It’s humbling. I’m very attracted to process-oriented art. With ceramics, you’re very interested in what you’re making because it goes through so many firings, and there’s a potential of it completely getting destroyed. It makes you less attached to the physical materials.”

Childers said she credits her crafty and resourceful family for getting her started in art.

“Two of my grandpas have been painters, drawers, carpenters,” Childers said. “They’ve always been handy and crafty and my grandma does quilting.”

Like most artists, Childers seeks inspiration from unlikely places, including old postcards and structures.

“My most recent body of work – which is most of my pieces found in the Tamarack exhibition – is influenced by architecture,” Childers said. “I guess I’m an outsider to architecture, because I don’t know mathematically what goes into making a sound structure. I’m applying this idea of making wonky structures and feeling my way through the architectural process in a low-stakes medium like ceramics, with these small objects that are super intimate. I’m also very influenced by the dilapidation of barns and having the bones of buildings exposed across West Virginia. The process itself is meditative, because I’m cutting slabs and putting them together without really thinking. Impulsively or instinctively creating these things allows me to zone out.”

Childers grew up splitting her time between summers in Appalachia and schooling in Montana, where she lived until her early teenage years. Being raised mostly outside of West Virginia, Childers said she has gained a deep respect for the culture of the Tri-State.

“I think it made me appreciate this region more, because I was able to get out for a little bit and then come back,” Childers said. “I feel like a lot of people here are so stuck in the Tri-State area that they don’t value a lot of things that are going on here. The culture here is great.”

“Emerge” is on display through Feb. 29, highlighting works by Marshall University, West Virginia University, Concord University, West Virginia Wesleyan, Shepherd University and Fairmont State University students.

Lukas Hagley can be contacted at [email protected]

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