2008 alumni show artists statements

Stephanie Danker

Why would an image of a sunflower be entitled, “”Love?”

My work always involved stitching, an homage to my maternal Grandma, Doris Diller, who lives in Hesston. It usually also includes a reference to wood or sawdust as an homage to my Granndpa, Ivan Diller. Grandpa and I made the wood frame for this piece together, and since Grandpa also likes to garden, and I remember sunflowers in his garden from my childhood, he is also represented. Thoughts of my grandparents, as well as of other family members, filled my mind and heart as I worked on this image. I thought of Paul Friesen, and how special it is that the new art building is named in his honor. The stitching symbolizes community to me, and the connectedness of family and friendships.

Memories of my experiences in Hesston flooded back as I painted and stitched-laughter, time spent with my cousins, my friendships at Hesston College, sounds of crickets on summer nights, the wind blowing the wheat, drives on dirt roads to look at the stars, homemade ice cream, birds chirping under the canopy of trees in my grandparents’ back yard . . . .

How could I not entitle this image, “Love?”

Greg Ebersole

With the simple Brownie camera, I started taking photos as a young kid. I remember always having some kind of camera to snap pictures, recording various events and people. I didn’t know I would be a photographer until years after college. Starting my college years at Hesston College in 1967, I dabbled in sociology, psychology, and music. Later I switched to art. In 1975, I graduated from Goshen College with a B.A. in art. My emphasis was in painting, ceramics, and photography.

For four years, I tried a variety of jobs, including work in carpentry, bookkeeping, and periods as a meat packer and a customer sales representative at a photo lab. In 1979, I started freelancing for weekly newspapers in Denver, shooting sports and feature stories, and beginning my career in photojournalism. I have since worked for five newspapers, including The Daily News in Longview, Wash., where I have been for the last 20 years.

My art background has played a strong part in my photography. My photographs can involve many dimensions-lighting, composition, content, tone, angle and the moment I’m capturing. I believe I’m a journalist whose medium is photography. I find it rewarding in that it satisfies my artistic leanings and also has tremendous power to point out social wrongs, causing people to think and react. I try to capture the spirit and personality of my subjects. I am often able to share my view of something or how I feel about it through the way I photograph it.

Photojournalism is story telling. It’s wonderful work. I can often wander aimlessly with a camera around my neck, armed only with personal interest and my eyes. With the camera, I can walk into people’s lives, often in many exciting and interesting places. I can also participate In various news and sporting evens. I have photographed many concerts and musicians of all types. I have often become involved in the lives of people I have photographed, becoming close friends with many.

Photojournalism has suited my life. I like the varied hours, the variety of subjects, events and the need to move and react fast to situations. I have never been able to enjoy routine life. I thrive on adventure, change, stress, and even chaos at times.

I am hopelessly addicted to foreign travel. I have been to about 40 countries so far. I get restless often and feel the need to go somewhere. I am able to save enough and then use vacations for travel. Often, I work on stories for the newspaper. I feel at home in foreign lands. I love to explore new places, but often return to places I’ve enjoyed before. The more exotic the country is, the more I like it. I like the challenge of trying to assimilate into a new culture. Hot days, humid nights, strange foods, foreign languages, crowded buses and local music in each incredible place make me feel alive And the camera is my constant partner-sharing it all.

Elizabeth Eberspacher

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord Your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

My inspiration for this piece began with this verse. Sometimes I think we can become overwhelmed with trying to understand everything about the theology and doctrine of Christianity, making it into a more complex religion than it really is. Jesus simplified it for us in these verses, in this one command. Looking at this simple black and white charcoal drawing reminds me that Jesus is more concerned about our relationship with him and others than with perfect theology.

I chose to depict the silhouette of a child drinking from a bowl because of its simple beauty and visually strong impact. When I think of Jesus’ second commandment, to love my neighbor as myself, this image comes to mind. As a follower of Jesus Christ I want to do my part in serving others not only by offering clean drinking water to those in need but also offering the only water that can take away our thirst forever: the living water found through a relationship with Jesus Christ.

David Foncannon

Alabaster is my art love. I work intuitively, rarely approaching the stone with a finished form in mind. Power tools are used to rough out the piece, which is then finished by hand with rasps and sanding. The finished piece is cool and smooth to the touch, often pierced or opened to lead the eye through and beyond. I like to work thin places into the piece letting the opaque quality of alabaster lend itself to the play of light and space.

I’m a native of Limon, Colo., full time pastor at Pueblo Mennonite Church, a mandolin player/songwriter with Fireweed bluegrass band, and an artist. My first art classes were at Hesston College, where I received an Associate of Arts degree in Bible. At Hesston I fell in love with clay and became an art lab assistant. Ten years later I double majored in Art and Bible/Religion receiving a B.A. from Bethel College (North Newton, Kan.). My teacher, friend, and mentor Paul Friesen who taught at both schools over the years introduced me to sculpture in wood and alabaster.

Anna Friesen

“Horizontal Universe 1” is part of a series in which I co-create with water and fire. These images are the product of processes (burning fire, moving water) arrested at random moments, creating layers of colors, shapes, and reflect my continuing interest in and exploration of transparent layers.

Creating images using unpredictable elements reflects the lack of control I experience in the aging process and the chances of life. As the world around me changes, and my inner landscape follows its own cycle, I feel, even more, the link with Nature.

Steve and Jane Fry

I’m very grateful to have stumbled into Paul Friesen’s sculpture class in 1970 in the basement of the girls’ dorm. There was an energy and a level of dedication among many of the students at that time that was contagious. Out of the next several years came several professional potters/ceramists including Royce Yoder, Lynn Lais, Harold Nofziger, Jane Graber, Fred Driver, and Jane Kaufman who became my bride and partner.

Paul’s expertise and professionalism was an inspiration to us not only in developing our skills and creative vision, but in connecting that creativity to our faith. Those formative years in the art department at Hesston College gave rise to the dream that we might actually turn that passion into a vocation.

Jane and I have enjoyed the last 35 years working with clay not only for the creative outlet it provides but for the lifestyle it enables us to embrace. Working together in a family business, watching our children mature, and spending our days doing what we love is a gift we humbly receive.

Beginning with Paul joining us as husband and wife 34 years ago, we now join many in thanking and honoring a man we consider a great teacher, mentor and friend.

Thanks, Paul, for setting us on this path. If it were not for our son getting married on this day, we would certainly be celebrating with you in person.

Esther Graber

The morning mists are spilling over the ridge of mountains, glowing with the golden light of the early sun, where the pool (the charca) provides water for grazing cattle. This scene, which expresses for me the tranquility and beauty of the countryside, was painted from our home in Aibonito, Puerto Rico.

Jane Graber

Jane creates miniatures on a potter’s wheel. The Red Ware is sgrafitto. Original designs based on early American design. The cabinet was created by Ronald Graber, Jane’s father, who produces furniture for Jane’s displays based on a certain period working with the pottery.

Chris Johnson

Conceptually my latest work has focused on exploring the many faces and definitions of mapping, drawing on early cartography as an influence. Maps were once as much about art as they were about function. The “maps” that I’ve been creating don’t lead you anywhere physically, or sometimes, even logically. They’re not meant to be completely understood. Mystery can inspire repeated viewings, with new elements arising and new meaning derived. I want to create work that reveals itself aesthetically and conceptually over a long period of time. I hope that it inspires a spectrum of interpretations, all of which are correct.

Chris Johnson graduated from Hesston College in 2000 and from the Kansas City Art Institute in 2004, with a B.F.A. in Illustration/Design. He works in Kansas City as a fine artist, and a designer at Hallmark Cards.

Lynn Lais

I continue to explore the possibilities for surface decoration with both slips and oxide washes on utilitarian ware. Patterns derived from various Folk Art traditions as well as observation intrigue me. There has always been, and I hope always will be, another idea to explore. The idea of finally getting it right excites me.

Merrill Miller

The story of Zechariah and Elizabeth is a window into seeing how the holy reaches into the everyday. Both Zechariah and Elizabeth have their encounter with the divine. The event illustrates how the mundane, whether performing prescribed ritual duties in a temple or the duties of daily housework, is not beyond the reach of God.

Merrill R. Miller is senior graphic designer at Mennonite Publishing Network. Merrill graduated from Hesston College in 1980 and Goshen (Ind.) College in 1983 with a B.A. in Art Education. He worked for one year as a potter in Kalona, Iowa, and taught for five years at Iowa Mennonite School before joining MPN.

John Mishler

This work is a table-top sculpture with two turning parts. It is also a maquette for a large sculpture. Many of my sculptures are commissioned for public spaces from Purdue University to a city park in Palm Springs, Calif., to Hesston College. Most of these sculptures are kinetic with turning parts that move randomly in the wind. I got my start as a sculptor when I took a sculpture class from Paul Friesen when I was a student at Hesston College. I now try to inspire my sculpture students at Goshen College as Paul inspired me when I was at Hesston.

Marena Nachtigall

Graduated from Hesston in 2001 and from Bethel College (North Newton, Kan.) in 2003 with a B.A. in Art.

Opened a business in 2004 selling her own hand-thrown pottery and making wedding floral designs.

Lives in Kalona, Iowa, with her husband Chris (athletic director at Iowa Mennonite School) and son Cohen whom they adopted in August of 2008.

Gwen M. Stamm

After my childhood years with my parents and five siblings on our turkey farm near Archbold, Ohio, I eventually majored in art at Hesston College and Bethel College (North Newton, Kan.). During that time I had the privilege of studying under art professors and mentors Robert Regier and Paul Friesen. After working several years as a graphic designer at Goshen College, I moved to Scottdale, Pa., and worked at Mennonite Publishing House as a designer for 18 years. Along with a graphic design career, I have been involved with the Calligraphy Guild of Pittsburgh, studying different techniques with various calligraphy artists. After my position at MPH was eliminated in February 2002, I set up a freelance business at home in design, illustration, and calligraphy. Also during 2002 I took a year-long intensive calligraphy course in Pittsburgh with instructor Reggie Ezell from Chicago. My largest design project to date has been an old house which my spouse and I bought-bringing challenges that involve both two- and three-dimensional aspects, a project that will likely be with us for our duration in this house!

I am discovering over time how much I am perpetually in “experimental mode” when working in art and design. That is, there is never a point of arrival. I realize the necessity and the discipline of remaining open to discover what wants to emerge visually. This means being courageous enough to retain a sense of wonderment and play, to be open to change at any point, and to let go. In other words, it can mean times of sweat and mental anguish! I must dare to take courage and work harder and deeper within this discipline. That is my quest, and there in no other way around it. Indeed, I sense this is where my salvation, in part, lies. It seems I’ve only just begun . . . .

Brittni Wegmann

Brittni Wegmann is a second year graduate student in the department of Art, part of the College of Visual Arts, Theatre, and Dance at Florida State University (Tallahassee). She received her B.A. from Goshen (Ind.) College and before going to FSU she served as the artist-in-residence for two years at Hesston College. Her current interest is in making ceramic objects that not only invite the viewer to investigate a piece visually, but also entice him or her to touch and want to pick up the piece. She hopes to accomplish this by giving curiously shaped and textured objects a hint of familiarity while at the same time constructing specific contexts in which they are displayed. After graduation, she hopes to continue working as a professional artist and teaching studio art at the college level.

Royce Yoder

Born in Kansas in 1954, received a B.A. in Art from Goshen (Ind.) College in 1976. His work has been featured in group shows and is represented in many fine shops and galleries. A full-time studio potter, he lives in Lederach, Pa., with his wife and three children.

Sarah Boyts Yoder

A reoccurring theme in my most recent work has been the idea and use of symbols and shapes that represent containers, holders, bowls, or cups. You’ll see them appearing in this body of work too. They are drawn or painted to enclose, protect, carry, or hold special “items.”

Certainly our bodies are also containers and carriers. Recently I found my own body functioning as a special holder and carrier as I experienced a pregnancy and the birth of my daughter. It’s reshaped how I think about ideas like what’s inside and outside, visible and hidden, below the surface and above.

I’ve also been drawn to using imagery related to the heart. Our hearts are a kind of container too. They literally have chambers and rooms. I think of them as holding and storing emotions, blips of memories, people, images, etc. If you could look inside one’s heart, I imagine you might see all these things swirling around in a wild, colorful tornado. So, many of these paintings represent that idea.

You get an arrow through the heart when you’re love struck and when your heart breaks, sometimes this happens simultaneously. That idea is more prevalent now as a new person is soon to arrive in my life, another person that makes and breaks your heart at the same time.

Showing my work in this way usually feels like telling my secrets. That and the ideas above all relate to the title the most recent show, Reveal/Recover. Revealing secrets (or thoughts or imaginings) and then re-covering them, the recovery period after revealing those things close to you, and the act of recovering something as in finding or remembering it.