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All About Connections
Shafer Art Gallery hosts Lineage ceramic exhibit
Ceramic artist Mark Freeman poses in the gallery with his show pieces - photo by Photos courtesy of BCC

Barton Community College will host an opening reception for the “Lineage” exhibit on Friday, August 16 from 6-8 p.m., which will showcase the impact art instructors have had on two emerging ceramic artists.  Artwork from all of their past educators will be on display to illustrate the lineage, which will include a featured installation by Fort Hays State University Art Professor Linda Ganstrom.  Music, refreshments and gallery talks will be provided.  The show will run through August 30.

Mark and Bambi Freeman and Carol Long
Mark and Bambi Freeman have been a duo since they started their courtship 13 years ago as youngsters in Ellinwood.  Both have taken a similar career journey as artists that began when they studied the fundamental elements of art under high school instructor Greg Maxwell.
The Freemans agreed that Maxwell was instrumental in teaching them the basics of art, and for Mark, building a strong base in pottery.
“Greg taught us the technical aspects,” Mark said. “He gave me all the tools I needed to make sound, functional forms.”
The couple works collaboratively on certain pieces, but each artist also has a strong individual identity.  Mark is a more functional artist while Bambi’s interior design background helps her see things from a different aesthetic perspective.
“We’ve always been there to bounce ideas off of each other,” Mark said.  “There’s always been sort of a push and pull between us.  She’s got more of an eye for things that would work well decoratively, and I’m kind of technical so it works together nicely,” Mark said.
Both artists attended Barton Community College and while Mark continued to focus on pottery under the tutelage of Barton Art Instructor Bill Forst, Bambi studied painting under Steve Dudek.

“There is still influence of Bill lingering in the work that I’m making now, and I’ve found that hilarious because I guess you kind of forget about those things and it’s almost an unconscious thing,” Mark said.  “There are forms that I’m making that still trace back to early high school as well.”
Both artists then studied under Linda Ganstrom at Fort hays State University where Bambi really fell in love with ceramics after taking the introductory ceramics course.
“In high school we learned about the building blocks like pinch pots and stuff like that, but she was the first one to really show me how to work the clay and really do hand building … that’s when I really started to enjoy it,” Bambi said.  
Already an experienced thrower by the time he arrived at FHSU, Mark received a lot of detailed knowledge from Ganstrom.
“Linda honed every ability that I have, and I owe her a lot for that,” Mark said.  “I went to Hays thinking I was really good, and she showed me that I wasn’t.  It was totally humbling, and a lot of fine tuning.”
The couple’s journey continued to the next major phase of lineage by chance when Mark attended a workshop that local St. John artist Carol Long also attended, but Long had ulterior motives for showing up.
“She was scouting, and I didn’t know that,” Mark said.  “We were working beside each other and talking, and I didn’t know it at the time, but she was watching how skilled I was and gauging my personality, and at the end of it she jokingly said ‘Well, this was your job interview,’ and she called me a year later about an apprenticeship.”
The Freemans both accepted positions as apprentices for Carol Long at her professional studio and business Carol Long Pottery and have been working full time since May 2012.  They both said the experience has been priceless.
“She has 30 years of experience, and just learning how to run a business has been very helpful,” Bambi said.
Through their long journey and various instructors the pair said all of their educators shared and taught certain core values that they hold to be the most important and their most sacred ideals.
“Always be critiquing,” Bambi said.  “You should always be trying to see how you can do something better or what you would change.”
“For me it would be the importance of good craftsmanship,” Mark said.  “If it’s going to crack, you can’t sell it.”

Linda Ganstrom
One main part of the Lineage Exhibit is an installation by Fort Hays State University Ceramics Instructor Linda Ganstrom.  An art educator for more than 28 years and a ceramic artist for more than 40, Linda’s work focuses on life-sized ceramic sculptures of the female form, but in a less glorified manner.
“Most figurative work in general is created for the male gaze,” she said.  “There are very few images about women’s daily lives and ordinary women and, that’s been the focus of my work.”
For this specific exhibit Ganstrom is showcasing her “Belles” installation using her ideals to create some famous historical figures, such as Queen Elizabeth, but does so in a way that shows them as “real people.”
“Most of the art based around these women was done in a way that idealized them, and they seemed very heroic, but not very human,” she said.  “I wanted to show the human side instead of when they were famous, ruling monarchs.”
When Ganstrom is not creating stunning ceramic sculptures, a large part of her time is devoted to teaching at FHSU, which helps contribute to her personal journey as an artist.
“I really enjoy working with creative people and trying to help them reach their goals, and really trying to understand how they envision their lives and help them maybe have a larger dream and work towards that dream,” she said.
A lasting influence of instructors on their students and vice versa is something that Ganstrom acknowledges as inevitable in the art world.
“At the beginning levels of education you see a more literal copying of the teacher’s techniques and styles but there is also an aesthetic that is communicated and becomes really instilled at the foundation of a person,” she said.  “Later on, the self-expression comes about more, and that’s when you see more innovation and artists begin making things that are more personal.”
Ganstrom said the Lineage Exhibit is a great way for people to reflect on the educators in their lives, not just artistically, but through all instances where someone may have been influenced by an educator.
“I hope people walk away from this exhibit and think about their own lineage,” she said.  “We don’t get to anyplace by ourselves, and we are all connected to people ... I hope people think about their teachers, what they learned from their teachers and what they gave back to their teachers.