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Fifth-Year Emerging Artists: David Morrison ’19 and a community of artists


The Messenger is running a multi-week series on the Fifth-Year Emerging Artists (FYEA) at St. Olaf. The program allows artists to create and display artwork, use St. Olaf studio space and remain in community with current students. The fifth-years have their artwork currently displayed at the Emerging Artists Show at the Northfield Arts Guild.

David Morrison ’19 nearly dropped out of ceramics when he took the introductory class his first year here at St. Olaf. Sitting down with him for an interview – hearing him describe his love for pottery as he leaned into his work, almost mindlessly kneading the clay with his hands – I could not believe that this fifth-year artist ever doubted his career path.
In the beginning, Morrison had little patience for throwing on the wheel; the clay would frequently collapse and fold in on itself as he was learning the trade. Every night for three weeks, however, first-year Morrison came into the studio to practice and, eventually, his frustration grew into his greatest passion.

Morrison attributed “falling in love” with ceramics to his community of artists, specifically retired art professor Ron Gallas whose last semester teaching ceramics at St. Olaf was Morrison’s first semester learning it.

“[Gallas] just fell in love with this medium and he taught you how to appreciate it, and so I guess I’m trying to make people like clay and love clay as much as I do,” Morrison said.
Morrison too wants to one day teach – “To teach clay. To teach what I love,” he said. His favorite part about being a FYEA is having the opportunity to work with students in the studio as a ceramics technician. He can educate and mentor students and learn from them as well.

“It’s exciting to see these people who really love the material as much as I do,” Morrison said.

Morrison’s most recent art series, currently featured at the Northfield Arts Guild, is all about the individual’s experience with the pottery.

“I think there is a lot of importance in these objects, especially in the current context of our society, [which is] so technologically advanced that we’re like moving so fast and using handmade, functional objects kind of slows you down,” Morrison said. “They make you more conscientious.”

Morrison contrasted eating off of a handmade pot or bowl with eating off of mass-produced dishware from places like Target or IKEA. His handmade pottery seemingly takes a stance against those that are manufactured, those with low price tags and high carbon footprints.

“I think that you pay attention more to what you eat and what you’re eating and what you’re eating off of, and like where that came from,” he said regarding handmade items.
For his showcase at the Northfield Arts Guild, Morrison created a space of curated intimacy -– such as the feeling two people have sharing a meal. For his exhibition at the Truckstop Gallery in Minneapolis on May 8, he will take this idea even further with a dinner party.

“We will be planning on building a table for like ten or fifteen people,” he said. “We could sit side by side or share a corner of a table or be across from each other.”

His theme again revolves around the concept of intimacy. Yet this intimacy extends far beyond sharing a meal on the ceramic plates and bowls – most of the connection for Morrison stems from the community that helps him create in the first place.

“You can’t do it alone,” he said about firing a kiln, the finishing step of the ceramic process. “It takes the ego out of it. But also, you get to form this really incredible community, so community is important to me.”