six mcknight artists | The mcknight fellowship

Showing April 2019 |  MacRostie Gallery |  Sponsored by Bob Popkin

Forrest Lesch-Middelton.jpeg

The annual exhibition, Six McKnight Artists, features new work by 2017 McKnight Artist Fellowship for Ceramic Artists recipients Xilam Balam Ybarra (St. Paul, Minnesota) and Mic Stowell (Minneapolis, Minnesota), as well as 2016 McKnight Artist Residency for Ceramic Artists recipients Kosmas Ballis (Florida), Eva Kwong (Ohio), Forrest Lesch-Middelton (California) and Anthony Stellaccio (Maryland). This exhibition supported by the McKnight Foundation and Northern Clay Center, showcases the success of each artist’s fellowship or residency.

Xilam Balam (St. Paul, MN) is a visual artist, lyricist, and producer. He works with a broad spectrum of mediums from airbrush to stone jewelry, clay, mosaic, & hip-hop. His current projects include an album featuring the sounds of the contemporary Mesoamerican clay flutes he creates. Balam was the lead apprentice under Armando Gutiérrez G., in 2014 on the MN Flute Project, to revitalize the folk art and music of pre-Columbian Mesoamerican indigenous clay instruments. Born in San Antonio, Tejas, Balam's Xicano identity is at the center of all his art forms. He has spent the last 20 years studying Mayan and Mexican glyphs and he creates individually stylized epigraphy drawings.

Mic Stowell (Minneapolis, MN) received his MFA from University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, and his MA from Saint Cloud State University. After twenty-six years of full-time teaching, he is now able to move toward fully investing his days in his studio practice. Stowell’s work has gone through multiple iterations—from slipcast geometric teapots to tightly painted plates and organic forms—and can be found in collections across the globe from Sanbao Ceramic Art Institute, Jingdezhen, China; to the Polish National Museum, Wroclaw, Poland; to the Appalachian Center for Craft in Cookeville, Tennessee.

Kosmas Ballis (Florida) has been pushing the limits of the ceramic medium since graduate school in Tallahassee at Florida State University, where he received his MFA in 1999. In 2001, Ballis was celebrated as an NCECA Emerging Artist. He went on to create powerful sculptures in response to the BP Oil/ Deepwater Horizon catastrophe. A former student of Ken Ferguson’s at the Kansas City Art Institute, Ballis’ work has always been grounded in formal traditions, regardless of the inspirational content. In 2017, he was awarded the Gold Prize at the Taiwan Ceramics Biennale and will have a solo exhibition at the New Taipei Yingge Ceramics Museum in 2018.

Eva Kwong (Ohio) taught at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, between 1990 and 2006 and is currently visiting faculty at The Ohio State University in Columbus. Born in Hong Kong, she received a BFA in ceramics and sculpture from Rhode Island School of Design, and an MFA in drawing and ceramics from Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia. Kwong’s ceramic works are in collections around the world, including the Mint Museum of Craft + Design, Minneapolis Institute of Art, Finnish Craft Museum, and FuLe International Ceramics Art Museum. She is a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship recipient and in 2018 the National Council on Education in the Ceramic Arts honored her with an Excellence in Teaching Award. This August you will find her leading a workshop at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts.

Forrest Lesch-Middelton (California) is an educator, advocate, and artist with a body of work that brings functional pottery and tile to life with rich political and cultural content. He invented a technique dubbed "volumetric image transfer," where he transfers screen printed pattern and imagery onto the surfaces of his pots while they are still wet and on the wheel. In 2014, he was awarded the distinguished honor of Ceramic Artist of the Year by Ceramics Monthly magazine. He received a Master of Fine Arts from Utah State University in 2006, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University in 1998.

Anthony Stellaccio (Maryland) i s a freelance artist and scholar educated in both fine art and folklore. He is a member of the American Folklore Society, the American Ceramic Circle, and the International Academy of Ceramics. Most notable among his professional accomplishments are two US Fulbright grants, a book on Lithuanian folk pottery, more than thirty articles on contemporary and historic ceramics, three years spent serving the Smithsonian, National Museum of African Art, and several years spent as a consultant for the Lithuanian Art Museum. His MFA in Ceramics is from Tulane University; he earned an MA in Folklore from Western Kentucky University


meadowlark buried her father |

vernal bogren swift

Showing April 2019 |  Minnesota Gallery |  Sponsored by Grand Rapids State Bank


Vernal Bogren Swift (Bovey, MN) is a batik artist and storyteller who travels frequently to a Pacific Island. She learned her craft in Indonesia but the work is clearly her own now. Inspired by the odd movements of humans, animals, and tectonic plates, Vernal associates behavior with place. A dye palette gained from tree barks, vegetable rinds, and indigo was developed over many decades. These warm permanent colors identify her batik stories and convey how these stories connect to current social and personal events.

Vernal earned her BS from Bemidji State University, her MFA in Textile and Painting from the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, MI, and a certification of Unitech Lae in Papua New Guine. She has exhibited her batik works across both the state of Minnesota and the country, with past exhibitions in Washington D.C. and Maryland.

“As a storyteller batik artist, I explore correlation between deep time and human story. I am inspired by what rocks tell scientists. I like to hear those rock stories and ask some questions myself. In time, I make visual stories in wax and natural dyes about the earth. About us.”


Vernal Bogren Swift would like to thank The North Dakota Museum of Art and Arrowhead Regional Arts Council for their support in making this exhibit possible.