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John Lamb, Published November 05 2009

Making a scene: Artist’s vision expands

Brad Bachmeier is a busy guy. The Fargo ceramicist is part of the faculty show at Minnesota State University Moorhead, where he teaches art history, and he is taking part in his ninth show in nine years at the Rourke Art Museum.

As he approaches his 10th anniversary show, Bachmeier wants to exhibit growth, not only in his style, but also the size of the art. The Rourke show, which opens this weekend with a reception and gallery talk on Sunday, includes a 6-foot clay jar and some other sizable vessels inspired by ancient Greek and Peruvian pieces.

You’re an art historian, and ceramics seems to be the most tangible art form, you have to literally get into it, get your hands dirty. Is this a way of you physically connecting with history?

Absolutely. Learning those primitive firing techniques and how it was done back in the days. That Cretan jar I made, that 6-foot-tall one, I saw pictures of 8- and 9-foot jars unearthed that were used as food pantries. That’s how they stored grains. That’s a real fun way of being in touch with how they did things a thousand years ago or more.

Are you at all concerned that making bigger pieces, which take more time and more materials, that you price yourself out of selling the art?

Whether artists want to admit it or not, especially if you’ve been doing it awhile, you are aware of what sells. You are aware of marketing and business things, otherwise you wouldn’t be doing it 15 years later. … When I do my most significant works, I try to divorce myself from thinking about that. When I went to grad school, I started doing much more content-oriented work rather than just pretty pots, I really didn’t think they would sell. … The funny thing is, it worked just the opposite and opened the doors to permanent collections and places that I didn’t know were closed previous to that. I don’t have notions of these things selling out, and I don’t even know how to price them, frankly.

Nine shows in nine years. Is it hard coming up with a different theme for each show to keep them different?

It’s kind of an understanding that every show will have a theme, but it’s kind of just, ‘What am I working on?’ You can title every show “Recent Works.” … That is incredibly challenging to expand and push yourself. It is a good challenge, but certainly a challenge.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533