The University of Southern Mississippi’s Gallery of Art and Design is featuring Gulfport artist Lee Renninger’s show “Botanica,” a ceramics series, from Jan. 24 to Feb. 16. The opening reception took place on Jan. 24 at 5 p.m. Renninger’s show attracted roughly 50-75 people, including students, professors and Hattiesburg residents.
Renninger has exhibited at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York, the Mint Museum in North Carolina, the Mississippi Museum of Art in Jackson and the Shepparton Museum in Victoria, Australia. She is the recipient of the Polluck-Krasner Grant, a Jane Crater Hiatt Fellowship and three MAC Visual Arts Fellowships. She has commissioned work around the country and has been featured in three ceramics magazines.
Renninger works in the medium of clay, specifically porcelain, a more pure and delicate clay body. Her installation consists of seven works made up of hundreds of small pieces of porcelain, most sewn together with threads. Her sewn works make something fragile and stiff into a more loose and fluid interpretation of fabric.
“Botanica is a collection of works that explores various forms of human experience, from the distinctly personal to the vastly universal,” Renninger said. “In each work you’ll find a botanical thread, one that unifies the collection and lends its own sensibility to the pieces. These installations are made up of hundreds of handmade, porcelain parts, some bound together in a kind of sculptural fabric and some stacked to create complex patterning.”
“I use porcelain because of its working qualities but also because of its connotative qualities – fragility, strength, purity and beauty,” Renninger said. “I have to admit that I love the challenge of transforming a dense, hard material into works that appear soft and fluid – almost visually weightless.”
The seven pieces are spatially laid out in the gallery, not in a particular order. The names are “Unbound,” “Burqa,” “Burqa Spring Break,” “Botanica: Candyland,” “Versailles,” “Sous Ses Jupes (Under Her Skirts)” and “Botanica: Le Jardin de la Patisserie.
Renninger’s pieces all have personal and metaphorical stories or significance behind them, mostly being that of remorse and loss of a romantic nature
“During the period that I created [‘Unbound,’] I was using discarded dresses as metaphors for all kinds of loss,” said Renninger. “Here, that loss also contains a kind of freedom, as all losses do. The dress and its accessories remain while the woman vanishes… free at last.”
“I thought the show was very well put together,” said sophomore painting and drawing major Jordan Farrar. “The show itself was magical in the sense that all the sculptures were very ethereal. I felt it spoke to the audience and invoked a sense of awe and wonder. The fact that Renninger could take such a dense material and turn it into such delicate forms impressed me. Overall, the show left me craving to see more works from the artist.”
The USM Gallery of Art and Design is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Renninger is hosting a ceramics workshop in the 3D Arts Building on Wednesday from 10-11:50 a.m. and from 2-4:45 p.m., followed by a gallery talk in the George Hurst building at 5 p.m.