This February, Parkland Art Gallery will be hosting a solo exhibition of works by Benjie Heu, a ceramics professor at Southeast Missouri State University. With both sketches and sculptures, the heart of the exhibit lies in the finely crafted ceramic works and the deeply involved story that is told through the pieces.
“With my work, I am expressing a personal narrative,” Heu said.
In this exhibit, the ceramic pieces are arranged in such a way that they follow a hero’s story through his trials and tribulations. A visual narrative is a quick and accessible way of expressing a message through art.
“The hero’s personal journey is a voyage of self-discovery, an expedition whose true destination is the realm within each of us,” Heu said.
The journey of the hero is not a solely physical one, but a spiritual one as well. Although the hero begins his journey with ignorance and innocence, his journey ends with experience and enlightenment.
“Battles against time, against the obstacles that prevent the fulfillment of desire or the repossession of something cherished but lost, are themes that provoke me,” Heu said.
Overall, the underlying theme of the exhibit is revealing truth and humor in the face of horror and the seemingly absurd. However, the inspiration behind this exhibit is even more heartwarming.
“My family is a constant source of inspiration,” Heu said. “It never ends!”
However, it’s not only the themes behind the exhibit that make Heu’s artwork so spectacular. Heu brings a special touch to his sculptures through the carefully thought-out process he goes through to make each and every piece. He begins by sketching out his ideas before moving onto clay.
“I like the way wet clay feels, and I enjoy the slow pace of making things with clay,” he said. “It slows me down, and that is when the clay begins to reveal things to me. In other words, my ideas and intent tend to change and yet reveal things I didn’t fully realize when I started.”
Everything in the exhibit is hand-built with stoneware, and Heu personally creates every glaze.
“Glazing is hard for me,” he said. “I love glaze testing, but deciding which surface to use on a piece is always a challenge.”
In addition to ceramic sculptures, Heu will also have several sketches on display at the gallery this spring.
“This will be a first for me,” he said, adding that he has never had sketches on display in an exhibit before.
Heu earned an Master of Fine Arts from Ohio University and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Montevallo. Aside from Parkland Art Gallery’s exhibit, Heu has participated in many other exhibits, including solo, grouped, juried and invitational exhibits.
“Every show is a blessing,” he said.
Some of his favorite past exhibits include “Steady Diet of Nothing” at Kentucky’s Berea College and “Story Time” at Northcutt Steele Gallery in Montana.
The exhibit will be on display from February 10 through April 1 at Parkland Art Gallery. Additionally, a reception will take place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday, February 13. This will be accompanied by an talk by Heu at 7 p.m. and music provided by the Parkland Guitar Ensemble. Heu will be giving an additional lecture on February 13 at 11 a.m in Parkland College’s S Building.
Parkland Art Gallery’s spring hours are Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturday from noon to 2 p.m.