Morgan MacDonell, the department of studio art’s new sculpture studio supervisor and technician, graduated from Kenyon last year. Because of this, he understands what the students are going through and is able to help and relate to students better than professors.
“In terms of timelines and doing art projects and everything they have to do to graduate, for the seniors — like their presentations and their shows — I went through all of that already, so I can help them,” MacDonell said, whose responsibilities include supervising students in the art studios when they use studio equipment and helping them on the creative level. “Talking to them about their own projects and what they have going on and what they need to do next to accomplish something.”
MacDonell’s passion for sculpture began long before Kenyon. He became involved in ceramics during his junior year of high school, when he began to dedicate his time and energy to the craft. He continued working with ceramics after high school at community college; he then transferred to Kenyon. The College does not have large kilns or other equipment necessary to process clay for ceramics, but with the help of Assistant Professor of Art Sandra Lee, MacDonell was able to incorporate clay into his sculptures.
MacDonell explained that going from ceramics to sculpture was also a transition. “A lot of [ceramics] is seen as craft, it’s starting to kind of move out of that area of thought of just being kind of craft-related and more into the art world. Ceramics is taught is through pottery hand-building type ideas where sculpture is a bit more art-related,” MacDonell explained.
One genre of sculpture that has influenced MacDonell’s art recently is the Art de Povera movement, which was formed by a group of young artists active in Italy. As the economy and politics of the country evolved, the social and cultural climate of the country changed as well. Young college students protested the far-right conservative fascists who were still in power. “These artists who were trying to negotiate the cultural changes and the social changes,” MacDonell said.
MacDonell’s interest in the Art de Povera movement is reflected in his work. “A lot of my work has to do with social interest that I have and building off of formal structures you can visually see,” he said. Current materials he is working with include clay, canvas and concrete.
He explained that those materials have significance to the viewer because they appear in people’s everyday lives. “We all have this innate knowledge of certain things, like all buildings have concrete in them. That’s just a fact of life today,” he added. “ I try to use those ideas that we already have going around in our head in a visual way for the viewer to become engaged with, which is hard, tricky … But I also like an ambiguous space because I don’t like to tell people how they should view an artwork explicitly because I think that destroys a lot of paths of thought.”