In Exchange For The Fire

Ceramic Arts in Greece Study Abroad 2023

MSU Union Art Gallery | August 28 – October 27, 2023 | Reception October 20, 5–7 PM

αὐτίκα δ’ ἀντὶ πυρὸς τεῦξεν κακὸν ἀνθρώποισι

γαίης γὰρ σύμπλασσε περικλυτὸς Ἀμφιγυήεις

παρθένῳ αἰδοίῃ ἴκελον Κρονίδεω διὰ βουλάς

Immediately in exchange for the fire, he contrived an evil for men

For the renowned Lame One formed from earth

The semblance of a revered maiden through the plan of the son of Kronos.

 Theogony, lines 570-573

In one of the oldest and most revered texts in the ancient Greek tradition, the poet Hesiod shares a story full of confounding detail. Having stolen the secret of fire and given it to humanity, the god Prometheus is punished with a gift in the form of a woman “formed from earth.” Thus, in the beginning, it was us, the gods, fire and clay.

Mortals, immortals, and in between, the ceramic arts.

In summer 2023, a group of students traveled to Greece to explore the origins, history, and contemporary use of this earliest gift of the gods. For nearly a month they engaged practicing artists and archaeologists in demonstrations and discussions at studios, galleries, storerooms, and museums throughout Greece. Daily “hands on” study of vessels and other ceramic artifacts at the MSU Excavations at Isthmia provided unique insights into ancient processes and techniques.  Concurrent collaboration with the Global Arts Studio, an arts academy in nearby Corinth, encouraged open exploration of clay’s creative possibilities.

The works on display here reflect each individual’s unique experience on this program, inspired by life in a historically and culturally rich Mediterranean setting. Rather than imitate artifacts and styles of the past, every artist explores the relevance of those traditions in their own contemporary lives. It is exciting to see what they have done with this first gift of the gods.

This study abroad was led by Professors Jon Frey and Rebecca Casement. This exhibition features the work by Emma Borowski, Julia Egbert, Nahom Ghebredngl, Christi Lopez, Morgan Manuszak, Ally Miscikoski, Marissa Rubaiai, Mackenzie Sheehan-D’arrigo, Liz Vadella, and Megan Weaver.

For more information about the study abroad and the Michigan State University Excavations at Isthmia, please click here.