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Student Curator Shows the Secret Lives of Ceramics

‘Living With Clay’ Runs Through Nov. 17 at the Begovich Gallery
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Rody López typically dreams about his exhibitions long before they come to life.

“I literally have vivid dreams about it … and then I try to make them happen,” he explains. 

He had such a vision about the exhibition that concludes his M.F.A. in exhibition design, “Living With Clay: California Ceramics Collections,” running through Nov. 17 at Cal State Fullerton’s Nicholas and Lee Begovich Gallery. 

“When I had the opportunity to submit exhibition proposals, three of them were about ceramics,” López says. “Having worked in museums, I’ve acquired a lot of ceramic pieces so I have my own collection.” 

The exhibition offers a peek into the private lives of influential California collectors such as Julie and David Armstrong, Judy and Richard Jacobs, Gloria and Sonny Kamm, Richard Oelschlaeger, and Diane and Igal Silber. 

“What I’m interested in is how they live with their collections and why they’re so passionate about clay,” says López, one of three students who benefited from 2017-18 scholarships from the Leo Freedman Foundation, which supports M.F.A. students in Cal State Fullerton’s College of the Arts. “I’m not only borrowing their ceramic artwork — I’m doing a survey of the medium, from pre-Columbian to the present, and borrowing the collectors’ furniture, rugs, even a bed to show how ceramics are embedded in their way of life.”

One of López’s mentors, alumna Karen Crews Hendon ‘08 (M.F.A. art-design, museum studies certificate), encouraged him to come to Cal State Fullerton to pursue his graduate studies. Crews Hendon is now a College of the Arts lecturer and interim director of the Begovich Gallery, taking over for Mike McGee, professor of art, who served as director for more than 25 years.

As he curated the exhibition, López worked with nearly 25,000 objects, which he had to narrow down to about a dozen from each collector. He also had to get the gallery ready for the show.

“The exhibition design program is not just about theory — there’s so much hands-on work. I’ve been sanding walls, painting, hanging and handling artwork,” he explains. “The hands-on aspect of this program is probably my biggest takeaway.” 

“Living with Clay” is being documented with a full-color catalog published by CSUF with essays by López, McGee, Crews Hendon and other contributors.

The Begovich Gallery is located at 800 N. State College Blvd., Fullerton, 92831. The gallery is open noon-4 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and noon-4 p.m. Saturdays. More information about the exhibition is available online.