2002-2003 Academic Year

Exhibit Demonstrates Skill with Pottery

May 2003

Fiona Dunbar says she created her first artwork in college. Looking at her works, it's hard to believe.

Yes, there was that dabbling in art like many in the first grade - but her interest really took off when she came to Pitzer.

Fiona's works are on display at the new Delores Huerta Learning Circle Gallery, the unofficial name for the space reserved for solo shows at the Gold Student Center. The exhibit is a collection of ceramic plates, of four basic shapes and four sizes, varying in color from sage green to earthy rust.

The consistency of the finishes on the plates is no "happy accident." Professor David Furman, who Fiona credits with developing her skills in ceramics, says the untrained eye can take for granted the artistry involved in knowing how a glaze will work, what color it will produce and repeating the process to produce the elegantly balanced finishes on the pieces in Fiona's collection.

"Fiona is a dream student," Furman said. "She is bright, proactive, a self-starter - and she has a manner of being in the world and in her art that easily translates into her many activities."

Fiona aspires to more than pleasing the eye with her creations. She has an eye toward the function of the object. It's that leaning toward function and the tactile experience of digging her hands into clay that led her to ceramics and pointed her down the road to considering a career in environmental education. She'll get her first taste of it this summer as a guide in Yosemite Park leading backpacking trips.

Fiona, who came to Pitzer from Burlingame, Calif., got her start in ceramics in a freshman seminar with Professor Furman. The class is also where her love of three-dimensional expression was born.

"Functional art involves a different way of thinking," Fiona said. "You're using your hands and brain together to create and that relates back to important tactile experiences. So much learning, especially that of children, is done with all of our senses, especially touch."

Her leanings toward a hands-on approach to art translate to her love of the outdoors. Fiona says Environmental Education is a natural outcropping of her need to engage all of her senses.

Pitzer's unique education provided the catalyst for exploring a career off the beaten path.

"Pitzer provided me with a variety of directions that my life could take," Fiona said. "The school introduced a variety of ideas and developed skills I already had to take advantage of the things I really like to do."

Fiona said that Pitzer's tight knit, small community contributed to her growth as a student and an artist.

She also developed her athletic skills as a member of the Pomona-Pitzer water polo team. As a driver for the squad, she is part of a Sagehen group that recently won the Division 3 national championship.

Along with her appreciation for the water polo team's success, Fiona says she has a deep appreciation of Pitzer's art department and its belief in the function and experience of art.

"The department has a real interest in works that serve a function - furniture, ceramics and other works. It moves beyond conceptualism. Most works relate back to the function of art in society. It's not just aesthetics - it's a concrete object that serves a purpose beyond the stirring of the imagination," Fiona said.

Furman agreed, and went even one step further.

"Fiona's art is a hands-on form of art. There's not a lot of pontificating about meaning and the like. Art is 90 percent hard work. There is this level of expectation that what you do will come out how you want, but this is a rather naïve approach to materials that have deep technical demands."

And just how does Fiona rate in terms of these demands?

"She personifies the positive energy manifest in students in the ceramics program. She is the benchmark for success and artistry," Furman said.