ELKTON — One day, as artist Ki Crittenden was on her way home, she was brought to tears by the sunset.
“A beautiful sunset with all those different colors. A whole rainbow of colors in the sky,” she said. “I was so excited, but at the moment I cried because it was so beautiful. Then I saw the silhouette of the trees and I said ‘That’s it. That’s what I want to create myself.’”
A Pennsylvanian potter who grew up in South Korea, Crittenden makes clay pottery lamps that feature silhouettes of trees, undersea lifeforms and other nature-inspired images.
Crittenden will be displaying her creations alongside artwork by acrylic painter Gina Dell in the First Friday opening reception from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 2, at The Palette & The Page. The show will also feature music by John Palombo, literary insights from Allie Charles and Kim Anguish from the Cecil County Public Library, and a book signing for Michele Chynoweth, who recently released her latest novel, “The Jealous Son,” which is based on the Biblical story of Cain and Abel.
The Cecil County Arts Council will host an opening reception for Hema Antonio’s solo exhibition, “This Point in Time” as well as an open show titled “Back to the Future.”
Color and light
Ever the artist, Crittenden said that as a child she was “always looking for a piece of paper and drawing all over the place.”
In her second year at Incheon University in South Korea, Crittenden discovered her love of pottery.
“I got so excited with the clay the first time I touched it. I just loved it,” she said. “That night, I just go home and start thinking about it.”
In 1992, Crittenden came to the United States to visit friends and study English. After moving to the U.S., Crittenden met her husband, they had two daughters together, and she was able to explore pottery even more.
For about the past 40 years — both in Korea and in the U.S. — Crittenden has been making ceramic pieces, starting with regular cups, plates, bowls and other items.
But after a while, Crittenden grew tired of making those pieces and sought something new. That’s when she saw that awe-inspiring sunset.
Now, Crittenden makes clay pottery lamps that are illuminated via electric lighting from within.
With autumn being her favorite time of year, Crittenden often includes colors associated with that season in her work.
“That’s my favorite colors: oranges and brown kind of theme,” she said.
As for her style, Crittenden said she is inspired a lot by Vincent van Gogh, especially in his artworks featuring nature and landscapes.
Always pondering the next step
As a ceramicist, Crittenden said her work with clay is an ongoing learning experience.
“Even when I think I’m done with everything, clay always takes a little time to figure it out … You have to take time and be patient,” she said.
Although she primarily creates tree silhouettes, Crittenden has also branched out into creating silhouettes of undersea creatures, having originally been inspired by an underwater image her husband created using Photoshop.
Among those undersea-inspired creations are what Crittenden calls her “me me” lamps which feature sea sponges.
“They look like they’re breathing and then when I see them it looks like ‘Look at me! Look at me!’” she said, explaining the origin of the name for her creations.
Additionally, Crittenden is beginning to make lamps inspired by — and even shaped like — the human body.
“God gave us these beautiful bodies. A man’s body, child’s body, woman’s body,” she said. “Bodies are just beautiful.”
While she’s still figuring out this new idea, Crittenden remains determined to get it just right.
“I never give up on anything,” she said.
After all, Crittenden thinks it’s only natural for artists to want to push themselves to explore new things and never get too comfortable for too long.
“I think all artists are the same,” she said. “They want to try something more creative all the time.”
‘Your true self’
Like Crittenden, Dell has always been drawn to making art based on natural images — such as flowers and birds — and she even incorporates items like sand or seashells into her work.
For Dell, nature gives her a feeling of relaxation and mindfulness.
“You come in connection with a different plane … You get away from the busyness of life and kind of connect back to your true self,” she said.
When Dell started painting, using acrylic paint allowed her to complete artworks quicker.
“At first it was because I really like painting and when I was first starting out I was a little ambitious,” she said. I wanted to finish the painting all in one shot and acrylic paint dries quickly so you can do that. You can do a six-hour painting session and get the whole thing finished all at once.”
But the more paintings she has done, acrylic painting has also allowed Dell to explore various styles and methods.
“I really like playing around with those different techniques and the more traditional painting styles,” she said. “It’s something you can grow with.”
One of the techniques Dell uses is “paint pouring,” which allows her to create fluid, abstract and often wave-like images.
By using the paint pouring method — in combination with other styles — Dell is able to build a new layer of complexity into her work.
“When I just did the traditional paint pouring techniques, those were really interesting,” she said. “But what really jazzed me was when I could combine that into something more realistic so that your mind plays back and forth of ‘OK, there’s some movement here, as well as something to ground you.’”
Letting go and finding purpose
Since she started doing paint pouring two years ago, Dell said she has learned a lot about letting go of control and simply rolling with the punches when it comes to making art.
“[Paint pouring] doesn’t come out the way you want — ever,” she said. “You have an idea in your head of ‘OK, it’s going to be kind of like this,’ and then you pour it out and it’s something different. What I found is it really helps me let go of that control … It lets you let go of that control and work with what you have. If you can let go of it, that’s a really good process for you as a person overall as well.”
Whether artists are experimenting with paint pouring or another technique, Dell advises them to “have something in mind, but don’t hold onto it too tight.”
Dell said her brother, Danny, who is a jazz musician in New York, has been one of her main sources of inspiration and has helped her think about her purpose for making art.
“He has inspired me to grow in a little bit of a different way with my artwork around just exploring the purpose of creating … and that creative process,” she said.
For Dell, the purpose of making art comes down to three main objectives: having fun, taking time to reflect, and making one’s self and others think.
“[I like to] have something that is not quite resolved and something that is more resolved, so that you can grow with the paintings over time and they can grow with you,” she said of that last goal.
After viewing a few of Dell’s paintings, Crittenden said she enjoyed the natural images that they both seem to be drawn to.
Likewise, Dell said she and Crittenden share a certain energy.
“You can tell we both really like to do what we do,” Dell said.