Tara Thacker’s “Darken” on display at Dibden Center for the Performing Arts


Allison McLaughlin

Sculpture from Thacker’s “Darken” exhibit

Tara Thacker, assistant professor of sculpture at NVU-Johnson, is a visual artist that primarily works with porcelain to create stunning visuals that go against the typical idea of ceramic sculpture. Her work is currently on display at the Julian Scott Memorial Gallery in the Dibden Center for the Arts.
The name of the collection is “Darken,”and it features wall sculptures and collagraph prints, which are created by printing onto textured surfaces.

“The exhibition relies on themes of repetition of form and material transformation to create layered, tactile works,” says Thacker in her artist statement, “that are purposefully monochromatic and lend reference to shadows, nocturnal landscapes, and the wing structures of Corvidae (the crow family) and Falconidae (falcons) – all of which are connected by their dark surface color.”

The name lends to the overall visuals of the collection, which are mostly black and gray. However, the wide variety of textures in the exhibit create interest, despite the monochromatic darkness of the collection.

“The core of my own work is based in ceramic sculpture,” says Thacker. “During the past several years, I have been producing sculptures and installations which utilize hundreds of bound & tied linear ceramic forms and shifting lighting conditions, allowing shadows to mark the wall and become an extension of the work.”

This pushes the limits of typical art by relying on the piece’s interactions with the world surrounding it.
When one thinks of ceramics, hanging wall art is probably not the first thought, rather it usually implies vases or dinnerware. “My process is labor intensive, borderline meditative, as I work with multiple parts, combining each to create a new landscape or unforeseen arrangement,” says Thacker.

Despite Thacker’s background in ceramics and sculpture, she also created two-dimensional art to pair with the large structures of the collection.

“Most recently, I have been working in photography to make large scale digital prints of staged shadow imprints which I refer to as shadow drawings,” says Thacker. “These photographs along with my sculptures are purposefully ambiguous.”

The prints create a simultaneously organic and rigid landscape that do not appear to mirror any specific object or scene. Some of the hanging sculptures offer the vague appearance of a shag rug or tangled ball of yarn but are actually created from hard porcelain.

“I want for the viewer to question the material that was used to create the works and also question the abstraction and its reference to nature and utilitarian forms,” says Thacker. “It is my intention to engage the viewer with the work in hopes of revealing a personal association and new discovery.”
Thacker’s “Darken” collection will be available for viewing in the Julian Scott Memorial Gallery, located in the Dibden Center for Performing Arts, until April 1.