Worthington News

Strata in Clay

Exhibit combines geologic history, modern sculpture

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The McConnell Arts Center is displaying hand-thrown vessels representing fossils of 12 geologic ages. The exhibit of vessels, which were created by sculptor and geologist Alan Spencer, will be open through March 3.

An exhibit of hand-thrown vessels representing fossils of 12 geologic ages is on display through March 3 at Worthington's McConnell Arts Center.

Sculptor and geologist Alan Spencer created the series, titled Strata in Clay, which combines the earth's geologic history with modern sculpture.

An artist reception was held Jan. 18.

The large pieces are made of clay, with replicas of fossils sculpted on the outside of the vessels. Some of the low-relief sculptures on the vessels came from the actual fossils; others were sculpted based on a study of photographs of real fossils.

Spencer made the first vessel outside his classroom at Thomas Worthington High School, where he teaches art.

The first was based on the Jurassic period, with depictions of raptor fossils.

"After that, I thought it would be cool to make one for each of the 12 geologic periods," he said.

Spencer, a native of Providence, R.I., earned a bachelor's degree in geology from the College of Wooster in 1978. He said he gave up his chosen field in 1985, when he left a job as a field geologist in Indianapolis to build an art studio in Delaware.

There he created ceramics, stained glass and blown glass.

He then earned his master's in art education from Ohio State University and began teaching ceramics and sculpture in the Worthington schools in 2002.

"I wanted to combine my interests in geology and sculpture," Spencer said of the series.

By examining the vessels, one gets a clear picture of the world's age and the creatures that dominated the landscape long before man took his first step, he said.

The exhibit also will feature real fossils on loan from Ohio State University; Scott Kell, a geologist from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources; and What on Earth, an Upper Arlington store that sells fossils and jewelry.

Mick Ball, president of the MAC board of trustees, said the exhibit has been receiving rave reviews from visitors. He said he also is pleased with the natural tie-in between the MAC and the Worthington schools.

MAC director Jon Cook said he agrees.

"It's rare that an artistic exhibit is based in science, but that's what Alan has created with Strata in Clay," he said.