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'Special Meanings' at the Foster Gallery

| Amanda Bulger

UW-Eau Claire's Foster Gallery announces its new exhibition, "Special Meanings," which features select pieces from the LaBelle Miller Southwest Pottery Collection. Donated to the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Foundation in 2017, the collection features approximately 400 pieces of Native American-created pottery from the American Southwest. 

For the first time ever, a major exhibition of pieces from this collection will be on display for the public in the Foster Gallery from Oct. 18-Nov. 13. The opening reception is planned for 6 p.m. Oct. 17 in the gallery. The reception will feature light refreshments and an opportunity to connect with the exhibition’s co-curators, Susan O’Brien, professor of art & design, and Greg Kocken, associate professor in McIntyre Library.

The exhibition will showcase nearly 100 pieces from the collection, representing a multitude of styles and traditions from more than a dozen Native American nations of the American Southwest. Pieces in the collection include Hopi pottery in trademark shades of cream, yellow, apricot or light red; Acoma pieces with fine lines and elaborate geometric patterns; Cochiti storyteller figurines and so much more. Housed in McIntyre Library’s Special Collections and Archives department, the collection is an invaluable teaching resource for students.

There will be several featured events in the gallery during the exhibition. At 4 p.m. Nov. 7 there will be a public presentation by featured guest artists Preston and Debra Duwyenie. From 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Nov. 8, the Duwyenies will provide a pottery-making demonstration within the gallery space. And at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 11, Muskogee Creek poet Jennifer Foerster will deliver a reading within the gallery space.

This amazing collection was donated by Richard LaBelle, a 1968 UW-Eau Claire art education graduate, and Al Miller, a 1972 UW-River Falls art education graduate. Richard and Al taught art in northwest Wisconsin for over 30 years, and during summer breaks and after retiring would combine their knowledge of fine art with a love for pottery as they built their collection during numerous trips between Wisconsin and the American Southwest.

This exhibition is generously sponsored by the American Indian Studies program, the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, department of art & design, McIntyre Library and the UW-Eau Claire Foundation.

“Pottery is a sacred thing that holds life giving water, food — A gift given to us by our Mother Earth. The designs also hold special meaning.”  — Laguna artist Myron Sarracino, Dec. 12, 1996. From a letter to Al Miller included with a piece in the LaBelle Miller Southwest Pottery Collection.