Exhibit from Carbondale Clay Center’s Molly Berger opens on First Friday | PostIndependent.com

Exhibit from Carbondale Clay Center’s Molly Berger opens on First Friday

This is one of the pieces in Molly Berger's exhibit
Jessica Cabe / Post Independent |

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Who: Molly Berger

What: “A Thing Like Home” exhibit opening

When: 6-8 p.m. on Friday (exhibit up through Feb. 27)

Where: Carbondale Clay Center

How Much: Free

We all have something we look back on in our childhood and realize we had taken it for granted, taken it as a given. For Molly Berger, there are a lot of examples, but one that sticks out in her mind is a plum tree that grew in her yard in Reading, Pennsylvania.

“I lived in suburban Pennsylvania; it’s not a normal thing to have a plum tree in your yard growing up,” Berger said. “But when something is in your life so everyday and is so ordinary to you, and you grow up with it, you don’t really know that it’s unique or special in any way until you have perspective and have space from that object. I think about that a lot in relation to this work, about that plum tree.”

Berger, a resident artist at the Carbondale Clay Center, has created work for an exhibit called “A Thing Like Home,” using both her memory and imagination to illustrate the everyday object that represents an idea of home. This idea comes in the form of tools and utensils, carpet, a door hinge and more, all creatively employed in Berger’s pieces. An opening reception will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. on Friday at the Clay Center in conjunction with Carbondale’s First Friday, and the exhibit will be up through Feb. 27.

Berger said her inspiration for the exhibit did not stem from homesickness. She moved to Colorado two and a half years ago, and she said she really does feel at home here. Rather, her pieces are a way for her to examine all the things she thought were ordinary growing up but has since come to appreciate.

“I’m interested in abstracting the domestic space in some sense,” she said. “I have a lot of nostalgia, and I’m really tied to some strong memories of the childhood home I grew up in and all of the associations that come with that place. The home that I’m referring to in this sense is more a home of the past, like this idealized, memorialized idea of home.”

Berger’s path to the Clay Center was a winding one. She said she has always been interested in art, but until her senior year of college at Penn State University, she was taking a variety of art classes and planning to apply what she learned to a career in art therapy.

“I was mostly a psychology major, but I dabbled in the intro level of every art discipline,” she said. “I stumbled into ceramics my very last semester of my senior year of college and fell in love. It was sort of like a relationship that develops really quickly.”

When she graduated, she still wanted to be an art therapist, but she wasn’t ready to go to graduate school, so she stayed at Penn State an extra year as a “special student” and exclusively took clay classes.

“I wasn’t seeking a degree or anything; I was just taking clay classes for the sake of it,” she said. “And once I had done that, I had intended to go to grad school. I had applied, and I’d gotten in, and I had to make a decision about where I wanted to go. I just couldn’t decide, and I finally realized I couldn’t decide because I wasn’t ready to give up what I was doing. So I moved.”

Berger studied ceramics as a post-baccalaureate student at the University of Colorado in Boulder up until last year, when she was accepted as an artist in residence at the Carbondale Clay Center. She said she knew of the Clay Center because of friends who had been residents there previously, and also because it has a national reputation. She started work in September.

“The Clay Center has a great community around it, and the valley in general has a really strong arts community, which is a wonderful part of being here,” she said. “The Clay Center is small, but it’s mighty. It’s got a lot of power in its tininess.”

Now that Berger is here, art therapy seems like something that isn’t gone, but it’s far away.

“It’s not going anywhere; I can always go back,” she said. “But I just don’t want to not be a maker. I need to be a maker, at least right now. For the future, next steps, I’m looking at going to get my M.F.A. for ceramics. It was a weird path to get here, but I’m so glad that I did.”

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