Cedar Crest College newspaper since 1923
By Victoria Brobst, Staff Writer
Reassurances: Incantation Bowls, Reimagined, a collection of artwork and poetry by Minnesota-based artist Tifffany Besonen and poet LouAnn Shepard Muhm, was on display through September and October in the Lachaise Gallery.
Unique to Cedar Crest’s exhibit, student-made incantation bowls were collected and approximately 90 were showcased at the closing reception on Thursday, October 16, 2014.
Besonen and Muhm met teaching at the same school in Minnesota. Fascinated with each other’s work, they began collaborating. Together they attended The Artist in Society symposium at Concordia College in 2010, which explored the history and symbolism of Babylonian incantation bowls from the 6-8th Century AD.
Babylonian incantation bowls were created to capture demons which were thought to cause suffering. They contain Aramaic, Mandaic, or Syrian scripts inscribed circularly on the inside of the bowl.
Besonen and Muhm were fascinated by the idea after having encountered struggles which induced fear in their own lives. They made incantation bowls to confront their fears.
The four-year process, from the birth of the idea to the present, helped Besonen and Muhm discover themselves. Foxes and crows make appearances on many of the bowls. “It seems like they came to us,” said Besonen. “We learned that we don’t really use a plan in our work; things flow and often work themselves out.”
Both artists recommended fellow artists explore their obsessions, because it takes work to a whole new level.
During the writing process, Muhm discovered that fear could be reduced to three main categories: fear of isolation, fear of suffering, and fear of the unknown. She encouraged students to recognize their main source of fear.
Exhibition promotes community engagement
According to Professor Jill Odegaard, Art Department Chair, the department had considered exhibiting Besonen and Muhm’s work in the past. Odegaard explained, “The artist we had scheduled pulled out, and LouAnn and Tiffany had work ready and everything fell into place.”
Odegaard wanted to engage the community in art and saw opportunity in this exhibit to involve students and faculty.
Students in Odegaard’s Papermaking class worked with students from Pat Badt’s Printmaking class to combine poetry and imagery. William Singleton’s Ceramics students created hand-inscribed clay incantation bowls. The Art Club also hosted various bowl-making sessions for the entire campus community.
Muhm participated in a workshop in which she described incantations and the writing process via Skype.
Odegaard said, “The outcome was more than I expected. Community engagement made the process so organic. The sessions helped me match names to faces, and I was really pleased with the feedback from staff. They wanted us to do more stuff like this!”
Students and faculty enjoyed making bowls and seeing them on display.
Kaelee Carter, freshman Art Therapy major, enjoyed seeing the creativity of other student and faculty.
Junior Art Therapy and Ceramics II student Samantha McMaster participated in the bowl-making making. McMaster felt impacted by the exhibit, because the art reflected the poetry.
Besonen and Muhm were grateful to Odegaard for introducing the aspect of community engagement. As teachers, they plan to take the process to their school.
“Acknowledging a fear is a way of…releasing it,” said Muhm. “We hope that our exhibition has helped people confront their fears, and has had more than a community impact, but an individual impact.”