Visiting artist Gerit Grimm, a ceramist from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an assistant professor of art, gave students and the public a deeper look inside her life this past Thursday, Jan. 25.
In addition to her visiting lecture, Grimm gave a demonstration of her wheel-throwing talents on both Jan. 25 and 26 in UNI’s Kamerick Art Building. The events were free and open to the public.
Grimm is originally from Halle, East Germany and came to the U.S. on a German Academic Exchange Service Grant from the University of Michigan.
Grimm received her MFA from the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University. Besides creating pieces for her shows, Grimm also teaches undergrad programs and runs ceramic workshops.
JoAnn Schnabel, an art professor at UNI, helped organize Grimm’s visit to campus. Grimm met Schnabel through “C.R.E.T.A. Rome” (Ceramics, Residencies, Exhibitions, Teaching and the Arts) in Rome, and after getting to know each other, Schnabel invited Grimm to visit UNI and talk to students about her art.
Throughout Grimm’s lecture, she displayed numerous pictures showing her works and the process leading up to the finished product. She showed pieces from different collections, such as “Triumphzug, Neither Now Nor Then,” and even one titled “Fart Show.”
In most of Grimm’s works, the human figures are nude. When asked by a student why this was done, Grimm explained that she makes the figures nude to create a sense of neutrality.
Grimm thinks that adding clothing to the figures can create a feeling of social status, so by keeping the figures nude, anyone can enjoy the art without feeling connected to any particular social class.
Grimm’s lecture also gave the audience insight on what her life was like as she transitioned from Germany to the U.S.
“I moved to the U.S. because I was interested in the artists, the pop art, commercial art and the funk art,” Grimm said. “So, I got it out of my system the past 12 years, and now I’m actually looking back to Europe, and I am inspired by European art because I’ve built myself an existence here.”
A student who attended Grimm’s lecture, Alexis Bowers, was inspired to travel and study abroad after hearing Grimm speak. Bowers is a sophomore majoring in elementary education at UNI.
“After hearing Gerit Grimm talk about her life outside of the U.S., I really felt like I needed to go see those places that she went to,” Bowers said. “I wouldn’t necessarily study art like she did, but I think that getting outside of your comfort zone and exploring the world is so important for every student.”
Although Grimm encouraged travel, she also advised students to earn their degree in the U.S., rather than outside of the country. According to Grimm, students studying art should take advantage of the large, well-developed art facilities in the U.S., since art studios in other countries may not be able to provide the same spaces and materials.
Another UNI student in attendance was junior psychology major Emily Lovell. Lovell said that she enjoyed the lecture and was particularly interested in Grimm’s unique ceramic style.
“I thought it was really cool. Grimm was very passionate about what she was doing and it made it interesting to listen to her,” Lovell said. “I also was impressed by her efforts and drive to get where she is today. Her art is very unique, and I could see her style show throughout her pieces.”
Grimm said that her main objective is to get students inspired by her story and her art.
“I hope that people or students can reinvent themselves — create and build a life of their dreams for themselves and think very much outside of the box,” Grimm said. “Maybe even have the courage to follow their dreams and inventions and stay consistent. I gave them so many examples of when you just stick with it, you can achieve it.”
According to Grimm, this was her first visit to Iowa. Grimm mentioned that she was excited to go from campus to campus and meet new people and teachers, but that her ultimate goal was to send students off with a strong message.
“My advice is…don’t wait for it. Do it. Just push through and pursue it,” Grimm said. “Trust your heart; trust the inner voice and go for it. It’s probably going to be the right decision.”