Shaping the world: Beach Museum hosts virtual event detailing sculptor Waylande Gregory’s life.

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The scupture 'Chandelier' by Dale Chihuly radiates its orange glow through the windows of the Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art on August 9, 2016. (Archive photo by Evert Nelson | The Collegian)

On Thursday, the Beach Museum of Art hosted a live stream event showcasing and highlighting the work of Waylande Gregory, a ceramics sculptor of the early twentieth century.

Tom Folk, an independent curator who studied Gregory’s work for many years, spoke for most of the evening. Liz Seaton, Beach Museum curator, also spoke briefly.

Folk covered different pieces of Gregory’s work and the work of other sculptors from the same time period. He described the pieces, gave insight into the piece and the creation process.

“Gregory always seemed to remember his roots,” Folk said. “What will draw people in is that he is from Kansas and his roots were very important to him and he never forgot where he came from, and you can see that in his work.”

Seaton covered how Gregory’s work became widely known.

“Gregory, who was Kansas born, became an incredibly prolific and dynamic ceramicist during the period between World War I and World War II and for several decades after,” Seaton said. “His career has been somewhat eclipsed in the annals of American art history until recently.”

Folk highlighted Gregory’s most famous piece “Fountain of the Atom.”

The piece was commissioned for the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair and consisted of four elements — earth, air, fire and water — surrounded by eight electrons, four male and four female.

Folk said Gregory and his colleagues like to incorporate humor into their art and put their own twist on traditionally unappealing things and concepts.

“I think the thing that he wanted to do was to do a deathly serious subject like the atom or the apocalypse and do it in a playful way that you can do with ceramics and you could get away with it more in ceramics,” Folk said. “The world was a mess at that time, but rather than show the gloom and the horror in the artwork, they did it in a comical way and today they are much easier to look at.”

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