Two ceramic sculptures made by Highlands student Taylor Kuiper

Ceramics by Taylor Kuiper

December 1, 2021

Taylor Kuiper, a graduating senior at New Mexico Highlands University, will be hosting a closing reception for her fine arts exhibit, Interpretations of Nature, at the Ray Drew Gallery on Dec. 3, from 5 to 7 p.m. Kuiper will be giving an artist talk at 6 p.m.  

Kuiper grew up in her family’s flower shop and said her artistic inspiration comes from plants and flowers and her love of nature. She also credits her art teacher at West Las Vegas High School, McKaila Weldon, with sparking her interest in ceramics.  

“From a young age, I’ve been exposed to nature and it really resonates with me,” said Kuiper. “And along the way, in my artistic journey, I fell in love with ceramics, so most of the work in my show is ceramic art.”  

Kuiper said she has more than 40 pieces in the exhibit, including a handful of paintings and prints.  She said many of the pieces are grouped into installations. One installation, spread across a wall, features numerous vine-like ceramic tendrils with bowls and platters of various colors blooming from the vines like roses.  

“I really try to alter my work in very organic ways to kind of interpret my love for nature, so a lot of things look like vines and petals and leaves,” said Kuiper. “A lot of my ceramic sculpture isn’t really representative of specific things from nature, but are kind of a collection of things put together from my mind—so it’s kind of abstract in a way.”  

Highlands ceramics professor Shereen Lobdell said Kuiper is talented and prolific and that the majority of the pieces in the exhibition were made this semester.  

“Something that has been a topic in ceramics for a long time is this idea of using clay in a way that’s creative, but also holding on to the traditions of clay and the functional object that can be used,” said Lobdell. “I think she’s straddling that line very nicely.” 

Kuiper credits her classes with Lobdell, as well as classes in art history that introduced her to the modernists, with her interest in exploring clay as a medium and exploring abstraction. Kuiper said Lobdell let her explore the material in a way that helped her make it her own.  

“I find myself less and less trying to interpret something directly; mostly I kind of just let an intuitive process kind of take hold so I’m more free with it,” said Kuiper. “It’s really helped me to make something that’s truly mine instead of trying to copy something.” 

Painting of a woman emerging from leaves by Highlands student Taylor Kuiper

Painting by Taylor Kuiper

Lobdell described Kuiper as a fast learner and great student and said she hopes Kuiper will continue to pursue her art in graduate school.  

“Recently, she’s moved forward from making flower-like vases and into making things that also seem to have references to the body, so there’s this sort of overlay of mammal form with plant form,” said Lobdell. “It’s got this really wonderful liveliness to it. There’s a sort of a layering of abstract imagery that makes her work very sculptural.”  

Lobdell said the exhibition enhances the experience of the work and she said she thinks anyone who has been looking to attend an art show this year should consider attending Kuiper’s.  

“I really like the wall installation. I feel like that stretches her artistically,” said Lobdell. “I like the way she hung some of them from the ceiling and it feels like you’re inside of a cave with things coming down from above.” 

Kuiper said the exhibition is her first show and she’s looking forward to seeing her family’s response to her work since they’ve only seen pieces individually. She said she’s also eager to see how everyone else will react to her work.  

“I really hope that everybody can kind of interpret things however they feel,” said Kuiper. “Everything looks like a plant to me because that’s what I want to find in things, but I know a lot of other people say ‘this looks like a body’ or ‘this looks like a weapon’ which is interesting to get other people’s point of view and what they see through their eyes at first glance.”  

Although the exhibition’s closing reception will occur on Friday, the show will remain open for an additional week. People unable to attend in person can view a slideshow of the exhibition on the Ray Drew Gallery page. 

“It’s an excellent show,” said Lobdell. “If somebody wanted to purchase work from her, her pottery, her cups, all of that is highly functional but still very beautiful and sculptural and really delightful things to be able to eat and drink out of.”