Intimacy, vulnerability and communication: inside the mind of MFA Ceramics Candidate and Art Therapist, Kathryn Wingard

June 22 2018

by Noelle Sharp

Ceramics MFA Candidate, Kathryn Wingard, is everything you want in an Art Therapist. She is incredibly kind, approachable and speaks with a calming ease. It just so happens she is also an incredible artist. Wingard is going into her final year of schooling in the Department of Art and Art history as well as teaching a course this fall through the TA Fellowship program at the College of Fine Arts.

Wingard originally started her career at Boulder University, working towards her MFA in Ceramic work, when she had a life changing experience that led her to pursue a career in art therapy. She then decided to switch her degree and graduated with a Masters in Art Therapy and Clinical Counselling from Mount Mary University, Wisconsin. 

A transplant to Salt Lake City, Wingard is now going on a year and a half at the University Hospital at UNI (University Neuropsychiatric Institute), where she works as an Art Therapist and an Associate Clinical Mental Health Councelor (talk and drawing therapy). During her time working at UNI, Wingard was still making ceramic work and one day decided “I still am an artist in my core, above and beyond anything else.” She then applied for the MFA program at the College of Fine Arts in ceramics and was accepted. 

The material clay has been an integral part of her life and identity. Wingard sees incredible overlap between the studio work she is currently working on and her art therapy work experiences. The main themes she is looking at in her studio research are intimacy, vulnerability and communication which in its own way is a reflection of the work done during art therapy.
Her previous work involved abstract sculpture and was very process orientated. Her present-day clay work is more interdisciplinary as she works with sound, video and clay.

Wingard began independent study hours with Professor in the Art & Art History Department, Beth Krensky and was soon encouraged to apply for the TA Fellowship within the College of Fine Arts. Wingard jumped on the opportunity and submitted a proposal introducing a class about visual arts and mental health which was accepted for Fall 2018.

The class is not designed as an art therapy class but touches on what happens to your mind when you are creating and the literal reactions of what happens to your brain when you are working with and creating with different materials (such as the psychosomatic responses to chalk vs painting with your hands vs clay vs graphic design on a computer).

The class (open to any undergraduate student) objective is to obtain the knowledge of a variety of psychosomatic experiences of engaging with art as a creator and as a viewer. The class will be in three sections: the experience of creating, art as conflict resolution and art as confrontation. Recurrent themes in every section are empathy and relationships; what is the relationship between artist and object? What kind of work does an artist make when they engage with object/material and with having empathy/having a relationship? What kind of relationship does the artist have with the viewer? What kind of relationship does the viewer have with the object?

Wingard’s hope is to learn together as a group, both teacher and students. She is a big supporter of art therapy because “A lot of what we already do as artists is what is done in therapy, reflective therapy. Processing and engage. Step back and question.” says Wingard.

Clay is the material that drew her to being an artist and her current studio work consists of an investigation of why she is working with clay and taking a look at her relationship with the materials. “There are some fundamental things about the material that I absolutely love, and that make me want to stick with the material. It’s incredibly responsive, it’s responsive to touch, I can sink my hands into it, my whole hands, I can sink my body into it if I wanted too and it would respond to me. “

Wingard’s latest exhibition, “To Open Into Each other”, opens today 6/22 at The Miri Gallery. Join her for sound, video, clay, and some jiggly pie filling!
“To Open Into Each Other”
When: 6/22, 6-9P
Where: Miri Gallery, 3605 W Temple C, Salt Lake City, UT