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Juror Seeks Work That Is Expressive, Interesting, Relevant

Nathan Cox, the juror for the 2019 Anderson Artists Guild juried show, was headed toward a career in graphic design until he took a required 3D class at Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois. “It happened that I could get into a ceramics glass, and I had a natural ability with clay,” he said. “The next semester I took a pottery class and learned how to throw. I kept taking classes, and I fell in love with it.”

After completing a master of fine arts degree in ceramics and drawing at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, he embarked on a teaching career that brought him to Anderson University in 2002. He created a concentration in ceramics and sculpture and taught those courses before moving into administration. He now serves as the Assistant Provost of Faculty Development and Core Curriculum, and Director of the Center for Learning and Teaching Excellence. He also still teaches a few courses in the Department of Art and Design.

Because of those responsibilities, he doesn’t exhibit much anymore, though he does continue to make work at a slower pace, present at conferences, and judge exhibitions periodically. As a juror, his baseline expectation is excellent craftsmanship. “It should be flawless as much as we can ever make anything flawless,” he said. He also wants artists to make the most of their medium, “to use materials for what only those materials can do. Work that reveals the process of how it was made it also interesting. That can be done without sacrificing craftsmanship.” He also seeks uniqueness, “something new or a new take on something I’ve seen before.”

He also wants to see a work that is more than realistic and beautiful. “A student’s first goal is to make something look realistic and beautiful, and it’s important to learn how to do that,” he said. “If you can replicate what you see, then you can control the materials to make them do whatever you want them to do. So what I really like to see is what people can do with the materials after they can make them do anything.”

Also, he said, “I look for work that is meaningful, more than just a pretty picture. Beauty is still one of the many valid reasons for making art–it just isn’t the only purpose artwork can serve. I like work that’s personally expressive or has some narrative that’s interesting. Beyond meaningful, I like work that’s relevant to what’s happening in the world today. It’s not that every good piece needs to be about a social issue. But artists have an opportunity to talk about things and ask society to look at things that others don’t necessarily want to look at or talk about. It’s one of the reasons why art is important to a society.

Nathan Cox will discuss his selection process for the recent AAG show at the Anderson Artists Guild meeting on Monday, Sept. 9, at 6:30 p.m. at the Anderson Arts Center. For more information about Cox, visit

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