Students in the Lenoir-Rhyne University art program are encouraged to pursue in-depth studies into a variety of different forms to develop an eclectic skill set with attention to detail and a drive to create.
If they have any question what that looks like, they need look no further than their own professor – Claire Pope.
Pope, an assistant professor and coordinator for the art program at LR, is an accomplished artist in her own right. A graduate of Berry College in Georgia and the University of Kentucky, she also attended the prestigious School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
"I would call myself an interdisciplinary artist," she said. "I do sculptures, mostly from found natural objects, or outdoor work where I'm making sustainable structures. I do small sculptures from collected objects.
"I enjoy experimenting. To me, it feels like the boundaries are limitless."
In the last year alone, she's had a painting series, Rain Collaboration, on display at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill that subsequently went on display at The Mint Museum in Charlotte. She collaborated on an outdoor sculpture structure, called Hermit, with her husband that won an award while on display at the North Carolina Botanical Garden. She then worked on an interdisciplinary project with LR philosophy professor Michael Deckard, Ph.D., to develop an exhibit for the Hickory Museum of Art, in addition to having a painting put on display at the Ionion Center for Arts and Culture on Kefalonia Island in Greece.
She also had a piece go on exhibit at the Cat Eye Creative studio in downtown Atlanta, Georgia.
That's on top of teaching studio art, art history, art theory and art activism in the 21st century, as well as teaching drawing, painting, sculpture and occasionally graphic design at LR.
"I really don't have any free time," she said laughing.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Pope was scheduled to return to Lake City, South Carolina, for a month-long show in 2020.
"I was there last year; it's cool," she said. "They shut the whole town down for one month, and they line all the businesses with artwork. There are different installations, and people come from all over the world to show their work. It's cutting edge, innovative work."
Both describe Pope's work.
A self-described farm girl from Kentucky, she grew up spending time outdoors, a habit she maintains to this day.
"I feel like that's the source of all of my inspiration," she said.
One of her more popular series – along with Rain Collaboration and Hermit -- centers on Pope's passion for the outdoors. While on hikes, she gathers natural materials – leaves, flowers, even a snake skin – that she encases in a half-sphere epoxy form. That form is then set atop shelves custom designed by Pope with LED lights embedded in the form that highlights and projects the natural object to the viewer.
"She has distinguished herself as a gifted artist, teacher and colleague," said Dan Kiser, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. "She sets high expectations for both her students and for her own artistry. We are proud of the work that she is doing both as a teacher and as a professional artist, and we're fortunate to count her among our outstanding teachers and scholars."
This summer, Pope had accepted an appointment for an artist residency position on the Isle of Skye in Scotland. She was going to be provided with a house and studio to create art for a month. However, due to COVID-19, that is postponed.
"It's a dream to do things like that," she said. "I would like to study foraging pigments and make my own paints. That's my goal. I want to continue the Rain Collaboration series, but do it with naturally sourced paints."