Beloved dog’s death leads to artistic journey for Mississippi professor
Published 7:45 am Tuesday, February 28, 2023
Time offered Ian Childers a chance to reflect upon and to connect with his past.
Childers spent a lot of that time with his dog, Simon, a pit bull he rescued as a puppy nearly eight years ago. Late in 2019, Simon was diagnosed with lymphoma and had to undergo six months of chemotherapy.
At the end of Simon’s treatment, Childers, an associate professor of ceramics in the Department of Art and Design at Mississippi University for Women, was set to begin a sabbatical in California, so he decided to take Simon with him.
A bittersweet adventure turned out to be a one-way trip.
Simon’s death due to cancer in August 2020 created a gap in Childers’ life that prompted him to pause and look back. It also led to an epiphany and work on a project that examines Childers’ artistic journey.
Childers’ latest collection “Pots for Simon” recently received a Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters (MIAL) Award nomination in the Visual Arts category. This is the first time Childers has been nominated.
Childers is one of five individuals with ties to The W who was nominated. C.T. Salazar (“Headless John the Baptist Hitchhiking”) and T.K. Lee (“Scapegoat”) were nominated in the Poetry category. Dr. Valentin Bogdan (“3 Songs on the Poetry of Mihai Eminescu”) and Joe L. Alexander (“DJ2 Extravaganza” and “The Ruffner Mountain Express”) were nominated in the Music Composition, Classical category.
The winners will be announced June 3 at the 44th Annual Awards Gala in Oxford.
“These pots were a sort of reflection of that entire time in my life, and a bit of a look back into my original roots in art, which were when I was a teenager writing graffiti in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,” Childers said. “Writing graffiti was the first artistic endeavor I took seriously. The first book I bought for myself was ‘Spraycan Art’ by Henry Chalfant. It was the first thing I studied on my own and purely for myself. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was a major step toward taking my art seriously, and that first step into learning to learn for myself.”
Childers said Simon enjoyed three good months living with him in a redwood forest in northern California before he died. When he returned to Mississippi, Childers said his daily routine had changed so much and he had time to think about how he could connect parts of his artistic lives. Childers said the resulting pottery is a bit of a personal diversion from his standard practice and features large wheel thrown forms with spray paint and paint markers.
Childers said “Pots for Simon” provided an opportunity to test his skills and to push his limits in a way that is different from the trial-and-error chemistry process and the technology he uses to grow two-dimensional crystals on the surface of pots.
“Making the same work over and over can get boring,” Childers said. “I like to divert from time to time just to reacquaint myself with my passion for making and for ceramics. The work was new and old and blended some of the art worlds of my past with my present.”
Childers said he has fond memories of his days as a graffiti artist and still follows his graffiti-writing friends. He also cherishes the time he spent with Simon and hopes it will continue to provide inspiration in the future, which includes four shows this year that will showcase more of his traditional crystalline glazed work.