MSUM duo inspires creative collaboration

Brad Bachmeier and Zhimin Guan, two MSUM School of Art faculty members, recently finished displaying their second collaborative art exhibit, “Convergence/Transcendence,” at the Rourke Art Museum.

The exhibit featured Zhimin’s landscape watercolor and oil paintings and Brad’s hand-thrown ceramic clay pots. They wanted to capture the beauty of nature’s benevolence in one fluid and cohesive exhibition. Their inspiration comes from national park landscapes ranging from the Grand Canyon to Zion National Park.

The duo worked over winter break, spending many hours creating and learning from trial-and-error in the studio. One difficulty they faced was matching the ceramic pot glazes to Zhimin’s paintings. Glazes can look quite different from the original color after they have been fired in a kiln. Each pot had to undergo many fires, making it difficult for the artists to anticipate the result and if it would pair with the intended painting.

Despite some hurdles, Brad and Zhimin constructed multiple fluid pieces of art. Together, they learned to appreciate different art mediums and learn from each other’s creative styles.

Zhimin has been making art since the age of 9 and he’s always aimed to capture the beauty of nature through his paintings. After coming to MSUM in 1998, he switched his primary artistic focus to landscape portraits. For him, art is an emotional release; each piece is created to invoke strong feelings and convey a message to the viewer.

Learning from each other

“Art is creating something that has never existed before and it can be so beautiful,” he says.

While working with Brad, Zhimin grew a newfound respect for their dynamic and mediums. Brad taught him new techniques, and he found constructive criticism both driving and educational.

Zhimin encourages students to work with other artists to find a new appreciation for different styles and learn how they are used. Every artist has a story, and each interaction can be a learning opportunity.

Zhimin also expresses deep gratitude to many individuals who have impacted his art and his life.

“I am sincerely thankful to the university, the School of Art, and the School of Media Arts and Design. I am also thankful to the students who are passionate and interested in doing art,” he says.

Inspiring one another

Brad’s love for pottery and exploring national parks goes back over 10 years. He’s completed many residencies in regions like the Grand Canyon, Theodore Roosevelt National Park in the Badlands and in Mesa, Arizona. He studies the history of humankind's connection to the earth at each park through clay. Then, he constructs pieces that represent the park, so those who cannot acquire a pass or find time to visit can still enjoy what the park offers.

For Brad, one of the biggest challenges to creating is what he deems a waiting game.

“The work tells you what it wants and sometimes you have to wait to understand it,” he says.

It can take making 20 to 30 small pots to find inspiration for a larger piece. Much of the inspiration for his grander pieces have been drawn from smaller works that kickstarted his creativity. Practice and trial-and-error become the foundation for self-inspiration.

Like Zhimin, Brad does not view their work as competing but rather inspiring. They agree that a different perspective can open one’s eyes to new routes or creations. Brad owns his own pottery business and does commission work alongside his position at MSUM.

As they continue their individual artistic journeys, the artists are excited about the future and hope to continue creating for many years to come.

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