UCO’s Melton Gallery Showcasing Art from the Amazon

UCO’s Melton Gallery Showcasing Art from the Amazon

A new exhibit on display at UCO's Melton Gallery features artwork from the Amazon.

Photo: A set of Ecuadorian Amazonian figures sit on display near the entrance of the Melton Gallery at UCO. These figures, collected by art researchers Joe Molinaro and Richard Burkett are for sale for $90. (Ryan Naeve/ The Vista)

The University of Central Oklahoma’s Melton Gallery is displaying a new exhibit about Amazonian culture through March 23.

Titled “Contemporary Ceramic Art from North and South America,” the exhibit opened on Thursday, March 2 and features art collected from the Amazon region.

The Amazon is the world’s largest rain forest, stretching across eight different countries including Brazil, Peru and Ecuador.

The art in the exhibit, however, features indigenous pottery gathered from nine different groups from the Ecuadorian Amazon by art researchers Joe Molinaro and Richard Burkett.

Over their 25 years of visiting the region, Molinaro and Burkett studied the differences between groups known as the Kichwa, Shuar, Achuar, Zapara, Shiwaiar, Cofan, Siona-Secoya, Andoa, and Huaorani by documenting the variations of the different customs.

There are a total of 90 different ceramic works showcased not only from Ecuador, but also from Molinar and Burkett.



“We’ve set up the exhibition to encourage a visual dialogue between places and cultures and between Amazonian history and contemporary art,” said Jessica Williams, the Melton Gallery’s coordinator of programming and audience engagement.

“The Ecuadorian pottery alone displays a variety of functions and forms, with everything from bowls and pots to mythical figures from ancient Ecuadorian folklore,” she said. “Some pieces are really quirky, and I think people will be surprised at the sheer range of pottery on display.”

Williams said the exhibit is essential to connecting communities across the world.

“Richard and Joe have spent years interacting with people in the Amazonian region, most of whom haven’t ever been outside their community,” she said. “Because of this cultural insulation, Richard and Joe’s research and work is vital to connecting us with these cultures that are otherwise unknown to the mainstream art world.

“The sheer amount of effort it takes to preserve a culture’s pottery is impressive on its own, and UCO is really fortunate to be able to hold such a unique collection.”

The exhibit isn’t only for students. Anyone interested in subjects like history, religion, or culture will have fun seeing the art, Williams said.

“Each ceramic piece has a story and individual behind it — and that’s what makes this exhibition so fascinating,” she said.

The Melton Gallery hosted an opening night event for the exhibit on March 2, where patrons could purchase art, visit with artists and ask questions about Molinaro and Burkett’s research.

The gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday and features a new exhibit each month. For more information, visit the Melton Gallery’s webpage or call (405) 974-2432.

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