Haverford students often search for ways to pursue their academic interests beyond the classroom. Edna Creelman ‘23 couldn’t resist that urge. The sociology major and philosophy and psychology minor created “The Art of Sociology: The Utility of Understanding the Academic Through Ceramic Plate Ware” to celebrate some of the notable academic figures she studied through her four years of coursework. The exhibition, which opened in VCAM 201 on April 11, features a collection of ceramic plates that display portraits of famous thinkers such as bell hooks, Sigmund Freud, and Karl Marx.
The idea behind the exhibition was born when Creelman sought a way to combine her love for pottery and art with her academic interests for a project in her sociology independent study course. “Portraits have always been one of my favorite things to draw, and faces in general are a huge focus in my art, both in 2-D and 3-D works,” she explained. “I thought it would be super cool if I could use a different kind of medium to bring these portraits to life and give a sense of utility to the collection, so I decided on doing ceramic plates.”
Her love for ceramics began in high school and continued through her time at Haverford, even without a formal pottery course or access to the pottery wheel in James House after the Covid pandemic. “When I moved off campus into an apartment in Ardmore and came across a decent deal on a wheel, I turned my bedroom closet and most of my room into a studio and have been doing some commissions and random passion projects since,” said Creelman. “Right now, I’m really into making lamps.”
The sociology major chose figures whose work interested her, and used her ceramic skills to give them a proper introduction to the general Haverford community. Accompanying each plate portrait is a description of the thinker and the general scope of their expertise, along with Creelman’s personal recommendation of one of their works. Next to a portrait of Haverford Professor of Sociology William Julius Wilson, for example, she recommends his book, The Declining Significance of Race (1978).
“This collection has been super fun to create and share, and I think spending time with these plates can prompt lots of interesting questions, ones that I hope humanize and de-formalizes some of these academics,” she said. “What meal would you share with [Sigmund] Freud? What kind of pasta would [Hannah] Arendt like? What wine pairing would go well with a Gouda served on [Bertrand?] Russell?”
Creelman expressed appreciation for her advisor, Professor of Sociology Mark Gould, as well as the sociology and philosophy departments for their support in this project. She also thanks her roommate Max Mondress ‘23 for enduring the mess of pottery tools in the apartment. Associate Director of the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery and Campus Exhibitions Matthew Calinan and Associate Director of the Hurford Center and VCAM provided logistical and installation guidance. All of the assistance helped make creating “The Art of Sociology” a rewarding experience, she says.
“I’m graduating this spring, and completing a thesis has been a huge accomplishment for me, but being able to curate an exhibition to show off my art has been equally rewarding,” said Creelman. “Ceramics is a huge part of my life and it means a lot to share something I am so passionate about with my classmates/professors who mostly know me through my academic work.”
This project was supported by the Hurford Center’s Student Arts Fund.