Passing through Smith Union, one hears the bounce of ping-pong balls, mailboxes snapping open and shut, the murmur of students absorbed in group work.
But, on the second floor, behind the glassy walls of the Lamarche Gallery, stands an arrangement of stunning sculptural pieces that seem to silence the hustle and bustle of the Union.
These are the works of Brandon Lutterman, a prominent local artist and the newest teacher at Bowdoin's Craft Center.
The Lamarche Gallery will house his exhibit "Ocean's Edge" through November 30.
"I think that to have this [exhibit] here is just incredible," said Manager of the Craft Center Bonnie Pardue. "We are very lucky to have Mr. Lutterman working with us this year."
Lutterman returned the sentiment.
"I'm honored to be showing in this beautiful gallery," he said. "It's really a privilege."
It is because of Pardue that Lutterman was offered the position in the first place.
"I am taking an introductory art class at the University of Maine-Augusta, where [Lutterman] teaches," she said. "I was so impressed by his work that I hired him almost immediately."
Lutterman is teaching two classes at the Craft Center this semester.
One is a wheel-throwing ceramics class and the other teaches students to make pieces by hand. Pardue expressed her excitement for Lutterman's current exhibit in Lamarche and his new position in the Craft Center.
"To be able to show art of this caliber is really a privilege," said Pardue. "It lends the Craft Center a whole other dimension. Anyone who sees this will recognize that this is not merely 'crafts' but rather high-quality art."
Though Lutterman is excited to be working at the Craft Center, he had already established himself as an accomplished artist long before his involvement with Bowdoin's program.
He has been working as a professional artist since 1999, having received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Ceramics from Minnesota State University and a Master of Fine Arts from Kansas State University.
After earning these degrees he was hired as the Facilities Director at Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts and is now an adjunct professor at the University of Maine-Augusta and Southern Maine Community College.
Although he has found work as a ceramicist, Lutterman expressed how his success stems from an appreciation and interest for art that he has been cultivating his whole life.
"I grew up on a farm in southern Minnesota, and so I was always surrounded by animals and other natural life," he said. "I've always adored nature, which, as a drawing student is what you observe. That's how you grow—by paying attention to natural patterns."
Lutterman's aptitude for portraying nature in drawing served as an important precursor to his later work in creating natural forms with ceramics.
"I think drawing is a fundamental skill to any medium, and it came very easily to me," he said. "It was only in college that I decided to focus on clay. It's such a flexible medium; it allows for a lot of experimentation. With my work I like to be precarious and really challenge space. I like to push the clay in ways that most people wouldn't push it."
Indeed, "Ocean's Edge" showcases the medium's diverse properties with an impressive display of artistry.
The exhibit features hanging vases meant to mimic the appearance and texture of tree bark, pitcher-like forms whose handles are meant to recall animal horns, and a number of abstract pieces made from thick, curved slices of clay displaying ocean scenes, perched upon what look to be tangles of branches.
And then there are two decorative wall pieces: a neutral-toned sea turtle and a large-scale conjoined fish and sea turtle finished with vibrant blue, green, and purple glaze.
"The concepts of contrast and opposing forces are very important to me," explained Lutterman. "I've always been drawn to oceans, marine biology and the idea of symbiotic relationships. In this particular exhibit I was experimenting with the idea of natural, living organisms superimposed on abstract, industrial forms."
Lutterman's work, also carries an environmental message.
"Something that I tried to get across in this exhibit is the preservation of the natural world," he said. "One reason why I work with clay is because of its sustainability and durability. After I perish my works will still be around. In this way, my exhibit is about being optimistic about life; it's about being hopeful for the future."