Nature shown through metal and sculpture: Sarah Spurgeon exhibit features Cozette Philips


Andrew Ulstad

Metal and wood harmonize in the work of Cozette Philips.

Joshua Packard and Zileni Milupi

Behind every artist is a source of inspiration that is reflected in their art, as is the case for Interdisciplinary sculptor and metalsmith Cozette Phillips, whose work not only tells a story, but also reflects the state of our society today.

CWU hosted an opening reception for Phillips’ solo exhibition on Feb. 16, held in the Sarah Spurgeon Gallery in Randall Hall. Prior to the reception, Phillips gave a talk to students and faculty about her career and the skills she’s acquired throughout the years.

According to the Metal Museum website, Phillips earned a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Sculpture and Illustration from Columbus College of Art and Design, and a Masters of Fine Arts in Metals from State University of New York. 

Phillips explained that she took jewelry classes that helped her to incorporate intricate details in her work as she learned to build smaller pieces.

A recurring theme present in Phillips’ work is the aspect of nature, which she said was inspired by her upbringing.

“I grew up in the country surrounded by nature so I’ve had that as a reference point of being in the woods and growing up on a farm,” Phillips said. “So moving from that location to cities and seeing how climate change is affecting the environment around us, has kind of informed my work.” 

Phillips’ art uses recycled materials and draws on different elements that showcase the tension between the environment and the industry. 

One focal point in Phillips’ career is her stay at the largest working artist community in Trondheim, Norway. Phillips worked at the Lademoen Kunstnerverksteder studios, which deals in woodworking, metalworking and photography equipment.

Phillips cited her stay in Norway as one of her most impactful experiences as an artist. 

“There’s an appreciation for light and nature there that you don’t see here in the U.S.,” Phillips said. 

Regarding what young artists can learn from her work, Philips said she hopes she can inspire them to see themselves in her art. 

“There’s a lot of different materials and textures represented that I hope someone can find a connection to,” Phillips said. “With the symbolism in the work, I’m hoping that there is a touchpoint for each person to find connections in their own life as their relationship.”

Sarah Spurgeon exhibit

Creative sculptures, paintings and abstract pieces by Philips are currently on display in the Sarah Spurgeon Gallery and will be available to see until March 11. Horn Johnson said a local prominent contributor to the gallery is Cozette Phillips, who has won numerous awards throughout the years in various exhibits.

Philips’ work titled “FINITE,” took up the space of the whole main wall and may be the first object seen when walking into the exhibit.

Heather Horn Johnson, gallery manager, said it’s important to show artwork on campus.

“We live in a visual culture and experience images on a daily basis, whether on social media or online,” Horn Johnson said. “We experience art everyday and it’s an important form of communication that everyone should learn about.”

The packed gallery showcased pieces ranging from a large slab of orange-tinted crystal to a sizable circle made of individual, small twisted branches. Horn Johnson said they try to present a balance between paintings, sculptures and photos. 

One student attendee, Mona Kahsai, highlighted the significance of art at a university.

“It helps draw people into the moment, letting them contemplate while looking at [the artwork]. It gives students things to think about,” Kahsai said. 

Kahsai said what she liked most about the presented pieces was the message behind them. 

“I like that it explores different conversations with imagery,” Kahsai said. “Many of the works show a lot about nature. The artists do it in a pretty and shiny way, yet sad at the same time.”

Another student, Catherine Degeorge said that they found the exhibit relaxing.

“I like that the art is connected to nature, how it says something about the world without words,” Degeorge said. 

Shawn Jezerianac, a student who attended the opening, said they think art is important for discussion.

“Art should be everywhere, including campus,” Jezerianac said. “I think certain conceptions can be sterile and challenge conventionalities.”

CWU student McKenzie Murphy said she found the juxtaposition of wood and metal interesting. 

“[It] has a way of showing perspectives of ideas. It can also broaden one’s interpretations of art pieces and make them think differently,” Murphy said.