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Sculptor Meredith Morten '72 wins a Fulbright Research Award

For archaeologists, axes, pokers and other tools from 8,000 years ago are historical clues. But for sculptor Meredith Morten '72, the artifacts prove that all people – ancient and modern – share the need to create. They are her inspiration.

Morten, who won a Fulbright Research Award last year, is in Hungary studying prehistoric tools, symbols and anthropomorphic objects from the Carpathian Basin.

"Some fabulous objects were produced in the prehistoric era, many of which are beautifully designed," she said.

From January to July, Morten will focus on artifacts made between 6000 B.C. and 1 B.C. – a period that includes the Neolithic, Copper, Bronze and Iron ages. Though most of her day is spent in her studio, she also travels to museums, where she photographs and sketches what she sees, and to libraries, where she gathers background information.

Because there is no written record, one can only guess how these artifacts were used and the meaning of the symbols – which is part of the mystery that draws Morten to them.

Her clay sculptures are abstract interpretations of prehistoric artifacts, which reference the original objects through everything from color to texture.

Morten is fascinated by the thread between ancient and modern-day people, all of whom felt the need to create.

"Despite the thousands of years between us I believe that at the core, we are similar to those living during prehistoric times," she said.

Morten isn't a stranger to international study and said she enjoys viewing things from different perspectives. She previously participated in residencies and artist exchange projects in Macedonia and Croatia.

"I think it is important for everyone to have an international perspective in today's world," she said. "It challenges us to see things through a new lens that can lead to better understanding."

A professor at the Montserrat College of Art in Beverly, Mass., Morten's early interest in art stemmed from her parents. Her mother worked with metal – silversmithing, creating jewelry and welding – while her father, an engineer, was a creative thinker.

Morten, who will return to Montserrat this fall, studied art at Connecticut College, where she was influenced by professors like David Smalley and William McCloy.

"A good art program teaches a student how to problem solve and think creatively, preparing the student with tools that can be used in any medium," she said. "Connecticut College provided me that foundation."

-Rachel Harrington

April 15, 2009