Goats and rabbits and sheep? Oh my! Louisiana Christian University art professor WangLing Chou gets lots of variation on that exclamation from her students who may find themselves on any given day creating pottery while a goat nibbles on their shoelaces.
Recently she began doing “goat ceramics,” and it’s gotten some buzz around campus. There’s goat yoga; why not goat ceramics?
“[Goats] are very therapeutic,” Chou said. “They just walk around the class, and they are very slow. The students love it. The goats will try to drink from their water buckets, nibble on their pants legs. I usually bring a goat in once a semester if the students are good. Plus, animals are the best models.”
Recognition for work
Chou’s most recent work “Two Rooster Tea Pots” won a merit award at the 54th Annual Tom Peyton Memorial Arts Festival in Alexandria, Louisiana, in April. Over the years she has received much recognition for her unique use of trash to express her love of animals, which permeates everything she does.
Chou said she is happy to participate in this arts festival regularly as it’s important to the Central Louisiana community and features outstanding original works.
“I need to be able to show my students I am still creative,” she said. “Besides teaching, I’m always creating my work. My work centers on my love of animals.”
Fellow LCU faculty member Kathleen McGinty-Johnson, director of the ESL program and English instructor, said she has loved Chou’s artwork for many years.
“Ling’s art gives new life to the things we consider to be trash,” McGinty-Johnson said. “What I truly love is the way that she incorporates her love for animals and nature in her pieces. Her earlier work often featured rabbits, but as she continues to grow her menagerie (sheep, cows, goats and a horse), she increasingly focuses on them as her subjects.”
Chou, who is a native of Taiwan, has taught at LCU for 14 years. She and her husband, Matthew Stokes, an LCU alumnus who teaches English at Louisiana State University of Alexandria, currently have 25 animals, including a horse, donkey, calf, goat, sheep, cats and dogs.
“I mainly teach beginners,” she said. “I go to the basics. The more years I teach, I like the fundamentals, the simple things. I can see the beauty in the beginner. They cannot see it — the innocence, but the beginners’ purity is so beautiful.”
Beauty in bizarre places
Chou admits she finds beauty in bizarre places — like things most people discard.
“I hate trash,” she said. “Everything needs to get the best use it can.”
She looks for ways to reuse things creatively. Many of her works take their forms from recycled soda bottles.
“I take this thing, this Coke bottle for instance, that was only used once, and I ask how can I use it again,” Chou said. “I press and alter it. And immediately I see it’s a chicken. I give trash life and personality.”
Her personality can be seen in the wonder and pop art feel of her work. It resonates with her students who often bring her beautiful garbage, like attractive packaging that has been discarded but can be reused in art projects.
“My students love me so much they bring me trash,” Chou noted with a laugh.
Jocelyn Holt, a junior studio art major concentrating in ceramics from Salinas, California, said Chou’s art is inspiring.
“She has such a strong style that shows through in all her work,” Holt said. “I love how she incorporates her love for farming and her animals into her work, and I aspire to do the same one day. Ling Chou is not only my professor, she is like a mentor to me, and my life has forever been changed since I met her.”
Another former student of Chou who graduated from LCU in 2019, Michael Williams, said she pushed him out of his comfort zone — so much so that he is now completing his master of fine arts degree at Mississippi College.
“She had me entering juried art exhibitions before I would have pushed myself to do so,” Williams said. “She always pushed me to go further with my art, never allowing me to settle. I knew I wanted to pursue a career in ceramics in some form after my first class with Ling.”
LCU President Rick Brewer said Chou’s art is a reminder that the Lord also can take broken and discarded items and turn them into masterpieces.
“Chou’s work is a faithful reminder of the transformational work of the Lord who takes our brokenness and brings restoration,” Brewer said. “God majors in producing pottery from clay.”
EDITOR’S NOTE — This story was originally published by Louisiana Christian University.