Transformation and “sneaky feminism” are among the themes of “Silent Conversation” by Michaela Valli Groeblacher, opening Friday at the Hays Arts Center, 112 E. 11th.

An art teacher at McPherson College, Groeblacher’s show of life-like ceramic figures, some accompanied by painted backdrops and the poetry of Kim Stanley, chair of the modern languages department at McPherson College, will open with a reception from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday.

Groeblacher worked as a physical therapist in her native Austria before moving to the United States with her family. She began working in landscape design, but in 2005, she said, she was able to obtain her lifelong dream by receiving a bachelor’s degree in studio art from McPherson College, and later a Master of Fine Arts from Fort Hays State University.

“Now, in my third life, I combine my experience and my interest in the human psyche with both of my artistic loves by sculpting life-like and life-size people from clay and subsequently finishing the figures in a painterly manner,” she said.

Her models are actual people, with many of them residents of Bethany Home, a nursing home in Lindsborg, where she was artist in residence. She has also used herself as a model for some of her pieces and completed about two a year. Many are painted with images of butterflies — some subtle, some not — representing transformation.

“It’s all about women and it’s all about women’s life, from the baby to the old person,” she said of the show.

A sculpture of a baby in silver foil represents that women are always in second place, she said.

“You don’t get the gold medal, but you get the silver medal. It’s all a little bit sneaky feminist in a way,” she said Thursday afternoon while setting up the show in the HAC galleries.

“Silent Conversation” will continue at the Hays Arts Center through Nov. 27.