"Why don't you add some color to your work?" That's a question I am asked now and then, and while I don't mind explaining, it's hard to put into words, as it is a matter of subjective preference, not one with a clear answer that's right for everyone. For the functional potter, in to have a non-porous, durable surface suitable for everyday use, glaze is a must. But for ceramic sculpture, glaze is optional. I'm not personally opposed to glazed sculpture, in fact some of the pieces I most admire are beautifully glazed, colorful works of art.
Yet there is also a rich tradition of "naked" or unglazed ceramics, in which the surface of a piece is enhanced by texture, stains, burnishing or pit-firing. Artist Jane Perryman has written a
book about the history of naked clay, and her book would be a great place to start if you're interested in learning more about the subject.
Here's a link:
The best way to start the new year? Connect with a new gallery! And the Higher Art Gallery in Traverse City is not just new to me, but to the art scene in northern Michigan as well. Opening in late November of 2016, this gallery offers up a contemporary selection of artwork to join the traditional galleries in the area.
Northern Michigan is a beautiful region, and a popular tourist destination in the warmer months of the year. Most local galleries cater to the tourist crowd, selling landscape paintings and other more traditional works. Shanny Brooke, owner of Higher Art Gallery, believes her city is ready for some more diverse options. Her new venue features abstract paintings, photography and sculpture from local, national and international artists.
Soon my ceramics will also find a home in her gallery. Several sculptures and wall pieces will be on their way to Michigan by the end of February, and I'm working on a few new organic wall pieces to add to the selection. Daisy Bouquet (above) will be included in the mix, as will the Round Barnacle Wall Piece (below).
It's that time of year again! With no more warm weather, no more beautiful leaves, and no flowers to lure me outside, I am hunkering down in my basement studio, and entering my most productive phase of the year. This cold, dark dungeon of a studio transforms into a reasonably bright, but not very warm work space. I have a space heater to take off the chill, but the heat only goes so far.
Not to worry! I always keep myself bundled up and focus on the work at hand. Once I have my kiln loaded with new greenware, I get to bask in the warmth that results from the firing process, though the pleasant temperature soon wears off and then I'm back to adding extra layers of clothing. Sometimes I hear the winter wind howling outside, or I see snow piling up against my tiny basement windows, and I feel relieved to be tucked away where it's safe and at least relatively warm.
I am fortunate to have my fall chores done now, so that I can concentrate on my work without distraction. Right now I'm working on a set
of vases made of small, thin, textured slabs that I overlap and carefully join as I build each piece. I'm using a brown stoneware clay, and I plan to apply some black glaze to enhance the texture
of the slabs. The inside of each vase will be fully glazed, but on the exterior I'll brush on and then wipe off the glaze, so that the dark color will remain only in the grooves and crevices. I
look forward to seeing these vases through to the end, and warming up my studio along the way.
Below is the first one of this series:
At the American Museum of Ceramic Art, I'm happy to have a piece in the current exhibition celebrating biomorphic ceramics. It's a peculiar term, this "biomorphism." I'm not sure how other artists define it, but for me it's an artistic interpretation and exploration of our connection to living organisms, whether beautiful, creepy or even grotesque.
I'm not great at definitions, so I turned to my dictionary for some guidance. I found the Merriam Webster dictionary has a definition even broader than mine:
Definition of biomorphic: resembling or suggesting the forms of living organisms <biomorphic sculptures> <biomorphic images>
Interestingly, the Merriam Webster dictionary dates the first use of the word 'biomorphic' to 1895. I would have thought the word was coined more recently than that.
I looked at another online dictionary for comparison and found this definition:
a painted, drawn, or sculptured free form or design suggestive in shape of a living organism, especially an ameba or protozoan: The paintings of Joan Miró are often notable for their playful, bright-colored biomorphs. ... biomorphic, adjective. biomorphism, noun.
It's still a rather broad definition, but I'm not complaining, because it leaves the term even more open to interpretation. For me, rather than fussing with definitions, it's probably easier to show examples of work I think of as biomorphic. So, below are examples by three different artists: Lindsay Feuer, Charles Birnbaum, and Alice Ballard. Along with an example of each artist's work, I'm including a quote from that artist's website. You can check out their websites for more images, and there are many! These artists have produced some fascinating work, all with an organic quality, but not resembling any specific organism or plant. The joy of this approach to clay is in creating something lifelike that doesn't exist in reality, but is instead the product of the artist's imagination.
"Suspended in the realm between reality and fantasy, my sculptures explore the organic process of growth, replication, and locomotion.”
Late summer is the time when flowers surround us, and in my garden I'm overwhelmed by sprawling rudbeckia, cone flowers and other prairie plants at the peak of their performance. Each plant seems determined to spread its seeds, and indeed the seeds have made my flowers multiply in abundance.
It's impossible to appreciate all these lovely blossoms before they fade, and fall catches up with us, and perhaps that's why I capture as many images as I reasonably can throughout the season. Naturally, floral forms are an endless source of inspiration in my studio, and many of my favorite pieces bear a resemblance to blossoms of various sizes and shapes. The piece below is titled "Sunflower Form," and I designed it to function as a fountain, though I have yet to install a pump. I'm enjoying the piece just as it is for now.
During the summer I spend less time in my studio, in part because I have so much to tend to outside -- from vegetables to pick, weeds to pull, and cut flowers to put in vases. And let's face it -- a basement studio is just not that appealing on a beautiful summer day.
From, "New Shoots," to "Spring Rising," the influence of spring is evident in much of my sculptural work. After a harsh winter in Iowa, it's a thrill to watch new life literally rising from the
The photo above is from my garden. I've captured the image of hosta leaves sprouting from the soil after a long period of dormancy. The hosta, like many plants, quickly progresses from this stage to being fully open, and if you don't pay close attention, you'll miss the rise of spring.
It's a comfort to know my perennial plants remain alive through the winter, even though no visible evidence of life is present for several months. How could anyone NOT be inspired by the miracle of spring?
I'm happy when I discover a new gallery, and while it turns out the Gilded Pear Gallery in Cedar Rapids is actually five years old, I wasn't aware of it's existence until recently, when I entered
the Divided|Attraction juried show. This is the gallery's first juried show, and the opening reception (Friday, April 8th) was well-attended. Food and wine were abundantly supplied, and the
guests lingered a long time.
The Gilded Pear is a gallery with far more space than would appear at first glance. Beyond the main room where Divided|Attraction is displayed, there is a large room and long hallway filled with art. There's much to take in, and the whole gallery is worth exploring at length.
I have a feeling the Gilded Pear will be a thriving gallery for years to come, and I'm honored to be a participant in the gallery's first juried show. The merit award was a pleasant discovery too!
(Photo from the Divided|Attraction Opening Reception at the Gilded Pear Gallery in Cedar Rapids, IA)