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Ceramics

Steven Gorman

GormanSL.299144130_stdSteven Gorman creates biomorphic hybridized forms constructed from white earthenware ceramics, airbrushed acrylics and occasionally an added mixed media element. Having a strong interest in the Surrealist movement, particularly the works of Hans Arp and the contemporary ceramic work of Ken Price, Ron Nagle, and Kathy Butterly, he strives to continue making work within this tradition of the finish fetish object.

He says, 'Through the use of flowing organic bulbous forms, color and pattern choices, I hope to create works which are stunning, alluring, mysterious, sensuous and layered with deeper meanings. Ambiguity of form united with an interesting surface treatment has been the hallmark of my work since 1993. Often there is an underlying veiled contemporary issue reflected within the work. Viewers have used the words; otherworldly, animated, whimsical and cartoony to describe my work. The word illusion has also been mentioned, when they state, how can something so hard appear to look so soft?

Every object starts out as a drawing, is then slab built, smoothed, carved, refined through a three step laborious sanding process, fired, post fire sanded again, cleaned, airbrushed, signed and then sealed. One of my goals has been the merger of painting and sculpting as one united whole, at the same time expressing ideas and concepts pertaining to life in general. My goal is to play a part as contemporary ceramics continues to metamorphosis from the genre of Fine Craft to Fine Art."

 

 

 


Shalya Marsh

Shayla marshShalya Marsh is a ceramic artist whose work holds a certain mystery and message in its fluid shapes and organic forms.

She says, "Through an exploration of decipherable codes and symbols, my work expresses the intrinsic limitation language places on communication. The hand built ceramic sculptures reference illuminated manuscripts, ancient cuneiforms, and primitive accounting systems known as tokens. These archaic systems of recording information are juxtaposed with modern codes and ciphers such as binary, substitution, and Morse. The viewer is invited to literally decode the piece's nonsensical pangrams, whimsical definitions, and historic cipher text.

I use simple mono-alphabetic substitutions in two layers of encryption. In the first, each texture of the ceramic work stands for an individual letter, and in the second, the shapes of the work reference codes such as Morse and binary. The incorporation of binary code into the work is a device that communicates a relationship to modern, digital technologically based forms of communication and encoding. These have become a part of our everyday experience but often go unnoticed.

Recent works have encoded famous cipher text, such as Japanese World War II diplomatic communiqués and passages from the Rosetta stone. The text that I choose serves as a code or metaphor for written and verbal communication. By encoding information, my work shows the inaccessibility of language and communication, creating new systems of signs and symbols that are equally as inadequate as language at conveying meaning."


Richard Swanson

Richard swansonRichard Swanson's ceramic works run the spectrum from utilitarian to art piece.

He says, "An important aspect of all my sculptural work, teapots included, is the way forms relate and flow together. I am constantly combining and simplifying to enhance movement/ rhythm/ unity. My teapots are informed by historical examples-- Inuit carvings, Pre-Columbian ceramics, African sculpture. To some extent Japanese netsuke carvings and Yixing teapots have also been an influence. I admire the concise vocabulary of these pieces, their use of everyday life as subject matter, their compact forms and their straightforward but unique way of relating figurative elements. In much of this work, the traditions of sculpture and function come together in a way that transcends ordinary ornamentation.

I make teapots in editions -- each is a numbered edition of twenty-two or less. The iron-red clay is fired to vitreousness, i.e., the clay particles have fused to the point of being impervious to water. No glazes are used or needed. The satin-smooth surface results from multiple sandings at several stages of the teapot making process.

Enjoyment of material and process has always figured significantly in my motivation to make objects, but recent utilization of media such as cloth, sawdust, burdock, peat moss, barbed wire and straw, has me on a real "materials high." The associations they inspire, their varied texture and simple, but rich, palette seem appropriate for the organic explorations I have carried over from preceding work with higher tech materials. While learning how to take advantage of the inherent tendencies of these materials, I try to persuade them to do the unexpected. This encourages a spontaneous working style, which is allowing me to balance a love of craftsmanship with a desire to develop ideas fast enough to retain the freshness of discovery.

I have gradually come to realize the extent to which the vitality and rhythms of the natural world (as encompassed in its myriad and sometimes surprising forms and life cycles) influence my sense of form and how those forms relate in space. While it is not my desire to mimic that world, I welcome its influence. The act of gathering materials from prairie, ranch and woodland has deepened my understanding of natural cycles and enriched my connection to the art-making process."

 


Kathy Butterly

Butterly-Scout-2013-clay-glaze-3-7_8-x-5-¾-x-3-7_8-inchesJohn Yau of Hyperallergic says, "Kathy Butterly is an American original whose closest forbearer is George Ohr (1857–1918), ‘The Mad Potter of Biloxi.’ The formal traits she shares with Ohr include a penchant for crumpled shapes, twisted and pinched openings, and making (as Ohr was understandably proud to point out) ‘no two alike.’ Working within the confines of the fired clay vessel, Butterly has transformed this long established, historical convention into something altogether fresh and new, melding innovation to imagination so precisely that it is impossible to separate them. To this earlier observation, I would now add: For this and many other reasons, Butterly is deserving of an in-depth museum survey."

Consider the intersection at which Butterly has chosen to work, and you get a sense of her ambition and genius. While maintaining a modest scale, she continually reinvents the fired clay vessel (cup or vase) in ways that exceed anything anyone else has done in the medium. From the unique base to the distinct body (creased, collapsing, convoluted and twisted), to the diverse surface, which can run from smooth to craqueled, often in the same piece, to the saturated color (sunshine yellow, fleshy pink, Veronese green and fire engine red), to minute details (yellow lozenges the size of an elf’s pat of butter), everything (including the spills and stains) in a Butterly sculpture attains its own particular identity.

Butterly’s commemorations of misshapenness contradict a basic assumption in ceramics and, by extension, art, which is it is possible to make a perfect or ideal form, achieve a timeless beauty. The postmodern converse of this ideal, that one can make a perfect corpse (or copy), is well known. Butterly doesn’t buy into these models, with their roots in Plato (the ideal) and Aristotle (classification). Rather, she seems to believe that change is central to experience. In shaping her vessels, she folds, bends and twists the clay, recognizing that anxiety, worry and vulnerability are inherent to existence. Unable to escape time and the constant, multiple pressures it applies, she transforms those forces into contours and forms that are simultaneously goofy and shy, fantastic and disenchanted, gaudy and thwarted, sexy and monstrous.


Tammy Marinuzzi

Tammy MarinuzziCeramic artist Tammy Marinuzzi explores the creative adaptation of the human head and the cup as free wheeling art forms. She says. "Daily interactions, smiles, laughs and sorrows have no cultural bounds. The similarities that make us human and the life events that cause us to be differing inspire my artistic vision. I am a people-watcher, an observer who reads body language and facial expressions and finds there my principle source of artistic inspiration.

The work is meant to express and expose commCeramic artist Tammy on human imperfections, surrounding behaviors such as greed, lust, jealousy, fear, love, and joy. The ceramic objects are utilitarian, amenities that people use on a daily basis: plates, cups, teapots, salt and peppershakers. The work brings self-awareness directly to the table. It is made to mimic the interactions of everyday life and to encourage self-examination. They can be read as heavy both in weight and emotion, a metaphor for human interaction: "One can fill a cup or render it empty."


Hans Vangso

Hans VangsoAt first glance, the work of the Danish ceramist Hans Vangsø (born in 1950) shows an immediate Asian influence—both in its form and in its glaze. However, take a closer look, and one immediately senses the strong and deep underlying personal feel of the North.

A former student of and assistant to the world-renowned Danish ceramist Gutte Eriksen (1918-2008), he represents an understated—but at the same time—rich and balanced tradition of color and tone, inspired by Nordic nature and the natural minimalism of Danish culture.

The objects, in the shapes of jars, vessels, and bowls of all sizes, give equal importance to form and to glaze. The form is quite simple through a disciplined ‘schooling’ with his handling of the clay (a mixture of red clay from Denmark and German stoneware clay). He achieves his extraordinarily expressive glaze through high temperature wood kiln firing (1250-1300 ºC) resulting in an eruptive, lava-like spontaneity.

Hans Vangsø studied at the Art academy of Jutland (Denmark) from 1972 to 1976 and has had numerous solo exhibitions in galleries throughout Europe and the United States since 1990.


Tom Bartel

Tom bartel Tom Bartel is a ceramic artist whose work is at once disturbing and fascinating. He says' "The figure has been a potent symbol and charged subject since antiquity, and continues to be an appropriate vehicle to ask some of life’s most challenging questions. I believe creating images of or depictions about ourselves can be attributed to a primal need to ensure we survive or to simply tell important stories about what it means to be human. As a result, I am confident that this subject will continue to hold our interest for a very long time.

My work takes cues from a “shotgun blast” of influences ranging from antiquity to popular culture and is constructed to refer to both the body and also charged, stylized, surrogates for the body such as dolls, toys, and figurines. The questions that arise from this cultural mishmash fuel my creative practice. I am interested in both the fragmentation and simplification of human form, especially how this decision encourages, if not requires, the viewer to participate with the work. Within this context, I view that which is absent as significant as that which is present. Furthermore, I use the human condition as a point of departure where themes related to gender, rites of passage, fertility and mortality are constant “threads” within my creative practice.

I see our skin as having the same story-telling potential as the ceramic surfaces I develop. Ultimately, I view these “marks” as having the capacity to be both formally beautiful and to suggest changes that have taken place over time. Surface patterns are also used to blur the line between where clothing ends and skin begins, where the concepts of mask, identity, disguise, and transformation are fundamental to my concerns. Throughout our life our appearance slowly and inevitably changes; in the process our skin records this story."

 

James Prez

Jim Prez's 'book-tures' (sculptures comprised of a book base with found objects artfully fastened atop) make inspired use of thrift store bric-a-brac and second-hand books.

Booktures and book reserves

What is your background in art-making?

I have been making things since grade school but very early on I took to photography and worked on making photographs for many years. I don't have an art degree from college but I did get an MFA in Photographic Studies from Visual Studies Workshop in Rochester, NY. Much of my background in art comes from looking at books from libraries in the various cities that I have lived in. I have tried to make at least one thing every day since 1977.

What was the inspiration for the idea of creating these booktures?

I was visiting the Philadelphia Museum of Art and noticed that there were more people waiting in line to have their pictures taken with the Rocky Statue than were going to the museum. I figured that I could make more interesting works for people to visit and be photograhed in front of than the Rocky bronze so I started working on maquettes for monumental sculptures. The "booktures" came directly from that idea.

Who are some of your artistic (or other) influences?

I try not to be influenced by other artists' work but I surely do love looking at other artists' work. There are so many that it would be difficult to name them all. Of course I would have to list Vincent van Gogh, Marcel Duchamp, Joseph Cornell, Robert Rauschenberg, Joan Mitchell, Georgia O'Keefe, Lee Krasner, Yayoi Kusama, Howard Finster, James Castle and Richard Tuttle. I have been fascinated by the work of Suzanne Goldenberg for the past few years. Her work is pure magic. I love artists who make work but aren't concerned with selling, showing or getting reviewed. Work that comes from the heart and soul.

Does the title of the book play any role in what gets put on top of it?

The title of the book rarely plays a role in the book. I wish I was smarter and more clever in that regard. The book, however, is the point of departure for the work. I play off its shape, size and color.

Bookture and Book Display

Where do you find your found art?

I spent a year looking for the raw materials, for my booktures, in thrift stores, junk stores, and at the Salvation Army, garage sales, church sales, library sales, stoop sales and on the street.

I also visited the Strand two or three times a week during that year. I took another two years to assemble and photograph the booktures. There are approximately 250 of them. I stopped making them but did make three new ones for the Mulberry Library show.

Obviously your work includes books—was this your motivation for displaying work in libraries?

Yes, absolutely. The library is free and open to all. I like that idea very much!

Where else do you show your work?

I show my work in galleries, museums, artist spaces and on the street.

I like to post things on Facebook also. Printed Matter has been selling my bookverks since 1988. I will have had 25 years of bookmaking and finished my 500th book by the year's end. (2013)


Kathy Ruttenberg

Kathy RuttenbergKathy Ruttenberg’s themes started taking shape in the early 1980s; her concern with the figure, the natural world and human relationships is evident in efforts that included painted papier-mâché sculpture, painting and jewelry. But she didn’t come into her own until about 15 years ago, when she turned to glazed clay after enduring a painful divorce and moving to the country, where she lived full time with a retinue of rabbits, pigs, cats, dogs and goats. Inspired by them, the woods and their inhabitants, she began constructing a wonder world in which species merge and figures serve as landscapes. Trees grow out of heads and hips; they colonize the skirts and bodices of a spiky-haired woman (Ms. Ruttenberg’s chief protagonist) and the pant legs of her occasional male figures, like the immense one titled “Manscape.” Insects and animals abound, including owls peeking out of holes in tree trunks.

Ms. Ruttenberg’s latest efforts make her a force to contend with as a narrator and symbolist, a form maker and colorist. Coating sexual tensions with a storybook innocence, she works in a triangle bordered by Louise Bourgeois, Viola Frey and Beatrix Potter. Her blunt figurative style relates to those of Stephan Balkenhol, Claudette Schreuders, Alison Saar, Kiki Smith and, in a way, David Altmejd. She also draws on the centuries-old tradition of porcelain figurines while studiously ignoring all boundaries, especially those dividing insider and outsider; art and craft; and high, low and kitsch.

The elusiveness of love may be Ms. Ruttenberg’s über-theme. Her often large figures remind us that the animal kingdom has an order in its relationships — thanks partly to the food chain — while humans can suffer a chaos of ambiguity and ambivalence. In “Special Species” a tiger prowls over the shoulder of a woman with a third eye, while an alert deer dominates the front of her skirt; on the skirt’s back the reality of the tiger killing the deer almost shocks. In another piece an anxious, seemingly female figure wearing a pink dress and holding a flower turns out to have stubble; the title — “He Likes Plants” — doesn’t mention an attraction to female clothing. Again and again, Ms. Ruttenberg’s environmentally astute fantasies assert that human companionship may be hard to sustain, but, like it or not, we are one with nature.

From the New York Times


Marcelino Vicente

Mexican potteryIn the rural Mexican state of Michoacán, devils, mermaids, saints, sun gods, and drunks can all be found mixing it up and having a great time. Each of these characters, and many more, inhabit the strange universe depicted in sculptures produced in the tiny town of Ocumicho.

These bizarre pottery tableaux feature hybrid scenes from everyday life, religious allegories, and native folklore, all borne from the mind of a unique young man named Marcelino Vicente. Resembling Hieronymus Bosch’s nightmarish landscapes from the 1500s, but with a Catholic-folk art twist, these ceramic fantasies are found nowhere else. Yet during the 1960s, Vicente’s eccentric lifestyle was perceived as a threat to the town’s social hierarchy, which ultimately destroyed him for being different.

Don Lewis, an artist and collector of Mexican folk art, says the strangeness of Ocumicho pottery first caught his eye in a Santa Fe antiques shop nearly 20 years ago. “Just the life in it, the colors, the craziness of it,” says Lewis. Before he knew it, Lewis was purchasing Ocumicho pieces to decorate his home.

“The first one I ever bought was very simple, nothing too weird about it. It was just two people—a woman and a man—out in an agave field, picking agave to make tequila. The second one was like a man in the moon, but it’s more of a sun face with really sharp teeth. Then another one came along, and I started noticing the devils.” These miniature devil figures, or diablitos, are a particularly striking element of Ocumicho sculptures.