Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Beauty That Gives Shape and Meaning

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Beauty That Gives Shape and Meaning

Article excerpt

AT the heart of the pottery of Brother Thomas lies the positive conviction that beauty can make life a better place. The results would seem to make a strong case for just such a claim. Brother Thomas makes beautiful pots. Exceptionally beautiful pots. So much so that when we first see them we might be surprised by their striking physical appeal, and we might miss just how essential that beauty is to the work, to Brother Thomas, and to us. When we examine the work, however, we discover that not only is the beauty profound, but that it is precisely the experience of that beauty which gives the work its shape and meaning.

There is one thing which Brother Thomas brings to his work that makes the experience of that beauty possible. It is not talent, or skill, experience, or even desire, but faith. Faith is the most necessary and difficult of those qualities to acquire and maintain, especially in the arts. It is the interlocking of faith and beauty which extends the experience of these pots beyond the vessels themselves. As Brother Thomas states in a catalog which accompanied the exhibition:

"In art, all that is present in the physical product, its shape, its feel, its color, its function, its harmony, must somehow be a doorway beyond those sensory things themselves. For you see, it is the function of art to open the human heart to those experiences which have the deepest meaning to the human spirit: truth, beauty, goodness, unity."

This is not to say that the physical product is somehow something less for being a doorway. And yet it is amazing the ease with which this work shoulders such a burden. We are lifted, cupped in its hands, and carried away without even being aware of it. When we look at a vase, or a bowl, we feel the fullness of the volumes, the pressing up and out of the curves which rise to the top and open like a flower.

We savor the luminosity of the glazes, their rich color, their dappled texture, and cool, smooth, stony surface. We witness the gestures which grace that surface, glazes brushed on with a singular intensity that allows for the splatter and drip to play an integral role in the expression which results. An expression which embraces intuition as a key to a larger and deeper experience. These gestures delight in the possibilities, in what can just happen unplanned and unsought, the events which illuminate the artist's experience and ours.

The shape and surface and color of these pots are like fruit and flowers and fish. They have a wonderful earthly quality. The colors range from juicy raspberries and rich, smooth mustards to fiery coppers and midnight blacks. The surface textures can be glossy and slick, crackled, ribbed from the throw on the wheel, or irregular from the brush marks and drips of the glaze.

The shapes of the vessels can be short and full, cylindrical, elongated, or wide and flat, almost two-dimensional. …

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