The State of Clay in Lexington, Massachusetts
Mellin, Barbara Rizza, Ceramics Art & Perception
FROM THE FUNCTIONAL TO THE FANTASTIC, THE artwork on display in The State of Clay exhibition held during April, 2007, in Lexington, Massachusetts, USA, illustrated the diversity of expressions possible in the world of ceramics today. Utilitarian objects, such as the practical Syrup Pitcher by Hollis Engley of East Falmouth and elegant Nesting Bowls by Elizabeth Cohen of Wellesley demonstrated that even the most serviceable of items can be artistic. These served to encourage all of us to enrich our everyday surroundings with style or imagination. Sculptural pieces like Fish Maid by Claudia Olds Goldie and wholly whimsical works such as a ceramic salad by Alice Abrams, made with clay doughnuts, reminded us that sometimes we need to embellish our world with art. The exhibit included traditional pieces such as white tea bowls by Steven Roberts of Ohio and innovative works like Megumi Naitoh's computer-pixilated portrait.
Altogether 82 works, selected from a record-breaking 288 submitted entries, were represented in the show. All of the applicants at one time resided in Massachusetts, but today, they span the geographic spectrum. Participants came from 11 states of the US and from Canada.
Chris Gustin, studio artist and Emeritus Professor of Ceramics at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, served as juror for the exhibition, selecting the participants and the award-winners. Gustiri s own work is in numerous public and private collections including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Daum Museum, the Syracuse Museum, the Shigaraki Cultural Park in Japan, the Yingge Museum in Taipei and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. For the first time, artists were asked to send digital images rather than slides for the jurying process. This system offered rewards and challenges for Gustin, and presented new considerations for the applicants. He found that some images were in low resolution, so seeing the details was a problem in a few cases. Still, he said, "It was a delightful process, having days, rather than hours, to sit alone and look at images on the computer, taking time to consider the work that was so carefully presented."
For the overall process of selecting exhibitors, Gustin tried to show the diversity that exists, concentrating on the wide variety of expressions and items. He said he was looking "to see the voices out there", and asked himself if they spoke with a particular point of view. Additionally, he looked for the -technically sound and the well-executed pieces".
Deciding on the award recipients, however, was a different experience. Here, said Gustin, he "allows [his] own prejudices to come through. The fun about giving the specific awards," he said, "is in thinking about what [he] would personally want to look at." This aspect of the award process, Gustin admits, was "not so egalitarian".
Gustin granted two top Best of Show prizes. One went to a teapot by Stephen Grimmer of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, while the other was for a sculptural piece, Aspiration by Marc Mancuso of Somerville, Massachusetts, USA.
When looking at the teapots, said Gustin, there's a way of interacting with them in a particular time and place. He tried to imagine actually using them, and chose the Grimmer teapot because it was "nice and full and inventive within a strict format". The stoneware piece is rich in tactile appeal with a raised diamond-shaped design covering the surface of its rounded form.
Aspirations by Marc Mancuso is a handbuilt, stoneware piece standing 80 cm (32 in) high. …