After 40 years of teaching art history and ceramics, primarily at LA City College, I am back in the studio,
making high fired stoneware and porcelain, functional and not so functional, for indoors and out.
I was drawn to ceramics in high school, influenced by a gifted art teacher, Tony Scaccia. My own teaching career was in part an attempt at pay back, and my attachment to the ceramic medium has only grown through the years.
I am struck by the complex cultural statements made in a simple medium by past cultures, as when a serving bowl became a ritual object, ultimately entombed with its owner.
Ceramic chemistry is also complex, yet it directly reflects the natural processes that have shaped the earth. So clay is both natural and cultural; what's not to like?
Following a master's degree in '64, at UCLA under Laura Andreson and Bernard Kester, my first job in ceramics was at Architectural Pottery under David Cressey. Each in their way were part of the mix of modernism with nostalgia for the tradition of the handcraft artisan that marked the post WWII renaissance of studio ceramics. Mid-century modern Scandinavian ceramists were still active and a strong influence on my teachers (and their students). Likewise, the great Japanese tradition. Shoji Hamada had visited UCLA just a few years earlier. It was the era of the designer-craftsman, which Cressey came to embody.
Rebelling against my teachers and what seemed to me then a dead tradition, and drawn in by the revolution begun by Peter Voulkos, I made expressionist pots, Pop Art pots, anti-pots, and finally not pots at all.
Of course, Andreson and Kester were devoted educators and skilled craftspersons, and Cressey remarkably merged the handcraft tradition with large scale commercial production. Not surprisingly, they have cast a long shadow; I'm making pots again and the pots I make now sure borrow a lot from theirs.
Teaching and researching art history found me more than once in a museum room where a singly displayed pot held its own with sculpture or painting nearby. I had to ask, what would it mean for a simple pot to carry the weight and meaning of sculpture ? Is it historical distance? Is it the powerful presence of primary forms, at once abstract yet expressive of meaning through reference to function?
I'm working on it. Long way to go.