exhibition slideshow

9 Artists Transcending the Medium of Clay

curated by

On View
September 10 through October 15, 2011

Opening Night Reception
Saturday, September 10, 2011
7:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m.


Inherent to an exhibit named "FEAT of CLAY" is an affirmation that viewers will see courageous and strong work but also a suggestion of hidden vulnerability. Curated by RUTH REESE, the exhibition reflects the intense dualism of the title. Featuring the work of nine area artists working across a spectrum of methods and philosophies, but linked by their medium, FEAT of CLAY brings together unexpected interpretations of clay, proving to be inventive and inspiring. The exhibition in on view September 10, through October 15, 2011 with a free public reception for the artists on Saturday, September 10, 2010 from 7:00 - 10:00PM.

The artists featured in FEAT of CLAY include Jeri Au, Susan Bostwick, Jerry Breakstone, Charity Davis-Woodard, Rick Dunn, Melody Evans, Ron Fondaw, Jim Ibur, and Ruth Reese. The show's curator, RUTH REESE, suggests that: "Through this cross section of gifted artists, we can celebrate some of the challenging and beautiful works inspired by the medium. Even more, these artists will re-examine the material itself. Look closely, you will see a careful dance with ephemera and fragility, (literally) tried by fire."


Feat of Clay: Blazing New Paths

What is at stake in naming an exhibit "Feat of Clay?" There is the affirmation that the viewer will see courageous and strong work. However, say that phrase out loud and there is the echo of the expression "feet of clay". In the hearing of the phrase, there is the suggestion of a hidden vulnerability.

Within ceramics itself, there is a tension reflecting this double entendre. How can exceptional art also have an inherent weakness, simply because it is clay? Let's look closer at the original parable. In a vision, a king sees a statue with a golden head, a silver chest, brass legs and feet of clay and iron. Then, a stone is thrown at the feet of the beautiful statue, causing it to collapse. What does this vision mean? Because of its clay feat, the beautiful statue falls and because of its inherent weakness the king's empire will also be vulnerable.

Perhaps then, clay is better suited to other endeavors than defending a kingdom. Indeed, clay can record movement like no other medium - it is the envy of bronze. It can reflect surfaces, as rich and delicious, as any painting. Clay can be molded into the great gifts of civilization, functional and architectural objects. Simply for that, ceramic artists should take their feet of clay and blaze their trail.

There are other struggles in the field of ceramics, like its positioning within art history, which undermines clay art's very existence. Even though, there are great clay artists making headway in form and revolutionizing content, their names are not printed in the canon of art history texts. There are creative ceramic artists asserting demanding theses, pouring out installations - think of Ai Weiwei. There are pottters creating a refined sense of "form through function" and potters who encourage ritual with functional masterpieces. These truly are the "feats", the great accomplishments. Although we assert that clay, along with other traditional craft materials, has a formidable presence in contemporary art - that role is at best ambiguous. Ceramics has yet to consistently brand its history. In other words, it has not asserted its legacy or future within contemporary art through writing and placement of key works. Perhaps, it's simply the commitment to one medium (often inherent to ceramics), as opposed to a fluid appropriation of new materials that sets it apart. For sure, ceramic work draws a line in the sand and past that line you will actually find a fiery commitment to the object. That line is something the contemporary world often shies from.

Through this cross section of gifted artists, we can celebrate some of the challenging and beautiful works inspired by the medium. Even more, these artists will re-examine the material itself. Look closely, you will see a careful dance with ephemera and fragility, often tried by fire, and art that will cause kingdoms to crumble.

~ Ruth Reese


Jeri Au's mixed media installations combine clay with unexpected (and often organic) materials. For 15 years, Au ran a successful studio pottery in the St. Louis region. Originally from Hawaii, she has exhibited her work across the US, the People's Republic of China and Hong Kong. She received her B.A. in English from St. Louis University in 1969. She also studied at St. Louis Community College, University of Hawaii, and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. She is now the head of ceramics at Webster University.

Susan Bostwick's ceramic work reflects on cycles that come with the changes in seasons and life. Bostwick exhibits nationally and has been published in "Teapots Transformed, Exploration of an Object", "500 Animals" and "The Yixing Effect." In the region, Bostwick has taken on significant roles within Craft Alliance, Jacoby Arts Center, John Burroughs School, SIU Edwardsville and the Firehouse Pottery. She received her MFA in Ceramics with an emphasis in Drawing from SIU Edwardsville.

Jerry Breakstone creates wispy and intricate figurative sculptures using slab building techniques, wire armatures and a classic Japanese shino glaze known for its sophisticated beauty. Breakstone is a graduate of the Washington University School of Architecture. As an architect, his career has spanned 25 years at firms such as Harry Weese, Skidmore, Owings, Merrill in Chicago, Hellmuth, Obata, Kassabaum and HOK. Breakstone has taught architecture and design across the U.S.

Charity Davis-Woodard has been a studio potter for the past 12 years with a focus on porcelain wood-fired pottery. With numerous awards to her credit, such as the NCECA Clay National, Clayfest 2003 and the Utilitarian Ceramics National, her work has been published widely. Charity gives frequent workshops at universities and art centers across the country such as Anderson Ranch and Arrowmont. She received her Master of Fine Arts Degree from SIU Edwardsville.

Rick Dunn's current work explores ideas about the excess of information, goods and services in an era of radical global transformation. Since completing a Master of Fine Arts from Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville in 2002, he has taught in the St. Louis Community College system, exhibited and lectured both nationally and locally, and traveled around the country selling his work.

Melody Evans builds ceramic sculpture and large scale installations that are influenced by more traditional vessel forms. Although she started her career as a potter, she soon moved into making sculpture during graduate school at California State University where she received her Master's of Studio Art. She has received numerous awards in her career including the first place in the National Visions in Clay. Her work is represented in numerous public and private collections including Washington University.

Ron Fondaw builds large-scale adobe work, one of a kind cast metal drawings and has built several houses as an extension of sculpture. He has received the Guggenheim Award for sculpture, a National Endowment for the Arts and a Pollack/Krasner Award. Exhibiting internationally, including Japan, Denmark and Italy, his work can be seen in major collections such as The Smithsonian. Fondaw received his MFA from the University of Illinois-Champaign/Urbana. Presently, Ron is a Professor of Sculpture at Washington University since 1995.

James Ibur is a potter, sculptor, musician, exhibition curator, and educator. Exhibiting nationally and internationally, his work is reminiscent of iconic vessels "rescued" from the sea and lost ships. Ibur received his MFA from the University of Illinois-Champaign/Urbana plus graduate work at UC Davis. Awarded residencies at the Banff Centre for the Arts in Alberta, Canada and the Archie Bray Foundation in Montana, Ibur is now an Associate Professor at St. Louis Community College - Meramec, where he coordinates the Ceramics Area.

Ruth Reese explores the fluidity of identity by blending the human form with plant and animal, creating surreal sculpture. Reese has been published in "500 Plates", "500 Raku" and "Mourning: A Buddhist Ritual Comes to America." Exhibiting nationally, her work has been in shows such as Red Heat and Visions in Clay. Reese holds an MFA from Washington University and currently teaches at STLCC and Maryville University.

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