Monday, May 31, 2010

Is ceramics' stature affected by perceptions that it is a feminine medium?

In the case of pottery, I would say yes. I'm going to speaking in gross generalizations. While there are many men who collect and love pots, as a society we still hold on to the idea that the selection of dinnerware for the home is the woman's right or duty (depending on how you approach gender roles.) I've had to fight for my right to choose what goes into the kitchen cabinet.

Early in my education I perceived that male potters were more likely to be interested in form and female potters were often more interested in surface. Again, a gross generalization, but my perception nonetheless. In the last 18 years I have noticed a diversification of interests in both directions. The Santa Fe Clay shows at NCECA this year and last year were both full of pots whose maker embraced both form and surface.

I hope producers keep moving in this direction, and I hope male consumers become more involved in homemaking...and become interested in handmade ceramics.


Great thoughts and comments

Something Brian mentioned has me thinking about the fact that in many societies, pottery making was relegated to the women. Does this possibly affect its stature in today's society?

Keep them coming, Anna

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Identity Crisis

As it has been said, this article seems like a skimming over of Postmodernist Ceramics, and it is. This might be due to the fact that it is a excerpt from De Waal's book. I found a greater depth from the article by reading up on the artists he highlighted and I came across an interesting quote from Grayson Perry where he says pottery is the perfect medium for his social commentary:

"Pottery is not shouty. They're small, and you have to get close and examine them. People get seduced; they see a pot across the room and have an idea of what a pot is, but the pots are not as benign as they think."

The first time I came across Perry's work was not through a ceramic source. I would like to pose the question, does ceramics "claim" Perry? I don't see a cross dressing, decorator of earthenware pots rubbing elbows beside a wood kiln with some of ceramics' "greats". Invite me to that party.

De Waal & Schjeldahl

I've been on a search for a nice tidy definition for Modernism and for Postmodernism. De Waal's article is an excerpt from his book 20th Century Ceramics. I agree that is doesn't explain why these artists are considered postmodernists. There are hints, winks, and nudges...but he doesn't give a good sense of why. I often think I missed out on the definitive book that lays Postmodernism bare for all to understand. The assumption seems to be that I know what Postmodernism is and therefore understand why these artists and their ceramic artworks fit the label so well.

Postmodernism is defined as a reaction to Modernism. Modernists said "let's forget history." Postmodernists said "let's bring back history but separate it from its original context." In that sense Postmodernism is just an extension of Modernism.

Sure these artists De Waal describes are roughly contemporaries. The five artists (a mix of ceramicists and mainstream artist) in Schjeldahl's quote of Garth Clark were in the same period, and were in the same time period as the Modernist movement. Throwing Duchamp and Ohr together doesn't make sense to me. Duchamp was making a direct and public attack on the art ideals of the day, and Ohr was squirreling away oddball pots he made apparently for fun. The artists De Waal describes have similar dissonances. I'm forced to wonder if Modernism and Postmodernism in general, and especially in ceramics, are not so much movements but catchall groups for things that are quite different but made during a certain time period.

I have to question what Galen wrote "Mixed media, theatrics and collage are postmodern." Mixed media and collage are media and not ideas. Movements are ideologically based but can sometimes be related by medium. Some Postmodernists addressed theatrics, but I don't think theatrics defines the whole movement. I would even say that Duchamp was strongly concerned with theatrics, and he sits in the realm of Modernism. What is Postmodernism?


Schjeldahl's 4 zones are an interesting idea. I don't believe ceramics exists entirely within the fingertip to body zone. For all the talk about use, only a few utilitarian items really enter that realm consistently. Cups are welcome to come even closer. They regularly violate the inside of our bodies when we drink from them. A large percentage of functional ceramics are really made to be looked at from a distance. Oversized or marginally functional pieces are made as Art for exhibition. They are made with more concern for how they will look when they are photographed or viewed from the side more than how the hypothetical user will experience them.

Pete Pinnell defined the relationship between Art and function in the context of cups) incredibly well in this video: Pete Pinnell Video

The simile calling kitschy things to casual sex is fun, but kitsch is often defined by its relationship to art that is currently situated in the moral high ground. The barrier between popular art and Art is permeable. If you keep making something that has gone out of style you will are in danger of slipping through that barrier to become part of what has become generally acceptable to general society.

Marginal Powers and Identity Crisis

Firstly, I absolutely agree with Chris's comments and found Marginal Powers to be a really good read and poignant. Peter Schjeldahl's lecture had a lot of good and powerful statements that I believe to be true. He states, "I'm old enough to remember when art meant painting. If you meant sculpture you had to say sculpture. If you meant photography you had to say photography. Now art is a big dotted-line zone containing anything that somebody is willing to call art." I think that this is very true of his time, but also of mine. I think when people ask what I do and I say I'm getting my masters in fine arts, they still assume that I'm a painter or that I'm in art education. I'm not offended, but it doesn't help thing that ceramics is still not considered by the masses to be a substantial legitimate venue to consider. During the fall sale at the Reitz Union there were med students promoting their program and doing some sort of testing. One of their professors came over and looked at the work then asked about who made it. I explained that it was all UF grads, undergrads and post baccs that contributed to the sale and it was a fundraiser for the club. She then looked at me and the other two that I was sitting with and then said, "You can major in clay?" I said yes, and she responded, "Well, huh... that's neat." and then walked off. Ignorance is still rampant even with the people we trust to diagnose and save our lives.
I also really liked where he stated that he was a pragmatist and believes that ideas have no value in themselves, but only in what results from them. I believe that ideas have a ton on value and importance, but understand his purpose with this statement. We want to be taken seriously but only dream about it rather than doing something that changes the situation.
The comments about the "distances" was also spot on and just reiterates that the touchable/tangible ceramic object is not the desired way to see life/art. Sorry potters :P
Schjeldahl raises a lot of awareness about ceramics and its place on the spectrum of real or high art. The discussion in class will probably be short because I suppose it may be safe to say that he's right and I assume (ass out of you and me) most will agree.
Beautiful quotes in the lecture from Schjeldahl:
"I'm talkin to a self-selected elite."
"If art is love, then kitschy stuff is casual sex."
"We are in a period of over-education and under-sophistication."

Identity Crisis on the other hand was full of text and not much else. The only part that I found to be intersting or worth-while was the part about decoration being gendered and lesser in the hierarchy of reason.



Hi everyone! We are on for Tuesday at 3 pm. I will have to run about 10 minutes before 5 but we should be ok for time. I have only received a couple posts on this blog - everyone should put at least one post a week up, related to the readings, your final project or just something related that you have come across.

We will be skyping Charlie for the class.

Prior to the class please take some time to look over the work of Ken Price
This site is on the pregnant Madonna - I happened on this very painting in this very town while driving around Tuscany on a Piero della Francesco pilgrimage (everyone has to do this at least once in their lives) and it was an amazing experience.

Here are Garth Clarks list of objects:

amazing how cheaply you can buy this important piece.

Oppenheim's Fur -lined cup

The above is an interesting site on MOMA's collection.

One of Gaudi's buildings:
for Duchamp's Fountain - another interesting site.

And as far as Edmund De Waal is concerned -
he has publications listed on his site

and this site,41,103
Lists him and many other good ceramics critics.

Lots to investigate.
I look forward to receiving your critiques and your first draft abstracts on Tuesday as well. Bring your calendar - we will try to set up a time to meet individually re. the abstract.
And of course - more articles to read - found one in the latest CA+P to read but we need another one, someone we have yet to read either on the list or someone totally new.

One more thing to consider - having the June 15 class which is the last before I leave and you begin work on your final projects at my house and later as a pot luck?

See you Tuesday. Anna

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Marginal Powers: Ceramics and the art world.

Peter Schjeldahl's lecture is about understanding the role of art and how to look at it objectively. Although this lecture is aimed at ceramic artists I believe his approach is about all aspects of art, not simply those pertaining to ceramics, and that's a good thing. I believe the point of this lecture is to make artists question their understanding of why we make art, what is the significance in our own culture as well as it's relationship to history. Other questions he raises are what is value, why is art necessary, and to whom. I don't think he is making a point as much as he is raising awareness and trying to make his audience more responsible artists.

Identity Crisis

I find myself wondering why this article is titled "identity crisis." There is no argument about any kind of identity crisis, and I find myself hard pressed to see much of any point of view. It's a summary of works that the author arbitrating into post modernism, but the works discussed don't seem very post-modern. Mixed media, theatrics and collage are postmodern but these works are just happening after modernism--they aren't a part of the post-modern movement.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Identiy Crisis

"Edmund DeWall highlights the ironic and unsettling Postmodern ceramics of the 1980's and 90's" is correct, and by that I mean highlights. DeWall skims over this topic so quickly that I still am not sure of the point of this article. What he does is simply describe what Postmodernism is, without reference to how that is significant to ceramics, or if it's a good or bad thing. The article is way to short for a topic of this depth. Without photos, it is just over a page long. He jumps around briefly describing each work, makes one point and moves on to the next. He raises many points by fails to come to any conclusions.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Voulkos Dilemma

Before I respond to this article I will have to say that it is the best one yet. The writing reads well, is articulate and insightful without the verbal masturbation that plague other writers we have addressed. I hate to be a "yes man" for this author but I pretty much agree everything that he had to say. In ceramics so often opinion and popularity take the place of critical analysis. Yes I believe that Voulkos' reputation is firmly rooted in ceramics, but what of the greater art world? Does it diminish his legacy that he rode the coat tails of abstract expressionist painters, by doing the same with clay? Deconstruction of form was not a new concept when he did it to a pot, it simply hadn't been done in clay. Acknowledging this does set a different standard for the field of ceramics. Which leads me to question, is that what we're looking for?
I find it interesting to ponder the possibility of Voulkos being absorbed into history as a whisper. As of now, he stands as a legendary figure to me--a mysterious one at that. I can honestly say I don't know much about his art, besides the fact that it was very influential. I know it was vessel oriented sculpture and that he liked to wood fire, but I don't really know what it means. I don't have any objections to what Clark is saying. Clark states accurately that at it's worst canonizing someone is "about power. At its best it's about seeking truth, finding aesthetic bedrock and perceiving cultural meaning." This seems to be a statement about politics, which nothing is free of. So how do we find those genuine people willing to take up the job of furthering aesthetic discourse? And what do we do about this sweeping fad of recent days that is rejecting critical theory in art?

making meaning response

In Howard Risatti's Article "Making Meaning: a Dialogue between nature and culture" the basis for his argument seem to be based on material and the parameters of function. I think that he is talking about functional pottery being accepted as fine art rather than the field of ceramics. At no point in the article did he address anything other that functional works. He points out that the parameters of function put the emphasis on the physical rather than the optical. With any material there are limits and boundaries, be it clay or not. A sculptor working in marble has to be equally aware of the limitations of his material. It might make the task at hand a little more difficult with set parameters but it certainly doesn't issue the field of ceramics a "pass" because of it.

On the last page of the article he comments on "machine made objects". He states,"Moreover, as machine made objects there is no actual maker to conduct a dialogue between culture and nature via material and technique- the machine simply imposes its will on the material." This statement would lead one to believe that that there is a population of mindless machines arbitrarily mass producing work. It seems that he has ignored the fact that these products are designed by designers. Designers conduct the dialogue between culture and nature, and even saying that is oversimplifying the case. I believe that he has missed his own point. I believe he is talking about the importance of the handmade object, and the intimacy between maker and user. It seems that the author is looking for the art world to acknowledge academically these human comforts, but I think he might be barking up the wrong tree.

Making Meaning

I think Howard Risatti seems complacent in his contradictions and confusion. I suppose the article is about embracing our "hand" in clay and how that transcends the space-time continuum but he starts with the comparison of Craft vs. Fine Art. This is not news and he states, "Whether justified or not, craft simply has not achieved a status equal to that of fine art in these regards." This leads me to believe that he wants to decipher a way a elevate our clay objects to the level of those who make important and influential works of art. I agree with him up to this point.
Then he goes into a continual rant about embracing our crafty ways as we are crafty crafters and should sew badges on t-shirts that say it loud and proud. This is exactly why we are not compared on the same level as the other artist working in different materials that just make art and process is not the central interest. I get it that we mimic nature and a jar with a heavy lid is still a jar centuries later, but come on, that's not some overly insightful comment or piece of art. If anything, we are just making what we already know and see, not innovating or commenting on our contemporary day-to-day.
This is what I don't like about the clay world.
Making Meaning is a inept title for this piece as well, it should be titled: What I Already Know.

p.s. I don't like wood-fired work either.

Voulkos and William Bouguereau

The reading Voulkos' Dilemma: Toward a Ceramic Canon reminded me of the problems I found when I was researching for a paper on William Bouguereau. Bouguereau was an extremely successful French Academic artist during the second half of the nineteenth century. He received many awards, was an officer in the Academy, he painted over 700 paintings during his career, and his work sold very well. He was also an influential teacher. He was a contemporary of the Impressionists, and is often cast as the face of the Academy that rejected and repressed Impressionism.

After his death in 1905 many historians swept Bouguereau aside as insignificant and installed the Impressionists as the progenitors of modern painting. Many museums put his paintings in storage, or sold the work. As a group, French Academic painters fell from public favor and their paintings sold for cheap.

In the 1980's and again as recently as 2007 there has been a renewed interest by art historians, curators, and the public in Bouguereau's work. The topic of Bougeureau' rehabilitation is the subject of many passionate arguments both for and against. My personal conclusion after reading several books, a dozen academic essays, and viewing and analyzing his work in person at the Appleton Museum was this: Bouguereau's work is a significant window into the culture in which he lived and he should be studied and celebrated in that context. I just can't bring myself to say I love the paintings or I think they are a source of influence for today's artists.

It might sound blasphemous to compare the avant-garde ceramics of Voulkos to the conservative Academic art of Bouguereau. Both enjoyed commercial success during their lifetimes, but similarities seem to stop there. In the end, both will be judged by subsequent generations of critics and historians.

One hundred years after his death, and one hundred and fifty years after he began producing significant artworks, Bouguereau's importance is still the being debated. Only fifty-plus years have passed since Voulkos began making significant ceramic artworks, and only eight years have passed since his death. After everyone who was awed or charmed in person by the charisma of Peter Voulkos the man has passed, what will be the consensus on Voulkos' work when it is judged by what it is in the context of the time it was produced? Will the work exert continuing influence in the field of ceramics? Art history takes lifetimes to unfold and we may not live to see the final verdict.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Domestic Stereotype Conflict

The statement that stuck out most in this article- " On one hand, she portrays the beauty within the stereotype and on the other side she struggles with its contradiction, that is, the stereotype does not reflect today's complexity and that perhaps that stereotype is not so bad." After reading this article and the posted artist statement i come to some confusion as to what kind of eyes i should be looking through when looking at Anita Powell's empty dress figures. I think she is making an attempt to create an initial attitude of nostalgia of her figures, but when looked upon more closely, there are conflicts and issues at hand that might not be so nostalgic. The visual aesthetic of her line work for surface decoration and the modern curves of the empty dress forms bring this feeling of nostalgia. This is similar to "the 1960's idealization of the 1950's" I think powell is using this time period and aesthetic as a vehicle to gently brush up against more modern issues of gender domesticity and responsibility. They are visually active and work together to tell a larger story. I cannot see these figures working alone outside from groupings. The empty dress form is what leads me to believe that Powell is looking at issues for the contemporary viewer. The fact that the dress is empty allows the viewer to embody what is missing, the flesh, the hair, the eyes. We have to recreate what might be inside. We are persuaded by the imagery to create a certain type of character that is missing. We can come more closely to these issues because they are not directly displayed through the literal figure. They are more in character form with less emotion and obvious persona's. The viewer must make this assumption.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Gender and Anita Powell

It seems that Anita Powell has put herself in a disorienting paradox of denying gender roles and stereotypes of the past to show the beauty and quaintness of femininity. She uses the device of visual depictions of "inferior" gender roles of the 1950's era and expects the viewer to find the strength in these images. I see a perpetuation or at least a reminder of the inappropriate and skewed view of the past. I can then project that on societal standards today and gender roles, but still don't see a rational of the imagery used to convey the "beauty of domesticity". Perhaps a jab at the ridiculous, but not something that we should embrace. The dimensional dress form itself is a reminder of things of past and easily becomes feminine but in the article it says that she doesn't want it to be a stand in for a women... Again, it seems that she is doing one thing and saying its another.
"Gender roles refer to the set of social, behavioral and attitudinal roles, expectations and norms that, within a specific culture, are either formally or informally required or widely considered to be socially appropriate for individuals of a specific gender identity. Gender roles are constructed for various genders in order to channelize their energies towards some socially ordained goals, which are either commonly shared or affixed from the top." --It is only in this situation that I can begin to understand the statement she makes and the work presented. By acknowledging that at this time this was the norm and socially acceptable to be the "inferior" and doing the best that they could with it, I can see the strength and perhaps beauty. BUT in doing so, we realize that we are accepting that role, which places that women in a negative and less powerful position, thus creating the paradox.
I like the drawings though. :)

Brian Weaver

Anita Powell Review

Here is Anita Powell's artist statement:

"My work is the visual manifestation of an authentic response to life. It is a way to detach myself form existing notions of inferiority associated with my gender through the process of owning them. This way I can use beauty, sentimentality, domesticity, cooperation, quaintness and femininity as devices to confront those who perpetuate negative or prejudicial attitudes about these traits. I can also validate and encourage the reactions of those who see beyond the surface to find a message of tenacity, power, perseverance, resourcefulness and transformation of limitations into strengths."

I look forward to discussing the differences and similarities of the artist's
presentation and reviewer's interpretation of the sculptures.

Additional images of Powell's work are available here.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

I like to catch up on the arts section in the NY Times on line in the morning, skimming for good critical pieces. Yesterday, Holland Cotter. Today, Robert Smith. I mentioned I did not think she was a good speaker in class. Today I am beginning to have the same opinion of her writing. Today she reviews two fashion shows, one at the Met and the other at the Brooklyn Museum. I excerpted one paragraph and want you to read it and see what you think.
Which brings us to the often delirious yet discomforting unreality of most museum exhibitions devoted to high fashion. These shows almost invariably chronicle the lifestyles and shifting, usually unattainable ideals of femininity of the leisure class. But they also reflect larger, historical trends in taste, mores and wealth, while encapsulating the technical innovations, artistic sensibilities and fantasies that perpetually trickle down to the less expensive, more utilitarian designs most women wear.

I don't know much about fashion, or these shows, but the writing seems watered down. What does "delirious yet discomforting unreality" mean? Delirium is discomforting--for me at least. I'm not sure if fashion shows even belong in a museum setting. It seems to perpetuate things like sensationalism and celebrity. Yba anyone?
Be sure to post your comments to the blog - not the email sent so we can continue to dialogue. Galen, I saw your comment on email, but not here. So, please repeat it. Thanks, Anna

Friday, May 7, 2010


I like to catch up on the arts section in the NY Times on line in the morning, skimming for good critical pieces. Yesterday, Holland Cotter. Today, Robert Smith. I mentioned I did not think she was a good speaker in class. Today I am beginning to have the same opinion of her writing. Today she reviews two fashion shows, one at the Met and the other at the Brooklyn Museum. I excerpted one paragraph and want you to read it and see what you think.
Which brings us to the often delirious yet discomforting unreality of most museum exhibitions devoted to high fashion. These shows almost invariably chronicle the lifestyles and shifting, usually unattainable ideals of femininity of the leisure class. But they also reflect larger, historical trends in taste, mores and wealth, while encapsulating the technical innovations, artistic sensibilities and fantasies that perpetually trickle down to the less expensive, more utilitarian designs most women wear.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Garth Clark Lecture Link

Hello Everyone,

Here is a web-site link for the Museum of Contemporary Craft's podcast site. The Clark lectures are on 10.16.2008.

See you soon!