You are a versatile visual artist who works in mediums such as painting, collage, video art, but also ceramics. In the process of creating a new work, do you allow yourself the freedom to change the medium of expression?
Versatility it’s not entirely a positive feature, at least not for an artist. To be consequent could be in many cases a better option. Up to this moment, my flexibility didn’t create a strong image of myself, but instead surrounded me with an aura of strangeness and ambiguity.
Changing the medium could be an important, valuable quality, mostly when you’re forced to work in difficult conditions. For example, if you don’t have your own kiln or the brightest and most refined porcelain, you have to improvise, for example to do installations of found or smashed objects. If you record the process on camera, you also have good chances of becoming a video artist or a performer. I don’t feel like it’s hard to transfer one idea between different types of media, but it is quite frustrating. I have always imagined myself doing heroic jobs, but I have to acknowledge my limitations and therefore pay attention to small or discreet things. From this point of view, things become even more ambiguous.
Are your creations the results of research processes or they are on-the-spot transpositions?
Sometimes they are, sometimes they aren’t. Let’s say I like spontaneous ideas. I don’t bother that much with research. I’m always intrigued when someone titles his collection of exhibited images a project, evoking some ideas he is attached to. If you’re honest to yourself you will notice how clear everything is. Everything you do comes from a background. I will give you an example: some years ago I developed a project on an accidental idea. I asked two of my friends, a poet and a monk, to start an artistic collaboration, taking advantage of this multidisciplinary friendship. The monk opened a book and picked a word for a theme. The poet had to write something regarding this, and I had to paint or draw. Almost from nowhere, an idea appeared: smashing watermelons! Then I started the research, amazed by all coincidences I had found. This innocent image had a huge iconography and transgressed many cultures. It was like a revelation.
You hold functions such as curator, associate editor and columnist for different magazines, and you recently initiated a contemporary art platform titled Anti-Utopias. Since you don’t have any formal art education, how did you become interested in contemporary art?
Art has always been one of my main interests, ever since I was a kid, and though I did not follow any formal art education, I did follow an MA in philosophy and culture where some of the major topics we discussed have been Art, Institutions and Cultural Policies, The Artist’s Statute in Post-Modern Culture, or Contemporary Perspectives Upon Culture. I also follow a PhD with a thesis on the future of museums, in terms of art, policies, architecture. Throughout the years I’ve kept a close contact with art in my readings and references, and I think coming from the “outside” is actually an advantage because it allows me to view art in a broader context and integrate its discourse differently. At the same time, I am also aware of the two perils with philosophers discussing art: on the one hand, they run the risk of subsuming art to a philosophical speech; on the other hand, they can feed art with concepts that only deepen the dilemmas of contemporary art and thus contribute to its fractures. When I started Anti-Utopias, my main concern was to create a thematic platform bearing in mind these two perils precisely, but also the theoretical abundance where art in general claims itself from.
Tell us about Anti-Utopias. Why did you choose the utopian – anti-utopian motive as the theme of your project?
In spite of all the discourses on contemporary art, I think it is still trapped in a false attempt to surpass its own modernity. The artistic discourse still tries to dissect its own foundation and remains somehow captive inside artificial constructions, based on imitation. I am equally circumspect whether discourses crediting the derivative modernities can indeed not only resurrect, but actually redeem the project of modernity. These modernities are based on alter-constructions that complete the same project, though they construct on the margins of modernity. We relate to the same referent, and hope our alter-construction will indeed rescue notions and practices. Art is caught in this paradox: on the one hand, it has to constantly shift its aims outside the marges, because when you construct on the marge, the marge itself becomes a center; on the other hand, art contributes to a global process of territorialization, precisely in this movement it needs to operate. It’s like an expanding fissure that deepens the faults. And it is along this fissure that one can understand the exposure of art, in what this fissure draws ahead, but especially in what it leaves behind, not only as a trace, but in that which remains. Art is this rest, this remnant. Art is reversion. And I think this is one of the ideas and concepts that I need to develop further, this idea of art being a reversion.
When I started this project I knew I was placing its theoretical horizon under two major discursive pressures. The first one is this unsuccessful attempt to give an answer to an utopia other than by formulating another utopia, and the second is the use of the prefix “anti-“ itself, which does indeed bestir a number of critical reflexes and exercises. Obviously, there is no exit from utopia, and the more we seek to counter this statement, the more we end up in utopias of the refusal or in the utopias of some alter-constructions. From my perspective, anti-utopias don’t claim themselves from a refusal or a counter-position, nor are they the expression of a cultural, historical, or political transgression. They do not fall into the metaphysical discourse where anti- would refer to a sort of anti-metaphysics, and I don’t see them being shaped as a means of counteracting either. For me, anti- should refer to a state of exposure, to a certain openness which is not only affirmative but also all-embracing, definitive, and which can be understood on multiple levels: over-exposure, exposure to the certitude of death, exposure to a certain risk and impossibility, exposure to its own tragedy, etc. It is an exposure not only to the unpredictable, but also to a subtending dread defining art and life itself – a fear of dying, the interruption of breath. And though this discourse may seem to bear away from the current artistic discourse, I still think it is this dread that art is running away from. And this can be seen in all its diversity, separations, counter-currents, and reconsiderations. Not lastly, I think that the insistence upon difference/differences cannot account for the current state of things any longer, but only perpetuates the discursive and political impossibilities. From one utopia to another. I think art and society are on the verge of a more radical transformation, for which it has no name yet, a transformation we cannot fully appropriate right now.
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In memoriam Eugenia Pop Eugenia Pop lived and worked in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, where she graduated from the Ceramics Department of “Ion Andreescu” Arts Institute in 1971. Over the course of 40 years, she had exhibited in many countries and has been awarded for her career by the Romanian Government (Order of Cultural Merit) and the Fine Arts Union.
Two days after our meeting in February, Eugenia Pop went to the Copăceni alms house, near Turda, to read in peace a book by Zhi Gang Sha. She wanted to learn how to communicate better with her guardian angel. She told us that the spirit must be cleaned more frequently.
We thank Jeni Pop from our hearts and promise to carry her optimism out in the world.
Interview by Alexandra Mureşan and Vasi Hîrdo for Ceramics Now Magazine, Issue Two February 2012
How did the fascination for ceramics started?
I graduated Ceramics at the Fine Arts Highschool in Cluj. In the twelfth grade I had an excessive curiosity to do work as much as possible, that’s why I chose ceramics. I was a colleague with Arina Ailincăi for 6 years. We were also six in the department. Our personalities were very different, and they remained the same. A sculptor inoculated me the idea of versions. He gave me a theme, a ceramic piece in an architectural environment. After a few sketches, he told me to do more versions. I didn’t like the idea – why make more versions when the first one was good enough? But, if the master told me, I had to do it. I did lots of versions and sketches, from bad to worse. He chose from the first two, and I remained very sad because I worked so hard on so many. After a while, the seed sprouted in my mind. I was at a Communist party meeting, and I got very bored. I had my sketchbook at me and I was doing all sorts of sketches and drawings. The expression was changing with little diversity if terms of form. I showed the sketches to my professor. It remained my method over the years.
Now I stopped doing more versions on a theme. I read books, for example those written by Rudolf Steiner, and I make illustrations on the pages. When reading a book twice, the images speak to me a lot more and I feel the text very differently when it’s illustrated, just like a plastic commentary.
What are your main sources of inspiration?
I broke up with the illustrative image of the exterior form. I adhered to the archetypal forms, which are interior forms of the soul, forms that kids use when drawing, but also used in the antic culture.
Mihai Oroveanu said “Look how monumental your works are,” even if they were very small. Dan Hăliucă said the contrary: “That’s how it should be – plenty and small.” I used this thing with plenty and small a lot, because that’s how the image of the soul is. The soul is very capacious. From it’s ampleness you can make plenty and small.
A moment of crystallization appeared when I found my personality – when I said that this is how I want to express myself. It was the humanity theme, the man. The mother man, the old man, the child man. Mother Earth. These are themes that I feel I synthesized. When I was young, my mother used to call me “little golden thorn” – she couldn’t tell me that I was not right, but I was also very determined. I was telling the truth.
Eugenia Pop, Mother Earth, 1985, Soft porcelain
What is your dearest part in elaborating a new work?
Each part has its own magic. The first one is sketching the idea and choosing the right drawing, then follows the modeling and making the negative. After that, the fascination of the firing starts. It is like when a mother gives birth – she doesn’t know how the child will look like or what color his eyes will be. It is just like that after the firing, when you remain charmed by an object, and you say to yourself that this is mine! – its color has changed and it shrank. After you inspect it for a while, you adopt it or not. Sometimes you have to say I’m sorry – this is not mine.
A first-ever exhibition of a mid-century movement of German ceramics, known as relief-porzellan, debuts at the University of Arizona Museum of Art. Entitled: In Relief: German Op-Art Ceramics, 1955-75” the exhibition opens on September 28 and runs through January 27, 2013. Both the exhibition and reception are open to the public.
Lawrence Gipe, UA Associate Professor of Studio Art, has been collecting mid-century German ceramics known as relief-porzellan for a number of years. Little was known about these beautiful objects until Gipe undertook to discover the history of their production. This exhibition presents his fascinating research, bringing to light the stories behind the factories and individual artists who created the objects.
"Several years ago, I became aware of this unique genre of German ceramics," says Gipe. "These mass-produced objects were made in "biscuit" porcelain – a matte-white or black finish that leaves the shape unglazed and naked, unadorned in its starkness."
Between the years of 1955-1980, more than a dozen companies were producing the Relief-Porzellan ceramics, mostly vases. Artisans, working in small Bavarian towns, created hundreds of designs, both geometric and organic. Some of the ceramic objects were stamped on the bottoms with the name of the designer and the trademark of the company that produced them. Gipe’s visit to an archive in Selb, Germany, the venerable Rosenthal and Co., offered a trove of journals and files, revealing artists and providing attributions to previously anonymous pieces.
Research for the UAMA exhibition, In Relief: German Op-Art Ceramics, was made possible by a grant from the International Affairs Department at the University of Arizona. The University of Arizona Museum of Art includes more than 6,000 artworks in its permanent collection created by artists from the 14th through the 21st centuries. UAMA is one of only twelve museums in Arizona accredited by the American Association of Museums (AAM) and one of only 750 museums of the 16,000 museums nationwide with this highest award for excellence in the museum field.
Contemporary art exhibitions: SABOT / Paul Branca – L’origine de l’espace privée Plan B / Alexandra Croitoru – Do not forget you are an artist! Peleş Empire / Original/Copy III Lateral Art Space / Adrian Sabău – In-lined Baziş / Bandi Saşa – Persona non grătar Baril / Constantin Flondor – Sifting AltArt / Time’s Up (AT) – Unattended Luggage Intact Space / Fake it! Limited Edition Etaj III, corridor / Ana Adam – Drawings open studio / Istvan Cîmpan (first floow) open studio / George Crîngaşu (SABOT Residence Space, forth floor)
The exhibitions are part of the Contemporary Art Factory project organized by The Paintbrush Factory (Fabrica de Pensule) and financed by the Administration of the National Cultural Fund (AFCN).
Fabrica de Pensule / The Paintbrush Factory is a collective space for contemporary arts in Cluj, Romania. The project started at the beginning of 2009, as an independent initiative to bring together ideas, events and projects of cultural organizations, galleries, producers and independent artists in Cluj and as a reaction to the local lack of production and exhibition spaces in the city.
The artists, galleries and organizations – active in the fields of theater, contemporary dance, visual arts, arts in public space, music – are jointly engaged into delivering relevant cultural content, both for the artistic community and the wide audience. Besides artist studios and production spaces, Fabrica de Pensule also hosts events of local and international partners. It acts as a major player in cultural and urban policies in the Romanian context.
Bertozzi & Casoni: Regeneration / All Visual Arts, London
Bertozzi & Casoni: Regeneration / All Visual Arts, London October 13 - November 10, 2012
Private view: October 12, 7-9 pm.
All Visual Arts are proud to present Regeneration, a unique installation from Italian artists Bertozzi & Casoni. The artists are acclaimed for their delicate depictions of a culture in decay, deftly rendered in fragile ceramic clay. Their latest work Regeneration queries the hierarchy of aesthetics, revealing the beauty in the neglected and discarded ephemera of our seamless culture. The pieces compel the viewer to confront the visceral decay of contemporary society, to expose the cracks between the artifice of the world we are presented with and to explore what lies within these fissures. With this imaginative approach to their practice, Bertozzi and Casoni align the traditional with the experimental, and allow us to construct our own narrative around their evocative scenes.
Bertozzi and Casoni manipulate the indistinction between the real and the simulacrum in their work, an obsession for detail which evokes the Decadent taste for imitation and crafted artifice as superior to the natural. In fabricating these visually and emotionally compelling still-lifes, the artists engage the viewer in deeper themes of impermanence and mortality. Through rendering the abject and overlooked in such exquisite detail, Bertozzi and Casoni signal the return of the repressed, the avoidance of our own mortality. In one piece in which the memento mori is explicitly rendered, an ox skull is dominated by a vivid monitor lizard, symbolic of both death and rebirth in its habitat across Asia and Australia. In the antonymously titled DisGRACE, vibrant blooms sprout from the polluted detritus of a decadent and avaricious society, a scene of nature triumphing over the excesses of hyper-capitalism.
Regeneration contemplates the possibility of change through rebirth, rediscovery and reappropriation, manipulating earth into elegant and fragile structures. In one piece, a cluster of butterflies flock to raise the severed head of a deer from an ornamental platter, recalling the Renaissance representations of John the Baptist or Holofernes. In a similar echo of classical scenes, and dominating the Regeneration is the serene image of a silverback gorilla resting in the Buddhist lotus position on a bed of discarded mattresses. A roe deer lies prone across its body, while wrens and goldcrests commune around the pair. The piece is an evocation of symbolic power, from the visceral confrontation of our Darwinian descendent dying out in front of our eyes, to the shift between the viewer and sculpture, object and subject as we find ourselves caught in the compassionate gaze of the animals. Our own mortality is inscribed in the tableaux where urban structures, religion and the animal world collide to reveal the grace in disgrace which Bertozzi and Casoni seek to capture.
It seems appropriate that the duo push their material to its limits and question the possibility of representation in their work at every turn. Their liberal accumulation and compilation of cultural references is evident in the playful amalgamation of objects in a work where a swordfish’s head juts from a guitar case; the shapes tessellating the natural with the cultural. Their curiosity and playful approach to objects creates a process of continual experimentation and discovery, freeing themselves from convention and the stereotypes of the ornamental and domestic associated with the ceramic medium, and producing unexpected moments of pathos and humour through their synthesis of past and present, nature and artifice. The artists subvert the established rules about the perception of applied arts through inverting the symbolic power of their traditional medium, exceeding the inherent conservativism of ceramics to sculpt fantastic and grotesque scenes that liberate both the artist and viewer’s imagination.
“I have always been interested in the ability of a ceramic vessel to point to something beyond itself—to function as metaphor. Ceramic vessels, physically structured with necks, shoulders, bellies, and feet, can evoke the gesture and anthropomorphized stance of the human body; they also reveal deep aspects of human experience and of the natural world.
My fervent interest in clay vessels has led me to explore new territories in form and surface. Recent work explores three variations on the ceramic vessel form:
The ceramic vessel as a Wellspring or Womb, with possibilities of both fecundity and barrenness; The vessel as Bottle, whose forms evoke the elongated posture of Cycladic idols and the scarified texture of Yoruba terracotta heads; The Planet Series explores swirling colored surfaces on rounded orbs, suggesting planets and depths of earthly strata.
These series represent different but related expressive interests. Each piece in a series is part of a continually evolving solution to a set of questions or parameters I have chosen to work within. The parameters, themselves, may change as the series evolve.
Through spontaneous handling of inanimate clay, I attempt to find and breathe life into form. My creative process is grounded in reflective practice—imposing ideas on and listening to the material in cycles of learning. The material directs me as I direct it. We are in a reciprocal relationship.” Ellen Schon
Reviving the light: Zsolnay Ceramic Design / ILIAD, New York
Reviving the light: Zsolnay Ceramic Design / ILIAD, New York October 17 - November 30, 2012
Opening reception: Wednesday, October 17, from 6 - 8 pm
Works by Eva Zeisel, Julia Kunin, Zsuzsa Füzesi, Viktor Erdei, Sándor Dobány, Edina Andrási. Curators: Julia Kunin and Andrea Megyes
Balassi Institute New York and ILIAD are proud to present the exhibition Reviving the Light: New Zsolnay Eosin Ceramics, featuring contemporary designs by a select group of Hungarian and American artists prepared at the Zsolnay porcelain factory in Pécs, Hungary. The exhibition opens on October 17, 2012 at ILIAD and will be on view until November 30. The Zsolnay Porcelain Manufacturing Company, founded in the 1850’s, has been known to produce the finest in Hungarian ceramics, particularly during its “golden age” in the Art Nouveau and Secession periods at the turn of the 19th and early part of the 20th century. To revive old traditions lost during the Second World War and the Soviet occupation, six artists participated at a workshop held at the Siklós Ceramics Arts Center in southern Hungary in summer 2011. The aim of the workshop was to produce objects that would highlight Zsolnay’s traditional role in producing high-end ceramics and demonstrate the compatibility of techniques like eosin glaze with contemporary art and design. An express goal of the symposium: the presentation of those works in a special showing in New York City.The exhibition testifies to the unique reservoir of traditional techniques safeguarded at Zsolnay while showcasing the innovative potential for contemporary design highlighted by these iridescent and luminous glazes. Of special interest are a series of vases by Eva Zeisel, which she contributed to the Siklós symposium in 2011. These were originally designed for Royal Stafford, and now enriched with iridescent glazes. Re-contextualizing some of her late-career trademark designs, on view will be examples of select forms designed by her in 1983 when she was invited to collaborate with the Zsolnay factory. These designs for eosin-glaze pieces were first executed in 1998 in a limited number.
Artists include Viktor Erdei, a young designer at the Zsolnay factory, whose works re-imagine Art Nouveau in their invocations of natural forms. Sándor Dobány is an expert in architectural ceramic design, and creates fantastical porcelain objects painted with surreal imagery. Zsuzsa Füzesi’s Whimsical Vessels series in eosin glaze investigate the geometries of structure and matter, and Edina Andrási’s experimental deconstructions of historical Zsolnay vases create objects that are both evocative of and radically different from their original sources.
Finally, New York-based artist Julia Kunin’s recent pieces explore concepts of excess, growth, and decay, often bringing to mind memento mori. The works incorporate iridescent glazes, which change constantly with the light, creating psychedelic surfaces on the baroque forms. Apart from her contribution as artist, Kunin both proposed the show to New York City partners and co-curated the exhibition.
Opening reception and Artist talk: October 4, 7-9 pm.
Liliana Folta is a Latin American multidisciplinary artist. Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, she lives and works in Boston, Massachusetts.
"The potential ability of the imagination has an important impact in our lives. Minds have visual images that we collect through our lives.
These inner-images that represent my works are examinations of my existence. However, in this bank of memories I cherish every possible emotion; happiness, growing pains, family loss, first love, motherhood, sexuality, multicultural experiences, frustration, society’s rules and most importantly the celebration of life.
As an artist I like to work with different mediums especially acrylic paintings and ceramic sculptures. For the past few years I have been experimenting with mixed media installation. The freedom of expanding my work in another dimension makes me feel more connected with the viewers.
The process of my work mostly is very spontaneous; the rest comes along with what my subconscious has been saving in my bank of memories, throughout my life and the happening of the moment.”
Exhibition in collaboration with Mike Vickers (Light effects) and Gustavo Jiménez (Experimental sounds). Curator: Olga Shmuylovich.
Liliana Fonta’s works are in several private and public collections in the United States, Puerto Rico, Argentina, Australia, Spain, Poland, Museum of Contemporary Ceramics - Dominican Republic, Ku Art Center - Beijing.
Francesco Ardini was born in Padua, Italy, and graduated in Landscape Architecture at the IUAV, Venice, in 2011. He discovered ceramics during the study years. Currently works in Padua and Nove.
The vision of reality in Ardini’s studies relates to broken objects, uneven surfaces, the apparent dissolution, the linearity undermined by failure. All these lead to a naturalism where the works provide biological cycles in which the dissolution is always followed by a formal definition.
Francesco Ardini understands the scientific course that begins with Einstein’s relativity, Max Planck’s quantum theory, going on with the Hubble’s discovery of galaxies, to land - in the second half of the twentieth century - within an epistemological revolution that places the possibility/probability above the necessity. Ardini accepts the idea that a large part of reality is not linear, but chaotic, and has a view of a universe development which will end in a cosmic catastrophe. These ideas place Ardini’s work in the sphere of conceptual art.
David Gallagher is a ceramic artist from Philadelphia who completed his undergraduate work at the Tyler School of Art-Temple University. He is currently pursuing his Masters of Fine Arts at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas.
Research Statement In our current epoch of ever more rapid invention it becomes paramount to analyze our relationships to the technology we produce. Systems are created on the foundations of existing technology and are tied to the accepted modes of history and the present. These technologies mediate our experiences with the physical world. We no longer have hundreds of years to determine appropriate uses for the technology we create. In many cases this time frame can be compressed to months or even weeks, with the only criteria for its evaluation being its novelty. These tools we create enter our perception with singularity of purpose, and yet cause repercussions though out our whole cultural existence.
The primary focus of my artistic practice is the systems we create to manage our society. I am constantly investigating our understanding of the physical and psychological environments we construct. Humanity is driven to invent; to create tools that aid in the managing of society’s existence. Our instinctual proclivity to transcend what exists, to constantly refine and redefine our own existence is the central idea that drives my research. My work is a simulation and examination of systems that function within the constructs of social environments. These systems provide a framework for the investigation of the possibilities of context, specific iterations of conventional relationships.
Prize winning Polish-born artist Aneta Regel Deleu is a rapidly rising star on the European ceramic art horizon. She is an honors graduate of the Gdansk, Poland Fine Art Academy and London’s University of Westminster and Royal College of Art. This is her first exhibition at Puls Contemporary Ceramics Gallery.
"The main focus of my ceramic forms is the exploration of materials and their combinations. I am particularly interested combining the rough natural qualities of materials such as rock with malleable materials such as clay. The resulting juxtaposition of the natural and human-made creates a dramatic friction and tension. This reinforces the transformation and sense of movement that objects undergo during the passage from one state to another throughout the making process."
Aneta Regel’s work seeks no functional path other than that of the communicative and expository power of art itself. Like certain of her mid-20th century pioneering artistic antecedents, she utterly rejects the label of potter. Simply because her medium is clay, fire and occasionally glaze, that does not make it craft. The designation of ceramist or ceramic artist—or better yet, ceramic sculptor—is both more expansive and accurate.
The human figure is not her vehicle of expression. Rather it is the trees, rocks, fields, and river-beds first encountered in her native northern Poland and later in her travels. Her formal language is abstract, creating a sort of equivalent to the natural world rather than attempting to describe it. Hers is a landscape, or more precisely, aspects of a landscape that create images through which she seeks to convey her vision of a reality we may already have encountered or indeed might yet encounter.
Regel is a romantic seeking to capture the forms, energies and rhythms of the forests and natural phenomena that have surrounded her. She has repeatedly been confronted by native rock, split and ground into powder by the power of glacial ice.
Opening Reception: Friday, October 5, from 5-7 pm.
This October, Red Lodge Clay Center will present MOUNTED. An exhibit featuring the works of Lindsay Pichaske, Adelaide Paul, Ryan Blackwell, Thaddeus Erdahl, Amy Santoferraro, Christine Golden, Undine Brod and Roxanne Jackson. Topical to many regions is the ritual of hunting season and the provision of food. Just beyond the border of a ritual born of need are taxidermy arts, which can serve as an analogy for Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The aforementioned survivalist skill sets are about harnessing natural elements. Decorative or trophy mounting came after our basic needs as humans were met. The work featured in this exhibit will, hopefully, explore the realm beyond basic needs and delve into hazards of modernity with frivolous, dark, and poignant mounts.
The exhibition will be posted online, Monday, October 7 by 10 am at the Red Lodge Clay Center’s website.