Generations: Betty Feves / Museum of Contemporary Craft, Portland, Oregon, USA

Generations: Betty Feves exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Craft, Portland, OR, USA

Generations: Betty Feves / Museum of Contemporary Craft, Portland, Oregon, USA
March 15 – July 28, 2012

First retrospective of work by important Northwest Artist
Curated by Namita Gupta Wiggers

The capstone exhibition of Museum of Contemporary Craft’s 75th Anniversary Year, Generations: Betty Feves is a comprehensive retrospective of work by this important Northwest Modernist ceramic artist. Opened in March 15, 2012, the exhibition includes work from every period of her 40-year career which began with studies under Clyfford Still and Alexander Archipenko, included studies in New York City during World War II, and later, decades in Pendleton, Oregon.

Feves was nationally engaged and regionally focused. She spoke at the first conference of the American Craftsmen’s Council (now the American Craft Council) at Asilomar, California in 1957 along with Peter Voulkos and Marguerite Wildenhain. At the same time she was deeply inspired by the Oregon landscape; rounded stone and basalt slab forms repeatedly found their way into her pieces. And Feves relentlessly experimented with materials and processes. She dug her own clays from locations like Oregon’s Dead Man’s Pass, sometimes mixing them with brick clay from LaGrande. And she created all of her own glazes from local sources such as grasses and the leaves of locust trees in her own backyard. “Decayed basalt, as she called it, became a routine ingredient in the clay mixture she used for sculpture, giving a texture and quality of color quite unlike any other,” says American raku pioneer Hal Reigger who collaborated with Feves beginning in the 1950s. “I believe one could look at just a small section of the surface of one of her things and know right off who made it.” With Reigger, Feves explored what they called primitive techniques including bonfire firings. Reigger was among those who praised Feves for her structural innovations in her large-scale Modernist sculptures.

Additionally, Feves was an important catalyst in her community, quietly mentoring and guiding scores of individual artists and musicians while she publicly advocated for the arts as a longtime member of the Pendleton School Board and while serving on the state’s Board of Higher Education. Feves helped to bring the Suzuki violin method to Oregon and to the Pendleton schools and gave private lessons to generations of young musicians. She took on a number of apprentices, but also reached out to younger artists like well-known Northwest painter James Lavadour, introducing him and his work to collectors and dealers. “Betty illustrated to me what an artist’s role is in a community, what an artist does,” Lavadour says. “An artist doesn’t just make art. An artist serves a community in many different ways.” Lavadour went on to found Crow’s Shadow Institute of the Arts in Pendleton.

It’s fitting that Museum of Contemporary Craft bring together this exhibition which unites pieces from private collections and museums along the West Coast for the first time, along with works from some of Feves’ students and early mentors, including Clyfford Still. Feves had a deep and lasting relationship with Museum of Contemporary Craft which featured her work in the majority of the Museum’s annual ceramic exhibitions throughout the 50s, introducing it to a larger audience. Accompanying the exhibition will be the first full-color publication on Feves’ work produced by the Museum. Generations: Betty Feves is the third exhibition in the Generations series to examine the history of craft in the Pacific Northwest.

Museum of Contemporary Craft
Committed to the advancement of craft since 1937, Museum of Contemporary Craft in partnership with Pacific Northwest College of Art is one of Oregon’s oldest cultural institutions. Centrally located in Portland’s Pearl District, the Museum is nationally acclaimed for its curatorial program and is a vibrant center for investigation and dialogue, expanding the definition of craft and the way audiences experience it.

Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA)
Since its founding in 1909, Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA) has become a leader in innovative educational programs that connect students to a global perspective in the visual arts and design. In addition to its nine Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees, PNCA offers graduate education with an MFA in Visual Studies, a Low-Residency MFA in Visual Studies, an MFA in Critical Theory and Creative Research, and an MFA in Collaborative Design, as well as an MFA in Applied Craft and Design developed in collaboration with the Oregon College of Art and Craft.

PNCA is actively involved in Portland’s cultural life through exhibitions and a vibrant public program of lectures and internationally recognized visiting artists, designers and creative thinkers. With the support of PNCA+FIVE (Ford Institute for Visual Education), the College has a partnership with the nationally acclaimed Museum of Contemporary Craft. For more information, visit

Presenting Sponsors: Whiteman Foundation, Institute of Museum and Library Services, Mary Maletis.

Lisa Radon, Communications Specialist
Pacific Northwest College of Art
Tel. 971 255 5528
General Info Tel. 503 223 2654

Museum of Contemporary Craft
in partnership with Pacific Northwest College of Art
724 Northwest Davis Street
Portland, OR 97209
United States

Above: Betty Feves, Reclining figure, date unknown, Ceramic, 16 x 7 x 9 inches, Collection of Feves Family. Photo by Dan Kvitka.