Transformation 9: Contemporary Works in Ceramics / Contemporary Craft, Pittsburgh
April 25 - November 1, 2014
The Transformation series, one of the Society for Contemporary Craft’s signature programs, was established in 1997 as a biennial juried exhibition focusing on traditional craft media–glass, wood, metal, clay, and found materials–in rotation. The exhibition seeks out an international selection of artists redefining their medium to create work that is challenging and thought provoking; inviting us all to reconsider our notion of “craft.”
This year’s focus is on clay. Clay has been used, decorated, coveted, and collected for thousands of years, yet in the hands of contemporary artists this irresistible medium continues to surprise through innovative techniques, forms, and functions. Visitors are invited to see what happens when makers push the boundaries of time-honored craft materials—right before our eyes, something old is new again.
In conjunction with each Transformation exhibition, the jurors award the participating artist whose work best displays the tenets of excellence and innovation the Elizabeth R. Raphael Founder’s Prize. Named in honor of SCC’s founder, the award is accompanied by a $5000 cash prize.
Transformation 9: Contemporary Works in Ceramics features the work of all 31 of the Raphael Prize finalists, a selection of internationally recognized and emerging artists. The exhibition highlights outstanding and innovative examples of contemporary works in clay, all of which have been created within the last year. The work of three regional artists—Chuck Johnson of Venango, PA, Erica Nickol of Pittsburgh, PA, and Ian Thomas of Slippery Rock, PA—is included in the exhibition.
Linda Swanson of Montreal, Quebec has been selected as the winner of the Society for Contemporary Craft’s (SCC) 2013 Elizabeth R. Raphael Founder’s Prize competition. Two honorable mention honorees, Lauren Gallaspy of Salt Lake City, UT and Lee Somers of Montevallo, AL, and one merit recipient, Lauren Mabry of Philadelphia, PA, were also announced at the exhibition opening on April 25, 2014.
Swanson’s winning entry, Cypreus Lumen, 2013, is a 20 inch round wall disk made from crystalline glazed porcelain with a painted aluminum rim. The turquoise glaze looks almost liquid with the faintest ripple of movement on the surface. A patch of deep red disrupts the calm in a dynamic swirl of motion. “Processes of change, formation, and dissolution are caught in this crystalline glazed surface,” says Swanson of the piece. “A flow of molten colorants in an optically ambivalent and luminous frozen moment recalls geology as well as biology, and elicits material affinities between the body and the world around us.”
As the 2013 Raphael Prize winner, Swanson shows several other ceramic works in Transformation 9, each exploring the changing nature of matter. A site-specific installation similar to her piece Osmogenesis (recently seen at the Northern Clay Center in Minneapolis, MN) was installed in SCC’s main gallery throughout the run of the exhibition. Combining the slow and steady drip of water onto a clay-covered steel surface, the piece is constantly changing. As the water burrows through the clay, the underlying metal surface is exposed in a collection of bubbling craters. Swanson describes the piece as exploring the “interdependence of organism and environment, as well as organism and organism – in which one species is created, or at least sustained, by and through another.”
Born in Los Angeles, CA, Swanson received her B.A. in Art History from University of California Santa Barbara, her B.F.A. in Ceramics from California State University, and her M.F.A. in Ceramics from the School of Art and Design at Alfred University, Alfred, NY. Currently, she lives in Montreal, Canada where she is an Assistant Professor at Concordia University. Swanson’s ceramics have been exhibited in SOFA Chicago with the Lacoste Gallery, Elemental at the Northern Clay Center in Minneapolis, and INFESTATION, a public art installation at the Parcs Canada Lachine Canal Historic Site in Montreal. In 2013, Swanson was named an Emerging Artist by NCECA, the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts.
An honorable mention award was given to Lauren Gallaspy for her piece, Giving Up the Ghost, 2014. The startling 16” tall sculpture combines soft, feminine lines with a mass of ceramics shards and strips. Gallaspy received her M.F.A. in Ceramics from Alfred University and has been named a NCECA Emerging Artist. She describes her work as being “about imbalance—the vulnerability of living things— and the sometimes violent, sometimes pleasurable, almost always complex consequences that occur when bodies and objects in the world come into contact with one another.”
A second honorable mention award was presented to Lee Sommers for his work, Scape IV, 2014. Having also received his M.F.A. in Ceramics from Alfred University, his work has been exhibited throughout the United States and China. Known for his distinctive ceramic collages, Sommers explains his process as “a coupling of fleeting notions and physical realities. Collage is a key strategy in both the physical and conceptual organization of my work. Drawing from a variety of sources, ongoing acts of sampling, collecting and cataloging, leads to a critical mass of components. Weaving a matrix of relations between these parts, I find compositional epiphanies - parallels to aesthetic experiences etched in my memory.”
Additionally, the jurors gave a merit award to Lauren Mabry for her piece, Curved Plane, 2013. The artist, a M.F.A. graduate from University of Nebraska-Lincoln, describes her work as “painterly, abstract, ceramic sculpture.”
The jury for the 2013 prize was composed of Joshua Green, Executive Director of the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts; Jae Won Lee, a Korean American ceramic artist and Associate Professor at Michigan State University; Alexandra Raphael, enamel artist, London, England; Catherine Raphael, metalsmith and storyteller, Pittsburgh, PA; Kate Lydon, Director of Exhibitions at SCC; and Janet McCall, Executive Director at SCC.
“This prize honors artists who are redefining the boundaries of their media to create work that is challenging and thought-provoking. The strength and recognition of this competition has grown over the past 17 years and continues to challenge our viewers understanding of craft today,” said McCall.