Interview with Brian Kakas - Artist of the month, January 2012

Interview with ceramic artist Brian Kakas - Artist of the month, January 2012

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→ The full interview with Brian Kakas is featured in Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue Two.

Ceramics Now Magazine
: There is visible consistency in your creation. What was the starting point in your investigation with ceramic art?

Brian Kakas: The starting for my works comes from the traditional vessel and understanding the primary elements in design. I have taken the elements of the foot, body and lip of a pot and applied them as more structural elements within my sculptural designs. Development of a language within these components has allowed the works to maintain continuity through the progression of forms. The works become more refined as I focus on transitions of lines and volume. Complexity in the structures, are inspired from marine life, geological formations, buildings, bridge design and armor. With the creation of all my works I try to stay true to the inherent properties of the materials. 

Your works reveal a very rigorous methodology. Tell us more about the process of constructing them. Do you make preliminary drawings?

I used to draw blueprints for my pottery and sculptures. But the works always seemed to lose something in the translation from 2D to 3D. I think the spontaneity of the sketch and energy never quite translated. Once I began using slump and drapes molds I began to only sketch gestural drawings with ink. This allowed me take an idea (not a concrete design) and began to find new forms through exploring hidden lines within objects while only maintaining the idea of the gesture. I apply the gestural line I am looking for onto the X, Y and Z axis of the object in order to maintain flow and control of the entire 3 dimensional space it occupies. I am working with a modular mold system, which allows me to create an inventory of parts to pick and choose from freely. This system allows me to maintain being in a “state of art” while exploring new forms. The sculptures are hollow and all have an inherent strength as I complete lines whether circular or elliptical, symmetrical or asymmetrical. Then I construct a lip on the vessels using armature, just like ribs in an airplane wing or in a boat hull. The ribs create a template to be covered with slabs, which accentuates the forms I have already created. The tensile strength of this element keeps the hollow forms from warping or moving during the firing process.

Brian Kakas - Contemporary Ceramic Sculptures

Architectonics – Hull Improv, side view, 2011. White stoneware, slab built, 38”L x 18”W x 17”H, Cone 04 Oxidation - View his works

Tell us more about large scale fabrication. Taking the size into consideration, have you confronted with some particular technological problems?

I found through many accidents, the importance of the foundation you build on.  There were many cracking issues early on in the high arches of the sculptures. I thought it was uneven displacement of weight that could be resolved by building additional supports that were fired with the works. But with continual cracking at the point of the supports I began reviewing the overall movement of the pieces throughout the shrinkage stages, from cone 04 to cone 10 the problems were the same.

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Interview with Marianne McGrath - Ceramic Installation, January 2012

Interview with ceramic artist Marianne McGrath - Ceramic Installation, January 2012

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→ The full interview with Marianne McGrath is featured in Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue Two.

Ceramics Now Magazine
: Before starting a career in ceramics you studied Biology. In relation to your line of work, how would you characterize the relationship between Biology and Ceramics?

Marianne McGrath: I believe my study of biology helped create the artist I am today: one that works by questioning what surrounds me, and by creating objects based on observation in a very systematic manner. Artists, like biologists, work from direct observation and immersion in the environment around them, and are forever attempting to interpret this world.
Both groups employ creative means to achieve this. I grew up on a farm in Southern California, one my family had farmed for four generations, surrounded by this natural world that was under the direct manipulation of the human hand to serve human needs. I believe I was drawn to study biology in college because growing up immersed in this agrarian landscape and was incredibly interested in the idea that we, as humans, have this ability to define, control, and use the natural world that surrounds us, yet we also have an imperative responsibility as a species to maintain this world.

In my final semester in college, I took a ceramics class, the first art class I had ever formally taken. I was immediately overwhelmed by the questions I found artists asking, by the responses that they drew from their audience, and the simple fact that they were using dirt, one of the most basic components of the natural world, to create. This type of communication and way of thinking drew me in and I decide to completely change the direction of my life. I found that my voice was much more attuned to express my concerns of the livelihood of the natural world through the means of art than through my study of biology.

In the studio today, I find myself working in much of the same manner as I used to in the biology lab: trying to find the answer to a particular question. I also recognize my history as a student of biology in my draw to clay’s ability to be manipulated at all levels of its creation, whether its in the mixing and altering of a slip, or in the potential of atmospheric firings. I use this characteristic of clay as the basis of communication in my works.
Marianne McGrath Contemporary Ceramics
What I See, What I Saw II, 2011, unfired earthenware, plywood, steel rod, wax, 4’h x 10’l x 20’x
- View her works

You use unconventional techniques in very interesting ways, like unfired earthenware and wax. Tell us more about these methods and the creation process.

The medium of clay itself creates a very heavy material metaphor. Artists, I believe, are drawn to it for it’s malleability, its ability to record the touch of the human hand, and the sense of permanence it retains once fired. Unfired clay, especially at the bone-dry stage, is incredibly fragile and ephemeral-it can be dissolved or broken down immediately. The impermanence that clay retains at this stage struck me as incredibly meaningful, and I thus employed it to convey the meaning that I wished for in my work.

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Interview with Deborah Britt - Spotlight, January 2012

Interview with ceramic artist Deborah Britt - Spotlight, January 2012

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→ The full interview with Deborah Britt is featured in Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue Two.

Ceramics Now Magazine
: You are in this field for more than ten years now; when exactly did it all start? Tell us how you discovered the passion for ceramics.

Deborah Britt: My passion for ceramics came rather late. Having been born and raised on a farm in Northwest Missouri, far away from big city influences, exposure to the arts was minimal. Art classes in my small-town school were non-existent past grade school—with a student body of 60 students in grades 1 through 12, resources were focused on the practical skills and knowledge essential to a farming community.

My interest in the arts began in college, where I was first exposed to fine arts through an Art Appreciation course. After earning a degree in Business, and subsequently a Masters Degree, I was firmly entrenched in the corporate world. The spark that ignited my interest in art, however, continued to smolder, but it wasn’t until I witnessed a wheel-throwing demonstration at a local art fair that my desire to delve into clay became real. After 13 years in business, I returned to school with a whole-hearted desire to master the art and craft of clay, ultimately earning a BFA degree in Ceramics. I have never looked back.


Deborah Britt Pottery -Ceramics

Blue Pitcher Set, 8” x 13”, Wheel-Thrown and Altered, Salt-Fired Porcelain with Slip and Glaze Decoration, Cone Ten, 2011 - View Deborah Britt’s works

You are mostly creating pottery pieces. How would you explain your attraction for functional ceramics?

I was initially attracted to the wheel. Learning to throw basic utilitarian forms was a joy to me.  The tactile sensation of wet clay is so seductive! However, there are some ideas that cannot be conveyed by functional pots, thus I also do sculptural work. I like the idea of making work that is approachable both on an intimate and intellectual level.
Making functional work appeals to the part of me that wants to connect personally with the user. I love the idea that the work will be handled, and I strive to make work that goes beyond the basic utilitarian form. In other words, I strive to make the work “special” for the user, in an effort to elevate the mundane, e.g., drinking a cup of tea, into the conscious enjoyment of the daily ritual, rather than a routine act.

I love to play with form, so even in my functional work I like to bring in a sculptural sensibility. The functional and sculptural forms play off each other—one idea leads to the next—so for me, the back and forth of sculptural vs. functional is essential.

—- The full interview will be featured in Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue Two.


There is a remarkable touch of sensibility in your decorations. Tell us more about how you decorate and where do you get inspiration from.

I am intrigued by the fact that we as humans are so connected to the earth, from the food we eat to the ceramic cup we drink from. I am drawn to relatively matte surfaces, perhaps because of their tactile nature or maybe because of their relationship to nature itself.

I want the clay to look like clay, and have been drawn to the salt firing process because of the ability to let the beauty of the clay body speak for itself as it fuses with salt. The element of surprise that arises from firing to firing with the phenomenon of flashing and variation of salt distribution has always held great interest for me.

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Interview with Kathy Pallie - New artist, January 2012

Interview with ceramic artist Kathy Pallie - New artist, January 2012

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→ The full interview with Kathy Pallie will be featured in Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue Two.

Ceramics Now Magazine
: When and how did you discover the passion for ceramics?

Kathy Pallie: Growing up, I was always the artsy-craftsy one, making things out of all different kinds of materials, using lots of different techniques. I loved going to my Dad’s office in New York City where they produced display products/props used in retail store windows and interior displays. To me, it was a magical, fantasy industry.
Though I never had art classes in high school, I decided that art would be my major in college. As a first year art student, I was introduced to clay. I immediately loved the tactile sense of working with clay and creating 3-dimensional objects.

My interest in clay took a back seat to advertising design which was my major within the art curriculum. This was followed by a very exciting career in commercial art designing decorative and functional display products for the retail stores, exhibit world and point-of-purchase industries. Most of these products were 3-dimensional, large scale and fabricated from a variety of materials. It was always exciting and challenging to work with materials that had totally different commercial uses and to create products from them that were applicable to the display field. Much of this was done in foreign countries working with cottage industries, sometimes sitting on the ground outdoors with chickens and roosters strutting by.  

Years later, when I retired and put my hands back into clay, I realized that this was a material that really excited and intrigued me, and one I had to explore in depth. I was hooked! My “clay play days” took over. Now instead of designing products that had to be marketable or meet a client’s design criteria, this was just me, the clay, and the creative process and didn’t need anyone else’s approval. I played with clay with a childlike approach, investigating, experimenting, and learning, as much and as fast as I could.  

Kathy Pallie Ceramics

The 4 Elements – Earth, Wind, Fire, Water, Earthenware, glazes, 18”H x 14” Diameter, 2011 - View Kathy Pallie’s works

Tell us more about your creative process. Where do you get inspiration from and how do you find the journey towards the final outcome?

My inspiration comes from just living and observing and being receptive to what is going on around me. I’ve always been inspired by the unlimited variety of textures, patterns, and energy found in nature. I love to be outdoors skiing, hiking, swimming, watching the changing light patterns from dawn to sunset, seeing flowers bloom and leaves unfurl. I’ll often take photos for reference, pick up pieces of bark to experience the sensation of the surface texture, and closely observe different patterns and details. I interpret my reaction to these things in clay. Though many of my artworks have a trompe l’oeil effect, I am not trying to mimic Nature. Rather, I try to bring the essence of what I have experienced in the outdoors into interior spaces.

Once in the studio, the clay often seems to have a life of its own as it leads me, morphing from one form and concept to another. On other occasions, I can envision the completed piece before even touching the clay.

— The full interview will be featured in Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue Two.

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Marianne McGrath

Marianne McGrath Contemporary Ceramics - Ceramics Now Magazine

Marianne McGrath's profile on Ceramics Now Magazine - View her works

“My work is a contemplation on material, process, and object metaphors that juxtaposes the medium of clay with industrial materials to create installations that speak of landscapes lost. Inspired by the landscape of my agrarian childhood home now covered by suburban sprawl, I strive for these works to be spaces and scenarios the viewer can physically or psychologically enter and inhabit, that calls one to pause and witness the result of my consideration of the changing landscapes that surround us.

The resulting works are entities that are symbiotic yet impossible, balancing what can be seen now, and was seen before. These works speak of the human idea and need of home, and the necessary yet chaotic change that rural and suburban landscapes constantly undergo. They are meant to leave viewers questioning, perhaps considering the role they play in the landscapes that surround them.” Marianne McGrath

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Suzanne Stumpf

Suzanne Stumpf's profile on Ceramics Now Magazine - View her works

“One of my interests is in making multi-component, interactive sculptures. Most of these works have innumerable permutations for viewing. Perhaps partially influenced from my background as a professional musician, these flexible sculptures allow for creating variations in the artwork such as might be experienced in the live performance of a musical composition from concert to concert. Some of the works may appear to be “games,” but generally there are no rules for arranging the components.

I work primarily in porcelain because this claybody receives and juxtaposes textures so articulately. Glazes are employed minimally; some works make use only of slips, underglazes, and oxide washes. My building combines altered wheelthrown as well pure handbuilding techniques.” Suzanne Stumpf

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Deborah Britt

Deborah Britt Pottery - Ceramics

Deborah Britt's profile on Ceramics Now Magazine - View her works

“My work mainly consists of salt-fired Porcelain and Stoneware. The salt-firing process is unique in that salt is introduced into the kiln when it reaches the proper temperature (2345 degrees F for my work). Inside the kiln, the salt vaporizes and settles onto the pieces, forming its own glaze over the clay body. I also use various slips and glazes to further decorate the pots.

In my functional work, my goal is to make the pieces “special”. I hope that everyday users will appreciate being “in the moment” as they sip from their hand-made cup or enjoy soup from their favorite bowl.

My sculptural pieces all have specific meaning for me, but sometimes are just fun! I don’t wish to impose my views of the work upon others, but would rather viewers lend their own interpretation to the pieces within their own contexts and ideas. Most importantly, I hope the sculptures will inspire viewers to pause and consider how the piece relates to their lives.” Deborah Britt

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Kathy Pallie

Kathy Pallie's profile on Ceramics Now Magazine - View her works

"As a commercial artist designing products for retail store windows and interior displays, trade show booths and special events, I worked with many different materials to create three-dimensional objects. When I retired and started working with clay, I realized that clay was an exciting and wonderfully tactile material which I had to explore in depth. 
 
I’m intrigued with the concept that the artist’s hand can manipulate clay into a work of art which expresses an emotion, tells a story, can be functional or is purely visually appealing. At times, the clay seems to have a life of its own as it leads me, morphing from one form and concept to another. On other occasions, I can envision the completed piece before even touching the clay. 

Inspired by Nature, my work reflects the unlimited variety of textures, patterns, and energy I find in my natural surroundings. Texture and the tactile sense have always been an important part of my work. I hand build with clay slabs, coils, and extruded shapes and use various clay bodies, firing processes, glazes and cold finishes for making different forms and surface textures.

I enjoy creating artworks which not only express my love of Nature, but which also allow me to bring the essence of the outdoors into interior spaces.” Kathy Pallie

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Interview with Connie Norman - Spotlight, November 2011

Interview with ceramic artist Connie Norman - Spotlight, November 2011

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→ The full interview with Connie Norman is featured in Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue One / Winter 2011-2012.

Ceramics Now Magazine
: Text and pattern is seen everywhere on your works; they make a fantastic rhythm and enhance the forms. When did you start to use text on your works?

Connie Norman: My current style using text started years ago when I was making mixed media sculptures that were mostly clay integrating text. I gave myself the challenge to make something esthetically pleasing. What I wanted to do was -to be able to tell a story with pots. I suddenly had the revelation of incorporating the text onto my pots. But it is very ironic that I use words on my work, because I have always struggled with writing. And I still do! When I was working in sculpture I only used single words, but now I have expanded to phrases. 

You recently came home from Ethiopia. What did you experience there? Tell us your impressions.

My journey to Ethiopia started approximately four years ago, when my husband and I started the adoption process for our son Vander. In 2009 our permanent relationship with the country of Ethiopia started, we traveled to Addis Ababa, to pick up our son. As the days, months and years went by; I realized I wanted to give back to the country that gave us our son. I started looking for a way to go back to Ethiopia and volunteer. I went to Ethiopia this past July for three weeks. I worked with three organizations, One Child Campaign, Vision on Africa and Mission Ethiopia.
Connie Norman working with Tigist, the master potter of Vision on Africa.I worked with women to help restore their dignity who are HIV positive and who have leprosy, and women who are destitute. Through the language of clay we were able to communicate, laugh and be with each other without a common language.
The women of Mission Ethiopia are HIV positive and suffer from leprosy; these women are considered outcasts and unemployable. Women like these and their children, spend their days searching the garbage dumps for food. Now, these women make pit fired beads, which are fired on the ground in an open fire.Currently they are able to feed their children and themselves.

I sat with the women much like an old fashioned quilting circle, they showed me how to roll the beads in my palm and decorate each bead. While we were making beads their children ran in, out and played outside with meager toys like old tires, but were always smiling. 
Vision of Africa is an organization that is helping destitute women in many diverse ways, they provide medical care for mothers and children are educated on contraceptives, sponsorship programs of orphans, and of course they train women to be potters. Ceramics in Ethiopia is a very hands’ on process  I was asked to help the women with their production process, but I felt like I learned more from them, than they learned from me. Tigist, the master potter gently guides the women from mixing the clay they collect from other regions of Ethiopia, to hand building bowls, vases, spice cellars, and coffee pots, and much more. While I was there, Tigist did a pit fire with me. I was amazed at her skill; she laid the green pots near the fire and slowly moved them into the fire ring. Then just like in American raku, she threw the pots in some dried leaves for a post reduction process. 

Connie Norman in Ethiopia with boys from one of the orphanages in Addis

"Me in Ethiopia with boys from one of the orphanages in Addis Ababa.  I caught my frist chicken."

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Interview with Blaine Avery - Spotlight, November 2011

Interview with ceramic artist Blaine Avery - Spotlight, November 2011

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→ The full interview with Blaine Avery is featured in Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue One / Winter 2011-2012.

Ceramics Now Magazine
: You’ve been working with ceramics for over twenty years now. Do you remember your first works? How did you evolved in time?

Blaine Avery: It has been just over 20 years since I stated in the field of ceramics. I remember my first works very well I know at every point in my career I strived to produce the best possible work I could, going against any business plan and striving to be the best artist I could. I threw away many of my works because in my opinion they just did not meet the mark. I felt it better to show and sell only what I felt was the finest quality I could produce at any point of my development as an artist. My first works were refined shapes as I was trying to get to the root of the form. Most were based on early american folk pottery that of, Edgefield South Carolina, Central North Carolina stonewares and slip trailed earthen wares.

These first works were simply glazed or left unglazed and fired in a wood-fired salt glazing kiln. In my early work I wasn’t ready to decorate the surface, I was only concerned with the root of the form; once I felt that I had achieved mastery of this, only then was I able to begin to think of working with surface design, by adding patterns a zoomorphic imagery. However, some forms still call me to show their true essence.

Blaine Avery Ceramics - Ceramics Now Magazine

Dancing turtle platter (salt glazed, local clay, hand painted slip, glaze) - View Blaine’s works

You work with great delicacy when using patterns and symbols of ancient cultures on your works. How do you choose these patterns?

I first began looking at my surroundings, taking patters and imagery from nature. So much inspiration can be found in nature, if you just pay attention to its rhythm and symmetry. With other designs I do look back on many cultures, taking from them what I feel is relevant to me in this time and place. I first started looking at early American ceramics of the 1600’s forward, than from there I began studying pre-Columbian ceramics and folk art from around the world. There is a common thread that links all ancient cultures, a trueness and simplicity that I feel drawn to. I also study textile patterns for many ideas as in nature there is a rhythm, a symmetry and a repetition that calls to me. Sometimes, I take only one small part of a pattern and cover the pot with it, repeating the process over and over; repetition can be very powerful if done correctly.

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Els Wenselaers

Els Wenselaers contemporary Belgian ceramics

Els Wenselaers' profile on Ceramics Now Magazine - View his works

“I am currently using ceramics and mixed media. My work is characterized by a reflection of contemporary society with a subtle humor and a tendency to idealize. I make works that stand alone, as well as installations.

The ceramic figures of ‘Sisyphus Work’ are condemned to an inevitable and senseless action. The titles that I use are referring to an existentialism in which an absurd figure plays the main role, extending far beyond the limits of vanity. They perform actions, although they realize that life is without meaning, but they stubbornly refuse to take the escape routes of death or faith. Spraying grass green, air exchange systems which are much too small to have any effect, machines that suck volatile odors, trying with mental control to move a vehicle. Again, and again, and again. Acceptance of the fundamental emptiness is the only thing that’s left.

The “Human Hybrids” installation is about the possible consequences of genome manipulation and malleable man. Genetic engineering, also called genetic modification, is the direct human manipulation of an organism’s genome using modern DNA technology. In examining the effect of specific genes, scientists have already made a fish that glows under UV light, pork with spinach genes, goats which produce spider’s web and there is also a Genmouse with super muscles that is protected against obesity.” Els Wenselaers

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Kjersti Lunde

Kjersti Lunde Norwegian Ceramics

Kjersti Lunde's profile on Ceramics Now Magazine - View her works

“Every day we are surrounded by objects of different character. Objects we either know from before or new things we’ve never seen. Created by nature or shaped by human hands. We distinguish between the known and unknown, and make new discoveries. What is known from before we often find in our home environment and community, and the more unknown objects we find when traveling or in new surroundings. I approach the objects in the exposition with different artistic strategies, and a transformation process that examines functional, sculptural and cultural issues.

In the selection of an object to work with, I look for what exudes a certain history and experience. By my hand, the objects are then transformed into new stories, and re-created objects. The original objects emerge as raw materials, in which their parts are recreated into wholes, with a desire to capture the time between past and present. The intention is to add something new and different to an object’s inherent character. Together these objects link together as small elements in a storytelling collection, and reveal a hidden story.” Kjersti Lunde

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Brian Kakas

Brian Kakas Contemporary ceramic artist

Brian Kakas' profile on Ceramics Now Magazine - View his works

Appropriate means of creatively adapting to continual changes have been expressed though practices of art, architecture, science and technology. In this new body of ceramic works, entitled “Tectonic Perceptions”, the intentions are incorporating methodologies and theories from the mentioned practices to create a “new nature” in structural design for ceramic objects. The pieces seek to celebrate the versatility of clay with an aim of fostering new realizations of architectural space. Travels throughout Asia and an array of rich cultural experiences in China have brought about new realizations within the artist’s mind and perceptions of cultural identity, history and space.

These relationships have allowed the artist to explore relationships between the strong elements of tradition and modern identities rapidly evolving around the world. Explorations of these interrelationships and the intentions of the maker and his material have led to the new structural ceramic designs. Through his aspired process of invention, it is the artist’s intent to find a natural form by staying true to chosen materials and their inherent properties. The artist is in pursuit of finding and establishing a formal vocabulary that allows sculptural vessels to exhibit qualities of both unique and handcrafted objects of traditional cultures with that of machine made and mass-produced objects of our contemporary society.

Brian Kakas is an Assistant Professor of Ceramics at Northern Michigan University. He received his MFA in ceramics from The University of Notre Dame in 2007.

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Interview with Arthur Gonzalez, Front-cover of Issue One and Artist of the month - October 2011

Interview with Arthur Gonzalez, front-cover of Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue One
Artist of the month, October 2011

→ Subscribe to our monthly newsletter if you want to receive news and interviews with ceramic artists.
→ The full interview with Arthur Gonzalez is featured in Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue One / Winter 2011-2012.

Ceramics Now Magazine
: You are one of the most assiduous ceramic artists in the world, with hundreds of exhibitions over more than thirty years. Why did you choose this career path?

Arthur Gonzalez: If by career path you mean, “why did I choose to be an artist?” I was one of those guys who always knew that they wanted to be an artist. I honestly cannot remember a time that I did not draw. I remember drawing in kindergarten. I took my first oil painting class with my mother at age 7. I identified with being an artist my whole life so the path was “written on the wall” so to speak. Also, times were different thirty years ago when I graduated from UC Davis. The word “career” was subject to interpretation. I remember that all I wanted to do once I graduated was to do whatever I needed to do to keep making art without needing to work a “regular” job. This was a huge factor, because if one wants to make art their whole life they need to be creative in terms of how to do that. As a consequence, I learned how to make a career instead of only making a lot of things.

Arthur Gonzalez Contemporary Ceramics - Interview Ceramics Now MagazineEverything, 2007, ceramic, glaze, rope, blown glass, ink, epoxy, gold leaf, gut, pollen, 40”x42”x12 - View Arthur Gonzalez’s works

When did you realize that ceramic art was important for you?

My relationship with ceramics has always been a double-edged sword, because I originally didn’t identify with ceramics or sculpture. In the beginning, I used clay to make a better painting!

My formal undergraduate art education at American River College in Sacramento and later California State University was as a photo-realist painter, this was the art movement of the time and all my teachers were photo-realists. I, although formally trained with all the exactitude and precision of a realist, was extremely frustrated. I wanted my paintings to be more expressionistic, spontaneous and “rule breaking”, but the training and dictum of “painting the right way” was so hardwired that I needed to change the very physicality of the painting’s object-ness. I realized that when addressing the white geometric canvas, specifically when the paintbrush approached the edge of the canvas, my gestures would be stilted and choked. I was too intimidated by its rigidity. I remember thinking that if I was too influenced by the edge, then I needed to change that edge.

Meanwhile, at California State University, at the opposite side of campus from the painting lab, was the ceramic department. Two of the professors there were Peter Vandenberge and Robert Brady, both were UC Davis alumni and former students of Robert Arneson. It was by watching them make their clay sculpture and witnessing the ways that they both treated the clay as a mud that did their bidding, that first attracted me to it. This was an epiphanous moment. I remember thinking that clay was the perfect replacement for canvas on stretcher bars. Upon returning to my studio, I slung a number of clay slabs and stretched them on the floor and then fired them, resulting in “bisque canvases” of non-geometric shapes, like a stack of so many pancakes. Then, using oil paint, I reacted to the silhouette of the shape by painting-in imagery that would co-relate to the swells and dips of the randomly shaped ceramic slabs. In my eyes, clay was a remedy not a historical material.  Ironically, I later dispassionately applied to graduate school at UC Davis to study ceramics sculpture under Robert Arneson knowing that I was competing against real ceramic artists who knew more about clay than slinging slabs, which literally was all I knew! It was those first experiments with oil paintings on ceramic slabs that got me into graduate school. My education of clay as a material didn’t start until my time with Robert Arneson. The one thing that I loved about clay was how I now could make things that could distance me from the confines of oil on canvas and, as a result, lifting the weight of the ‘History of Painting’ off my shoulders. When I thought of ceramics, I didn’t see “History” or “Tradition” or “right and wrong”. In fact, I didn’t even think of it as “ceramics”, I thought of it as clay that you made hard. To me the material was only material, and because I came to it through the back door it represented to me to be absolute freedom, a kind of sanctuary from the rules of painting and, as a result, pure invention.

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