Every week -- for the past 20 years -- I visit my friend John Putnam -- and every week, for the past three years -- he shows me his latest bowls and cups.
Now this is a fine thing for a friend to do -- to show what he thinks is beautiful -- and it seems that John's curiousity for what he can achieve with clays and glazes is without end.
So... over this period, I've gotten more interested in ceramics -- and now I'm spending more time in the ceramic rooms at the art museum -- the permanent displays of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean -- and the temporary displays of Amerindian and African. Next week, I think I'll post my favorites from the Chicago and Milwaukee museums -- but today I'm going to take you to Oak Park's Terra Incognito
-- a gallery/school of pottery -- to see just what my neighbors have been up to -- and maybe I'm totally ignorant here -- but I don't think I'd be too surprised if the pieces were interchanged -- i.e. if some (most?) of the Oak Park pieces were found in the art museum, and vice-versa.
This is John's piece in the gallery -- displaying his usual interest in brush painting and the complex chemistry of glazes -- and the kind of dark, heavy, masculine feeling (with a light touch) that I associate with him.
The main thing that surprised me was how conservative/restrained most of this show was -- in contrast to the way-too-complex kind of contemporary ceramics I see in museums or ceramic magazines. I guess that's the only kind that attracts professional notice -- but it's the simpler kind that I find more attractive -- even if it does not take years of experience and study to produce. (some of these pieces may have been made by beginners)
I really like this one --- the smokey-vaporous-cloudy effect (similar to an Amerindian pot dug up from Cahokia.
I've always liked to lie on my back and look up at the clouds (or at least I did back before I felt the pressure of mortality)
Nancy Desert Lizard Heraty
This one's a more conscious connection to the ancient American southwest -- done by a lady who must have received her name, "desert lizard", while studying with an Indian potter. There's still a show up at the A.I.C. of pottery artifacts from that period -- and I don't really see any difference in level of quality -- although this one feels 1950's American to me.
All of things shown above have been clean-and-smooth --- but thanks to the Japanese, we also have a tradition of the opposite -- putting something into a big smokey fire and seeing what happens (it's fun -- I've tried it -- over 50 years ago with toy soldiers and trucks -- and as I get older -- this is how I often feel)
I think we owe the above to American abstract painting and sculpture of the fifties and sixties -- or, at least to the part of it that tried to be enjoyable instead of confessional or prophetic. (and I really like Ms. Seyfarth)
Georgette Ore (AKA Don Pilcher)
These are the more playful or light-hearted pieces that seem so American suburban to me -- and I envision them in those home-decoration magazines that one finds at the supermarket. ( Which doesn't mean they're bad )
In conclusion -- I liked all of the above -- but there's nothing here I'd want to own -- or travel any distance to see -- except, perhaps, for the plate shown at the very top. But these are things that I'd like to find in the homes of sweet and charming people whom I visit (to contemplate while waiting for dinner)
I found the simple ones the most attractive -- but I think that's just because the more complex ones presented challenges that were not yet met. What I'd really like to see is a revival of pots with figure drawing -- as was done in ancient Greece -- but that might be too much to ask.
Upon doing a little research, it turns out that Michael Kline, the potter shown at the very top of this post, is not from Illinois at all -- and he currently lives in Bakersville, North Carolina. What an artist ! -- and I suspect many of the other pieces in this Oak Park gallery came from various distant places.