The 2017 Regional Ceramic Juried Competition, the current exhibit in the Haggerty Gallery in the Art History Building until Mar. 13, brings together diverse works in a variety of ceramic media from artists across the region, as well as a handful of pieces from juror Virginia Marsh, professor of art at the University of Dallas.
The exhibited works range from concrete imitations of gears and turbines to abstractions, from practical cups and teapots to representations of suspended hands yo-yoing and paint dripping from a squeezed tube.
Near the beginning of the exhibit, close to the unfortunately near-empty guestbook, are some of my favorite pieces, namely the three teapots and Jim Tabor’s impossible-to-miss “Going for Gold” urn that resembles fine gold but is actually made of Raku-fired Raku clay, a type of Japanese pottery typically used in tea ceremonies.
Nearby is Alberto Veronica’s “Daylight Cup,” made of seven different colors that meld into a delicate, glossy balance.
A little further into the exhibit, on the other side of the wall beside the entrance, are more of my favorite pieces, such as Louise Murdock’s “Broken Wings” showing light blue wings coming out of the back of a woman’s head, Amanda Jaffe’s “Simultaneously II” combining green and golden leaves with a cracked light cerulean background and Adam Knoche’s “Fractal,” made with oxidation-fire blackbird stoneware that somehow perfectly mimics incinerated wood. The grooves and crevasses and little crumbles resembling torched soil make this piece stand out, in particular because I am impressed that someone could make such a work out of stoneware.
On the same side of the exhibit, Shin Yeon Jeon’s “Head Totem — IV” and Tabor’s “Jettyware” combine classical elements with whimsicality, showcased in the balance of right-side-up and upside-down in the former and the combination of excellent technique and subtle sea urchins in the latter.
Finally, just beside the exit, Du Chau’s “First Chapter,” a porcelain piece made to resemble a shelf of books, brought a smile to my face when I visited the gallery.
Some of the works, such as Terri Wilder’s “Birth of Xochiquetzal” — a play on Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus”— exemplify the Southwest’s Hispanic culture, whereas others are more Asian-inspired in theme and technique.
At the same time, in their diversity, all of the exhibited works are of a common medium — ceramics. All art is destructible in some way or another, but I’ve always found ceramics particularly fragile. In fact, as I was walking through the gallery, being the anxious person that I am, I kept thinking I would accidentally knock over and break one of the exhibited pieces. You can tear a print, you can throw corrosives on a painting, you can burn a poem, but none of these media will break from being touched a little too hard. It is painfully obvious, on the other hand, that ceramics are delicate.
Still, you wouldn’t have thought much about their fragility while visiting the gallery. In fact, you would probably have looked at these works and thought instead that they were resilient, that they were strong. That transformation in perspective from seeing something as breakable to seeing something as strong is what I consider the miracle of ceramics, and, really, the medium’s moral: strength and fragility can go together, and both are more beautiful for it. Above all else, I find the exhibition marvelous in its subtle showcase of this reality.