Contemporary Art

Stability & Fragility

           Mixing dynamic line and apparently random crystal ‘growth’ with the stability, regularity, and predictability of the construction brick the piece is a pleasing juxtaposition of the macro-crystalline structure of the quartzite against the micro-crystalline presence known to be in the very fiber of the brick clay. The talisman focal point created by the pyrite alludes to the brick as well in that the brick clay, stained red from iron, shares the same element with pyrite which is composed of iron sulfide crystals. The translucence of the quartz crystals contrasts with the opaque brick yet we are still able to see through the brick via engineered holes allowing the mind to wander and ponder the various crevasses in this assemblage. How in our own lives may we be intentionally ugly and opaque yet still, those with eyes to see may see straight through us? How much better would it be to be a translucent crystal; would the fragility be worth the beauty?

Luo Xiao-ping: Political Commentary in Clay

Born in 1960 in China and educated in Jingdezhen, Luo’s work documents the civil changes he has witnessed through the vehicle of sculptural ceramics. Upon forgoing a professorial role at the famous Tongji University in Shanghai Luo chose a career as a professional artist and founded a studio in Yixing as well as Arizona and divides his time between the two with his wife Junya Shao who is also a ceramic artist. Deeply rooted in the hand building techniques of Yixing, Luo acknowledges his own history and tradition and willfully steps outside of the conventions in both his treatment and firing methods of the Yixing clay. Luo is known primarily for his work involving the figure in some way or another and perhaps his most controversial work is his “Times Square” series. In this work he looks around the world and realizes that “Here, I can scoff at them, myself and the world.”  20 of the most powerful people in the world are each rendered about 2 feet in height and wearing traditional Chinese clothing. Osama Bin Laden stands next to Chairman Mao and Luo towers above them all.  The markings chosen for the clothing carry weight as well and are a humorous device in and of themselves. Representing as a whole world peace, the words are in stark contrast to actions of the figures portrayed. The depth of thought on this work is evident even in the title for the Luo describes not the Times Square of Ney York but rather “a political image spectrum installed on the Square of Time”. Luo “[invites us] to Times Square with my qualification of an artist, put down the weapons required to stop the conflict and terrorism.”

Luo Xiao-Ping with Times Square Series

Bai Ming: Artistic Versatility, Material Excellence

An established and internationally acclaimed ceramic artist and oil painter, Bai Ming combines traditional Chinese styles of art and contemporary thought to create both 2 and 3 dimensional works of art that abstract and express his involvement in the rebirth of Chinese tradition. Named “The Symbol of Diversification of Chinese Contemporary Art” Bai Ming is a lecturer at the Academy of Arts and Design at Tsinghua University and teaches ceramic decoration courses as well as modern ceramic craft and prefers to let theory and practice work together to inform both his own work and his educational model in his classes. This pragmatic view of traditional and contemporary thought and artistry populates itself in his paintings and ceramic art. Evidenced in this vase from 2011 titled “Song of the Wind in the Reeds”, the gestural body with its gentle undulations of form and line becomes the perfect surface for Ming’s loose and painterly style of decoration in cobalt referencing the designs of Imperial China. The heavily decorated exterior contrasts sharply with the pure white of the interior of this open form and is as clean as swept snow, though not devoid of meaning.

Song of the Wind in the Reeds

Defining Meditation

The meaning of meditation to an individual can vary almost as much as the methods of practice. This piece invites the observer into a discourse with itself and rewards time spent pondering its subtle curves and coloration. The softness of line and transitions between forms allow the eye to move un-hindered across its surface tracing its flow. Like water unto a stone the eye cascades from a pitted and textural crown down through the hollow of earthy greens and browns on to richly carved textures juxtaposed with stony smooth surfaces at the feet. The arched form serves as a visual bridge carrying the viewer along its form freeing them from the trouble and turmoil of our modern society and invites a sojourner to travel with it through a visual landscape that is contemplative and at peace. Referencing geologic time and its passage the viewer is invited to spend some of their most precious commodity observing the work and observing themselves. Meditation in the quiet, introspection in the stillness, and reflection when at peace are too rare; and yet offered to any and all through this work.

Growlers and Mugs

 These pieces bring to mind immediately celebrations and good drinks with good friends. With the similarity of form between the mugs and growlers and the continuity of glazing effects the pieces are clearly intended to be parts of a set, displayed as a whole, as seen in the central four vessels atop the barrel lid. However, the forms individually are strong enough to stand alone in their functional life and provide a comfortable place for the eyes, hands, and lips to commune after a long day of work. Free of any commentary save for their own the set is made up of heirloom-worthy vessels and draws upon strong historical references providing a fresh look at some of the utensils used for celebrating with beverages.

Stone

 To bring forth water from a stone… a miraculous task indeed. And if a stone were to quietly weep what would any one notice save for the moss growing on its flanks. The moss alone would appreciate the tears. So too it seems that few understand much less care that many soldiers weep quietly to themselves. These are not the ones who become tragic spectacles but the ones who like stones, endure. No large fissures of character allow for dramatic collapse. These stones are sturdy. And not all the water running down is silent crying, sometimes it merely rains. This captures most elegantly the emotions meant to be conveyed by this piece. Tears of stones may only be hidden by storms.

Wisdom

 The Native American man seen here displays imagery from historical depictions of a long dead tribe; The Timucua of North-east Florida. He is an old man and yet was once a warrior. The lines on his face are scars, whether received in battle or by exposure to time and the elements, scars they remain. With his war paint on the gaze holds the viewer and the mutual heart breaks with history, legend, pain, and love. Attempting to capture a melancholy wisdom this is the face of the people through whom I was first exposed to clay. As a boy growing up picking up pot sherds and attempting to make pots of my own from the same clay beds I draw a strong, if abstract, lineage to these ancient people. Growing up close to the land and sea I have developed a land ethic that trends towards “Deep Ecology” and I find it so pleasing to make pots from the same clay, influenced by the same estuarine environment as did the potters 5 thousand years ago. 

Family Honor

  This piece, my first figurative work of any note in my entire ceramics career represents huge marginal expansions of my knowledge of clay and its material properties. Seen here in the snowy white of the bisque firing it is also pure and free of any material except for clay. So too my own image, seen in this body cast bust is pure and in good standing and calls upon the lineage of my forebears both in appearance and temperament. Whether by nature or nurture the influences of the men to be displayed along with this bust have all had their effect on me and how I perceive myself with respect to those from whom I descend and currently surround myself with. Truly, the people of my origins shape my identity.

Eroded Stone

 These Pieces, as a grouping are much more than the sum of their parts. As stand-alone works they hold a limited power of engagement, a thrown and altered piece is merely that. When grouped the pieces yield a landscape that is at once both intriguing intellectually and inviting to the imagination. Projecting oneself onto the work as a miniature climber one can trace the route of visual discovery through differing paths to the basins of satin color amidst the rough, dry surfaces of the vessels. The play of light and shadow across both the altered forms and individual strata is highlighted by the directionally applied glazes and serve to create a luminosity of the pieces reminiscent of the play of light across similar forms in nature, changing with the westering sun. This grouping derives much from primary research with respect both to the forms themselves and also the process of glazing; every piece being fired a minimum of 3 times. Designed with a cone 10 soda fire in mind the transition to the low temperature range remained a proving ground as well. Advice and research can only get one so far; after a certain point, without time to test there is a moment of an educated guess and just a pinch of reckless abandon.  

Pit-Fired Pottery

 When thinking about pit-fired vessels one may think of rather simplistic and unchallenging forms haphazardly placed if not tossed into the evening campfire with Laissez-faire practices and greyish results. These however bear the marks of the flame and were variously spread throughout the pit in which they were fired. The fire was also tended well by various members of our team fuel added regularly and carefully with careful attention paid to the needs of the fire and adjustments made accordingly. Treated to a slow reduction cooling period of over 2 days the pieces were unloaded from amidst the embers and the intimate contact between ceramic and coal is evidenced by the variegated surfaces seen throughout the grouping of vessels. 

Expanding the Visual Vocabulary

 When approaching the varied works history of Patti Warshina one is hard pressed to keep up with the lightning speed of conceptual and technical change represented by her diverse visual vocabulary in clay. Sometimes seeming a menagerie it may indeed be easy to become overwhelmed by ourselves looking in the mirrors of her work. Each of the pieces evokes an imperative to change whether it be the call for silence of Gossip Mongers or the commentary of Spy Hole the work illuminates societal pressures that we receive almost hourly. And the artist could not be better matched to her work. Perceptive, poignant, and passionate, Patti engages her audience in person in an equally nuanced way to her work.