Ceramic Vision: Technique sometimes falters at show, Durango Herald, Sept. 22

“Undulating Vase,” Peter Karner; “Continuum 3-D” and “Continuum 042004” Intuition Markers by D. Michael Coffee; “Yell Fire,” ceramic and wood by Judy Brey; “Moonhouse,” “Labyrinth,” “Echo Canyon,” and “Spirit Walker” by Boots Brown; “In-Situ” Intuition Marker by D. Michael Coffee.


Ceramic art is born in fire. The work of Boots Brown in the fifth annual David Hunt Ceramics Invitational at the Fort Lewis College Gallery also is born of technical skill and careful craftsmanship.

Without meticulous technique such as Brown’s, the art will be marred.

His bulbous vessels are large, yet the walls are thin and burnished to a luster. Copper, iron oxide and salt mixed with hay, sawdust and wood fuel the patterns created by the reduction of oxygen during pit firing. The artist has limited control over what emerges from the pit; the aesthetic pattern in “Echo Canyon” ($300) a platter with a thick gray area contrasting with the rust orange and charcoal black markings is my favorite of Brown’s four pieces.

D. Michael Coffee also shows bulbous vessels: “Continuum 042004” ($695) and the smaller “Continuum 3-D” ($495). Both are vivid lapis blue and metallic pewter. Coffee also shows “In Situ: Intuition Marker” ($695) three pillow-shaped ceramic rocks, one large, iron-oxide red and atop that a medium, speckled yellow and next to them a small, lapis blue. A Zen art garden.

Lisa Pedolsky’s work is small and elegant. “Canister I” ($120), “Canister II” ($95) and “Canister III” ($68) are pyramid-topped boxes with aligning black semi-circles joining the lid and the vessel. The canisters are ivory with terra-cotta squiggles and marks like Arabic written in the glaze.

I found glaring mistakes in Pedolsky’s work. The semicircles did not line up on the canisters. A smudge of ivory glaze bled onto the terra-cotta line dividing the lid from the vessel. This mistake was right in front next to the focal point. Over-wiped edges on the smaller canister leave terra cotta streaks showing through. Hairline cracks are visible on “Dandelion Platter” ($195). These mistakes detract from Pedolsky’s otherwise interesting aesthetic.

One work that merges aesthetics, color and craftsmanship is “Undulating Vase” ($350) by Peter F. Karner. The wavy construction of the vase is echoed in the scalloped layers of turquoise, green, orange and copper glaze, created using wax resist.

J. Burnite creates texturally intriguing work, scratching into the clay and using scraps and strips of clay. He says he is motivated by questions of what is possible in designing a shape. “Introspective View II” ($700) has a zigzag base with a doughnut-shaped vessel balanced on top. A glob of glue appears to be holding the work in place, and made me wonder if this shape wasn’t possible without the glue. Like Pedolsky, Burnite’s craftsmanship did not seem equal to his aesthetic vision.

Chyako Hashimoto’s “Mori” ($450) vessel reminds me of corrugated Mesa Verde pottery on steroids. I’m not sure what the accompanying organic shapes are supposed to represent and they detract from the large vessel. Hashimoto explained that Mori is a forest in Japan and describes the work as fire cured. A pungent scent of smoke radiates from the vessel.

Ceramic figures by Judy Brey round out the exhibition. “Yell Fire,” ($150) a ceramic figure atop driftwood legs hangs on the wall. The sculpture moves. There is tension in the arms. There is the sense of leaping, flying and wondering where one might land. “Always There” ($300) is a seated figure holding flowers in her hands and “This World Held” ($350) is a male figure with a blue baby tucked casually under his folded arm. Brey’s work is edgy and filled with tension.

” the piece represents our current world situation held in such a negligent and careless manner,” she writes in her artist statement.

I wish less of the work in this show was presented in a negligent and careless manner.

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