Curator, Judith S. Schwartz
As a fellow board member and past president of Watershed, I am
honored to be guest curator of Clay (Mates), a title that serves
to show that the artists featured not only share the extraordinary
bond of working in clay, but are also colleagues (mates), sharing
and shaping the future of an extraordinary arts organization.
Service on the board of any organization can be tedious and labor
intensive and is not for the faint of heart. Yet an organization’s
success, particularly a not-for-profit organization such as Watershed,
could not provide the exceptional working environment that is ourresidency
program were it not for the guidance of the artists on the board.
It is their credibility and influence
that truly enables Watershed to “provide time and space
to work in clay.” That is why Watershed is so highly regarded
as a premier residency for clay in the United States.
As visionary as these 9 hard working board members are on behalf
of Watershed’s future, their artwork is even more extraordinary*.
They celebrate the notion that the hand of the artist mirrors culture
and that the manipulation of materials reasserts their ability
to continuously define and redefine the world and its objects for
use and contemplation. Their objects constitute a continuous
resetting of the frame of reference for the medium demonstrating
that, not only are they masters in their handling of this most
plastic of materials but, for them, ideas rule as they challenge,
explore, express, and
demonstrate the excitement and stimulus to aesthetic consciousness
that true artistic work is capable of providing.
Chris Gustin explores the vessel form on a human
scale, taking simple, historical pottery forms and jumping them
in scale as a vehicle for abstraction. They serve as poetic metaphors
for the body, made all the more sensuous by organic undulations
and soft, velvety skin-like glazes.
Nancy Selvin makes use of the venerated still
life as her thematic offering, but her sharp intellect moves this
quiet genre into new meaning as she re-contextualizes familiar
objects within an architectural context thereby invigorating the
familiar with a new vocabulary of form.
Similarly, James Lawton draws on history as well,
but references the ongoing dialogue between form (meaning) and
function (use) to impact this current work. He cleverly questions
issues of modernist debate on a series of wall reliefs.
The teapot is a vessel with a long history that
stretches the technical skills of the artist and offers great potential
for individual expression. JoAnn Schnabel uses
the teapot as her vessel of choice to address abstract forms inspired
by nature that are enlivened with whimsy and delightful surprise.
Phyllis Kudder Sullivan derives
her inspiration from the language of textiles and, using the weft/
warp metaphor, “weaves” clay coils into interlaced
double-walled vessel forms. The intricacies of their construction
create marvelous lines of continuous motion and movement
The personal hygiene porcelain forms once used in bath, bed or
hospital rooms are the inspiration for Denise Pelletier’s exploration
of the psychology of the vessel as it relates to gender, use, and
tableaux. Erotic and playful, these reinvented forms explore the
vessel as metaphor for the female body, as she plays on titillating
imagery and association.
Kate Blacklock focuses on portrait busts of cross-generational
woman that convey themes of aging, beauty, and life’s passages.
She ingeniously superimposes two-dimensional faces onto three-dimensional
sculptured faces and intertwines surface details to further enhance
the narrative. Intentionally ambiguous, the viewer is left to ponder
the concept of self-concept and how we are so often contradictorily
viewed by others.
While Paula Winokur has had a long, established
reputation for her mastery of vitrified porcelain, she has recently
used these skills to focus on issues of the environment and the
threat of global warming. Appalled by the retreating glaciers witnessed
in Iceland, she uses porcelain to simulate ice cores, ledges and
crevices that are frightening real and majestically beautiful while
at the same time, suggesting their fragility and ultimate impermanence
in the face of global warming.
Matt Nolen has always had social and political
overtones in his work, using his art to speak out against war,
material indulgences, gender injustice and many other issues of
societal ills. His uncanny ability to bring humor and satire into
the work makes his messages all the more palatable. The China
Head series inspired by specific people he encountered and
whose stories he embellished while working in China and are meant
to focus on the striking cultural, architectural and socio-political
landscapes that are reshaping the “new” China.
Watershed is proud of its artist-based board. They demonstrate
the love of service, leadership, interaction and communication
that is requisite for any successful organization, while their
personal artistic achievements continuously inform, impact and
elevate the ceramic art of our country.
Judith S. Schwartz, Ph. D., Watershed, Trustee
* While only nine artists are featured in this show, the curator
wishes to acknowledge the valuable contributions of the other artist/board
members and does not intend, for an instant, to diminish their
contribution to the success of Watershed or the quality of their
artistic endeavors. An attempt was made to simply select artists
for this show who had not exhibited in this venue before.
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