Michelle Gregor, ‘Walking Angel,’ ceramic
Surprisingly, lots of kids with adults in tow marched up the stairs to the Museum of Art & History on a recent rainy weekend. In the lobby, a few seriously playful men in conductor hats sat behind a miniature landscape where long streams of colorful carriages careened over tiny tracks in a high-speed choreography of all-out races and near-misses: MAH’s annual "Toy Trains" family exhibit. Excited young voices rose cheerfully to MAH’s second floor and the “clay” part of the "Association of Clay and Glass Artists of California" exhibition, which opened last week.
Entering the expansive Solari Gallery feels like arriving at an already-buzzing party where lots of familiar faces turn in welcome. Brightly lit, it’s an ocean of pedestal islands with a horizon of ingenious wall displays that support irrefutable evidence that California is the heartland of American ceramics. Families who may have come to MAH to see "Toy Trains" now gather around these pedestals, perhaps surprised that art can be so instantly engaging. Kids head for the colorful grinning ceramic lion head and paws emerging from a far wall, reaching for a tableful of vegetables: Vicki Gunther’s Carrot Stew Shared with Lions
. Beside him, Mattie Leeds’ futuristic Space Guardians
brandish lustrous implements and a girl child by Julie Feld carries a world of stories in her expressive face and on the painted landscape of her costume. Whole families, enchanted, excitedly discuss art.
The sensuous water-smooth surface of Suzanne M. Long's Waiting for Dots
challenges the viewer to touch the pale cheeks of a hairless knickerbockered figure in a state of bug-eyed anxiety, so realistic, so interpretive. Nearby, two Bardo angels of Coeleen Kiebert convey a sense of otherworldliness, contrasting the dynamic corporeality of their unglazed clay bodies and the metallic luster of their accoutrements. Flight of the Phoenix
poses two anthropomorphized lizard creatures in a deep rowboat, intent on the future in an astonishing, meticulously rendered stoneware sculpture by Laurie Hennig. Walking Angel
, Michelle Gregor’s large evocative impressionistic figure with the grandeur of the Belle Epoque, drips stripes of crude primary colors. Fred Yokel’s sculpture tells engrossing stories, while Bob Kinzie’s Strada
seems wrenched from its job in industry to be glorified for geometry, pattern, surface. Charlene Reinhart’s Legerdemain
offers an eloquent treatise on figurative geometry. Vessels of virtuosity by Alice Corning, George Dymesich, Sandy Kinzie, Paula Prekowitz and Mark Goudy invite unbelieving fingers while Tom Wolver’s poignantly sinister pit-fired figure emotes the desolation of a lost soul.
Throughout the gallery, text panels on glazes, kilns, clay and methods of firing offer a primer on clay techniques. This engrossing show, with a glass contingent added Jan. 8, continues through Mar. 13. "Toy Trains" continues through Jan. 2. Read more at KUSP.org/exhibitionist.