Springfield Museums Exhibit: Contemporary Ceramics
The boundaries between craft and art are often a matter of contention, especially concerning ceramics, or objects made of clay and hardened by heat. Throughout time people have worked with clay to shape tools useful to life: bowls, spoons, water carriers. And since the beginning of time some have taken the notion to transform a utilitarian object into a thing of beauty, a thing that transcends “the useful” to become “the admirable,” “the breathtaking,” “the head-scratchingly weird but fascinating.” That is art.
Perhaps intention is the key to the difference between craft and art, perhaps the difference is a muse taking hold of the creator, perhaps the difference has to do with long years of honing a creative vision in order to produce unique and compelling piece. The result, regardless, is a body of work worthy of being set aside to be admired, saved, and ultimately shared with others in venues such as galleries and museums.
A collection of fine art ceramics that transcends the category of craft finds a home at the Springfield Museums. This month Maggie North, assistant curator of art at the D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts, has selected items from the collection for display in an exhibition titled, “Ceramics from the Vault.” This exhibition features modern and contemporary ceramics from the permanent collection. Selected objects celebrate the outstanding creativity of American artists working in clay during the 20th century, including Brother Thomas Bezanson, George William Peterson III, and Beatrice Wood.
“The artists featured in this exhibition participated in a movement that shaped the history and status of ceramics,” said North. “Over the course of the last century, ceramicists engaged in unprecedented experimentation with shapes, firing techniques, and glazes. The work they created, and the work in this show, is incredibly artful, surprising, and beautiful.”
Recognized by American museums as fine art only within the past seventy years, ceramic pieces are still often relegated to the category of decorative art or craft. Come see the exhibit and decide for yourself—is this craft or is this fine art.
Sampling of the Artists Included
Brother Thomas Bezanson: (1929–2007): Canadian Benedictine monk Brother Thomas is known for adapting traditional Asian pottery techniques to his own style. He is also known as a master of complex glazes.
George William Peterson III:(1953– )Peterson was one of the five American apprentices to study with Seizan Takatori in the 17th-century Korean style called Enshu-Takatori. After completing the apprenticeship in 1978 George Peterson returned to the United States to set up the kiln Tsuchizaiku in Huntington, Massachusetts.
Beatrice Wood: (1893–1998): American artist Wood was characterized as the “Mama of Dada.” Her pottery glazing technique was a signature style that involved drawing metallic salts out by depriving the kiln of oxygen.
Gold Chalice, 1974, Earthenware, Beatrice Wood
From Sea to Shining Sea: American Vistas in Currier & Ives Prints
January 23, 2018–May 13, 2018
D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts
Nineteenth-century Americans were captivated by the newfound natural wonders of their young country. Fueled by the 1849 California Gold Rush and the establishment of the first transcontinental railroad in 1869, westward expansion was in full swing. While American painters like Albert Bierstadt and John Frederick Kensett glorified the seemingly untouched wilderness in their paintings, the Currier & Ives lithography firm made the country’s beauty and bounty available to everyday Americans through lithographs of similar subjects. Operating from 1835-1907, the firm bolstered national pride by depicting stunning vistas such as those found in the Rocky Mountains, Niagara Falls, Salt Lake, and the White Mountains.
Impressions: Prints from the Impressionist Movement
January 30, 2018–August 5, 2018
D'Amour Museum of Fine Arts
Famous for bright colors and loose brush strokes, the Impressionists rejected traditional painting styles in favor of a new way of seeing and understanding modern life. These artists left their studios, taking to the outdoors, streets, and cafes in order to create “impressions” of what they saw rather than attempting precise imitations of nature. This exhibition, which features prints by French and American artists, will explore how artists translated the impressionist painting style into black and white prints. The fluid lines and soft forms characteristic of impressionist prints are exemplified in this show through works by Jean-Louis Forain, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Childe Hassam, and others.
The Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden at the Springfield Museums in the city where Theodor Seuss Geisel was born and which appears to have inspired much of his work. Sculptor Lark Grey Dimond-Cates, who is also Geisel’s step-daughter, created the endearing bronze sculptures of Dr. Seuss and his most beloved characters. See the "Story Teller" himself along with the Grinch, the Lorax, Thing 1 and 2, Horton, and Yertle the turtle! Free to see and open daily.
The Springfield Museums
220 State Street, Springfield, MA
Set around a tree-lined quadrangle in downtown Springfield, the world-class museums that comprise the Springfield Museums provide visitors with a wealth of exciting imagery and inspirational artwork. The nationally accredited and Smithsonian-affiliated consortium of museums includes the Springfield Science Museum, the Michele and Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts, the Lyman and Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History, the George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum, the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden, and the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss, the first and only museum dedicated to the beloved children’s book author and Springfield native. The Quadrangle is also home to the Dr. Seuss Sculpture Garden, a series of full-scale bronze sculptures of Dr. Seuss's whimsical creations, honoring the birthplace of Theodor Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss. For one admission price, visitors can enjoy all 5 Springfield Museums and the Dr. Seuss Park. Secure free onsite parking is available around the corner at 21 Edwards Street. Open Tuesday through Sunday.