Monday, April 2, 2012

In which I see a lot of clay and it rains

Last week was the NCECA conference (National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts) in Seattle. I drove over on Wednesday to catch the keynote and then stayed through Saturday. I ran into people I knew from college and graduate school and I saw a lot of ceramic shows and heard some lectures.

I thought this year's conference was okay but I didn't get really pumped about the work I saw until the last day when I went to the NCECA Invitational show at Bellevue Art Museum (BAM). The museum had at least three "clay" shows and some other exhibits and all were quite good, but "Push Play" was easily the best. The quality of work was strong throughout and there was a great deal of variety. I tend to prefer installations and larger work and I'd usually rather look at sculpture than functional work in a museum setting, so this show was to my taste.

Thinking I would have a catalog to refer to, I foolishly failed to get a name for this, my favorite work in the show. I also failed to get a good picture of the whole thing, and the website doesn't have one. Sadness.
The reason the above work by unknown artists was my favorite

I also simply liked the museum. They won me over with kids' activities. When we entered, my daughter and her grandmother went over to the clay activity tables while I went through the museum. After I'd seen everything, I took them for an abbreviated highlights tour. This allowed me to read and take photos and be slow in my visit and also to share the show with them.

I think kids are a good gauge of quality when it comes to art. The best show I saw last year was one where my daughter kept asking to look at one work (something by Jason Briggs). This year she had to see one particular installation 4 times. She kept asking to return to it. I think that's a good sign that there is something compelling about the piece.

This is one of my photos of my daughter's favorite work, "The Captains Congress" by Anne Drew Potter. I'm disappointed in my pictures and those available on the BAM website. I didn't take better ones because I planned to buy the catalog. The exhibition had a catalog in the room and a sign that said it was available to buy. LIES! (They were sold out and didn't plan to reprint). 

Anyway, Potter's work was a group of distorted children making faces and, according to my daughter, yelling at each other. One of the children had apparently walked away from the "game" and was sitting apart from them. She escaped the bodily distortions when she escaped the game. The group of figures was down about her height which may have made them more appealing but so was the first piece I mentioned and the work by Cavener Stichter (below). My daughter spent significantly more time with this group of figures.

I went to the show planning to enjoy Beth Cavener Stichter's work and I did. My daughter did too, but, as you might imagine from a young girl, she was interested approximately half of this work. Cavener Stichter's statement said something about the wolf as her alter ego coming to grips with her femininity. It makes me think that a young girl must whole-heartedly embrace her femininity. Having to come to grips with it comes later.

this was the girl's favorite part
this was my favorite part (no, actually I liked the whole thing)

Bellevue Art Museum had other good shows upstairs but they didn't allow photography. Luckily they have some photos online--at least temporarily. One of my favorites was "Labyrinth" by Motoi Yamamoto (which does have a picture). It was made of salt and looked intricate and interesting and impressive. My daughter guessed it might have been made of snow (you can see why) but it was an installation of salt. Currently on the BAM homepage you can see a picture of Yamamoto installing it.

There was more work in the gallery that I found interesting but I don't see pictures on their website and I wasn't allowed to take any. Suffice it to say that you need to go. Bellevue isn't that far away, just 20 minutes north of downtown Seattle. They have a decent bookstore and the city seems pleasant. Go.

Caroline Cheng from Shanhai. I saw here work at another show at the Seattle Design Center.

Close-up view of Cheng's work.

Carol Gouthro. Her work was everywhere. I have a new favorite ceramic artist.

To see more of Gouthro's work (I certainly will), visit her website at

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