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Congress Street Gallery
Award winning potter, Sequoia Miller, and master potter, Paul Heroux are joined by the father of the Studio Pottery Movement in the United States, Warren Mackenzie, in this 11th annual POTS exhibit.
Warren Mackenzie was influenced by the Japanese folk potter, Shoji Hamada, and the British potter, Bernard Leach with whom he served a two-year apprenticeship in the early 1950s. Legendary for his strict adherence to the Mingei philosophy of art for all people, Mackenzie keeps his work affordable. Mackenzie exhibits internationally. His work is in the permanent collections of museums and institutions world wide and at age 85 he is still making pots every day using a kick wheel and making each piece by hand from start to finish.
Sequoia Miller grew up in Portland, Maine. He has maintained a studio in Washington State for the past 15 years. Miller works in the tradition and philosophy of the Studio Potter. In a one-person workshop throwing each piece on a kick wheel and using limited glazes he produces "beautiful objects for everyday use by all people." Miller exhibits and teaches throughout the United States and is regularly featured in craft books and periodicals. This is his 13th exhibit at Fitzpatrick.
Paul Heroux produces hand thrown functional stoneware often embellished with lustrous glazes. A painter for the early part of his career he continues the sensibility using clay as his canvas. Heroux exhibits nationwide. His work is included in the permanent collections of museums and institutions as well as in significant private collections. He has headed the ceramics department at Bates College for the past two decades. He maintains a studio in New Gloucester, Maine.
Excerpted Maine Sunday Telegram review by Daniel Kany, December 6, 2009
Many people don't realize that Maine is one of the most important places in America for ceramics. Maine's Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts and the Haystack Mountain School of Craft are only surpassed in reputation by Penland in North Carolina and the Archie Bray Foundation in Montana. So we should expect to see excellent clay art in Maine. "Pots," June Fitzpatrick's 11th annual December exhibition of ceramics delivers. It features 150 works by three studio potters: Paul Heroux, Warren MacKenzie and Sequoia Miller. It is a great show.
All three artists tend toward limited palettes, humble scale and spare aesthetics in their functional stoneware. The Minnesotan MacKenzie is in his 80s, and has had a storied career. Heroux is the department chair for ceramics at Bates College. And Miller is a younger professor of ceramics in Olympia, Wash., who is on the cusp of becoming a major clay artist.
One of the appealing points of the exhibition is that the prices range from only $40 to $1,000 per piece. Fitzpatrick is a true believer in the Japanese and Korean tradition that ceramics can be beautiful pieces for all people. Yet it is not just the prices that make "Pots" a low-barrier show. The work is just as accessible as it is sophisticated, and it is extremely sophisticated. Appreciating it does not require historical or intellectual education, because the pieces stand so strongly on their mere visual presence. It is enough just to know the work wells from highly refined traditions. That is why this is a great show for experienced collectors as well as those who have never bought a work from a gallery before.
Ceramics are unusual in the arts because they beg to be touched. They want to be held. They reveal the maker's hand as well as their origin in clay and fire. The works in this exhibition are all functional: vases, bowls, storage jars, boxes, teapots, platters and so on. Yet every piece--and here we have to credit Fitzpatrick's eye as well as the artists'--exudes a handsome sculptural presence.
Many of my favorite pieces in the show are simple tea bowls by MacKenzie and Miller. But a few stand out for various reasons. While most of the pieces are reductively spare, Heroux's "Double Vases" are exceptional for their complexity, coloration and content. They seem to be based on books folded open; one features a page of binary code offset by an elegantly ancient--and similarly illegible--script. The jeweled colors and gold accents hint at the idea of illuminated manuscripts. Shifting between vessel, sculpture, page and functional object, they are as brilliant as they are beautiful.
Miller's "HiRise Jars" are jars within jars that play on the setback forms of skyscrapers. The limited palette of black and shino (gray/beige) serves to underscore the monolithic quality of the forms. Their proportions indeed help them achieve towering gestures, though they're only 2 feet tall. Miller's tip of the hat to minimalism is elegant, but it never overrides his organic instincts. His works emanate life.
MacKenzie's "Drop Rim Bowl" is another standout of "Pots." It is a foot-wide thrown vase whose top has been folded back down so as to appear almost as a 4-inch-high bowl floating an inch above the shelf. The red, black and gray colors have an unusually loose and painterly feel that shift your focus from structural or technical concerns to those of texture, color and volume. Sporting the casual touch of a true master, it is a wonderful object.
Many of the works in "Pots" seem to call out for the viewer to touch them. For me, that underscores how wonderfully accessible the work is. Yet I want to emphasize that this is one of the most sophisticated gallery shows I have seen in Maine this year. If you walk into this show with open eyes and an open mind, you are in for an exquisite treat.