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mingei on art/ceramic sculpture

updated mon 22 oct 01


vince pitelka on sun 21 oct 01

> You are clearly devoted to your chosen discipline, and I credit
> your defense of it. Please allow me some defense of my own. I
> do not claim that 'fine art' is in any way superior to 'craft';
> I've tried to make that clear. It is simply a different thing,
> with its own standards, and a thing I'd like to see more of.

Snail -
I admire your spunk and your voice. As you know from your own experience,
ceramic sculpture finds itself in a funny place in the art world. Any
ceramic sculptor who has sought gallery representation is familiar with this
catch-22 situation. So-called "fine craft" galleries are often committed to
an association with utility, and will frequently shun purely sculptural
work. So-called "fine art" galleries which take a mainstream approach to
art (rather than outsider/folk/tribal/ancient/etc.) often tend to
marginalize ceramic sculpture in favor of wood, bronze, stone, and more
contemporary mixed media and installation approaches. You are obviously
well-aware of the historical foundation of this bias. As you know,
mainstream art historians generally give credence to ceramics only when it
provides a missing chunk of the art-historical record not provided by more
"acceptable" art media. Good examples are Greek vases, Egyptian amulets and
canoptic jars, ancient Middle-Eastern slip-painted vessels, Japanese Haniwa,
the Qin terracotta army, etc.

Over the last forty years it has been gratifying to see mainstream New York
fine-art gallery visibility for ceramic sculptors like Peter Voulkos,
Stephen DeStaebler, Richard Notkin, Viola Frey, Richard Shaw, Ken Price,
Mary Frank, Robert Arneson, and so many others. With the natural evolution
of the national art-consciousness (is there one?), a more inclusive attitude
towards ceramic art is emerging, as people realize that traditional
academically-sanctioned modes of art by no means represent the only paths to
informed and original aesthetic expression (well duh). Folk art and
outsider art certainly prove that. They always have, but blinders are
rampant in academia and the mainstream art world.
Best wishes -
- Vince

Vince Pitelka
Appalachian Center for Crafts
Tennessee Technological University
1560 Craft Center Drive, Smithville TN 37166
Home -
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615/597-6801 ext. 111, fax 615/597-6803