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This month's feature....
Contemporary Works in Ceramics
Visitors to the exhibition space at the Society for Contemporary Craft in Pittsburgh this spring will be transfixed and transformed by an installation by ceramic artist Linda Swanson, the winner of the 2013 Elizabeth R. Raphael Founder’s Prize. Swanson’s site-specific installation is similar to her piece Temperamental Earth, which was recently seen at the Northern Clay Center in Minneapolis. Combining the slow and steady drip of water onto a clay-covered steel surface, the piece is constantly changing. As the water burrows through the clay, the surface is altered into a collection of bubbling, cracking craters. Swanson describes the piece as an exploration of the "interdependence of organism and environment, as well as organism and organism – in which one species is created, or at least sustained, by and through another." The changing nature of the piece’s materials speaks to the thematic thrust of Contemporary Craft’s Transformation series.
Since 1997, the Society for Contemporary Craft has challenged artists of various media to explore the concept of transformation in a biennial juried exhibition called the Transformation series. This year’s Transformation 9 features the work of 31 ceramic artists in an exhibition that runs from April 25 through November 1 at the group’s gallery in Pittsburgh’s Strip District neighborhood.
Contemporary Craft’s Director of Exhibitions Kate Lydon, who curated the Transformation 9 show, says that the exhibition will highlight outstanding and innovative examples of contemporary works in clay, all of which have been created within the last year. The works are drawn from a competition for the Elizabeth R. Raphael Founder’s Prize, which seeks out an international selection of artists and invites them to redefine their medium – this year, clay – to create work that is challenging and thought provoking. Previous Transformation competitions have highlighted other traditional craft media, such as glass, wood, metal, and found materials. The competition honors Contemporary Craft’s founder, Elizabeth Rockwell Raphael, a pioneer in the Pittsburgh arts community and a tireless apologist for the value of craft.
About one hundred artists submitted entries for the 2013 Raphael prize. From these, jurors selected 31 finalists (See Sidebar). A $5,000 prize will be awarded to Swanson. In addition, two entries are given Honorable Mention and one artist is given a Merit Award. The jury consists of Raphael’s daughters – Alexandra and Catherine – who are both artists, and two invited prominent artists in the competition’s featured medium. The jury for the 2013 prize included Joshua Green, Executive Director of the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts and Jae Won Lee, a Korean American ceramic artist and Associate Professor at Michigan State University. SCC’s Executive Director Janet McCall and Lydon round out the group.
Swanson’s winning entry in the prize competition, a 20-inch round wall disk made from crystalline glazed porcelain with a painted aluminum rim, entitled Cypreus Lumen, plays with the properties of clay. Swanson explains, "Processes of change, formation, and dissolution are caught in this crystalline glazed surface. A flow of molten colorants in an optically ambivalent and luminous frozen moment recalls geology as well as biology, and elicits material affinities between the body and the world around us." Swanson’s works have been exhibited in the United States and Canada. She lives in Montreal and is on the faculty of Concordia University. In 2013, Swanson was named an Emerging Artist by NCECA, the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts.
Contemporary Works in Clay
Tom Bartel Athens, OH
Susan Beiner Phoenix, AZ
Brian Boldon Minneapolis, MN
Pattie Chalmers Carbondale, IL
Andrea Connell Richmond, VA
Thaddeus (TJ) Erdahl Princeton, NJ
Heather Mae Erickson Golden, CO
Michelle Erickson Hampton, VA
Lauren Gallaspy Salt Lake City, UT
Gerit Grimm Madison, WI
Chuck Johnson Venango, PA
Alexa Kus St. Johns, MI
Martina Lantin Marlboro, VT
Calvin Ma San Francisco, CA
Lauren Mabry Philadelphia, PA
Jonathan Mess Jefferson, ME
Andrea Moon Red Lodge, MT
Julie Moon Philadelphia, PA
Peter Morgan Philadelphia, PA
Erica Nickol Pittsburgh, PA
Sara Parent-Ramos Austin, TX
Jessica Putnam Phillips Arlington, VT
Kevin Snipes Cleveland, OH
Lee Somers Montevallo, AL
Miles Spadone Portland, ME
Linda Swanson Montreal, Quebec
Ryan Takaba San Antonio, TX
Ian Thomas Slippery Rock, PA
Shalene Valenzuela Missoula, MT
Valerie Zimany Central, SC
Lilly Zuckerman Missoula, M
Though the exhibit showcases the works of the prizewinner, the six-month exhibit run does allow for good exposure for all of the finalists. Each artist is represented by his or her entry piece. The three artists who received the Honorable Mention and Merit designations will present multiple works. In past years, the show has circulated to other galleries after its Pittsburgh run. Lydon looks forward to a similar plan for Transformation 9.
The Society for Contemporary Craft plans a selection of activities in relation to the Transformation 9 exhibit. Winner Swanson will receive the Raphael Award at an Opening Reception on April 25 from 5:30 – 8:00 p.m. The following day, Swanson will present a lecture about her process and career at 2:00 p.m. That same day, from noon until 2:00, many of the artists will be present for a "Dialogue with the Artists" in which visitors may talk informally with the exhibitors about their works. There are many more activities and educational programs planned throughout the exhibit’s run, including a free hands-on art activity designed by Raphael finalist Peter Morgan in SCC’s Drop-In Studio during public hours. Guest jurors Joshua Green and Jae Won Lee have contributed introductory essays for the show catalogue, featuring photo documentation and biographical information for each of the finalists. Visitors will be able to purchase pieces from the show, in addition to other works by finalists Heather Mae Erickson, Martina Lantin, and Valerie Zimany, in the SCC shop.
The Society for Contemporary Craft is located at 2100 Smallman Street in Pittsburgh’s Strip District neighborhood and is open from 10 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Saturday.
For more information about this year’s exhibit or the Elizabeth R. Raphael Founder’s Prize, visit www.contemporarycraft.org, or call 412.261.7003