Artist Joel Otterson’s sculpture is a bricolage of domestic handicraft with traditional sculptural materials, at times blurring the line between high and low culture, art and craft. Copper pipe, woodworking, pottery, concrete, marble, blown glass and needlework are some of the raw materials and techniques that he employs. Otterson has had an ongoing interest in the decorative arts, from its most elegant form in the cabinetry of André-Charles Boulle, and 18th Century Sevres porcelain, to artisanal handicraft and domestic labor, like lawn ornamentation or quilt making. He describes his art practice as “from crochet to welding, and everything in-between.”
When a curator admired Otterson’s ceramic collection of over 200 pieces of American pottery by McCoy, Red Wing, Roseville, Weller, and others, he commented that Otterson should make a sculpture out of the collection, which became the work The American Portable Pottery Museum (1994). The pottery is placed in a structure made of copper plumbing pipe and fittings, organized by color—brown on the bottom like the ground and trunk of a tree, with gradations of natural shades of green, ending in white, suggesting the clouds in the sky. Twenty years later, the renowned curator/collector Beth Rudin DeWoody approached Otterson to make a wall of china out of her eclectic collection of white pottery from the 1920s to the 90s, including unique pieces of Czechoslovakian pottery, amassed over a thirty-year period. Otterson noted that many were of a Modernist flare, and, originally designed to hold floral shop bouquets before the now commonly used disposable plastic vases. The resulting sculpture, The White Wall of China (2014-16) exudes calm, like a white snowcapped mountain or floating cloud, but in its whiteness also suggests the erasure of the functional object.
- Carol Ann Klonarides
Jeffrey Gibson • Hilary Harnischfeger • Joel Otterson • Lisa Sanditz
This exhibition focuses on four artists, Jeffrey Gibson, Hilary Harnischfeger, Joel Otterson, Lisa Sanditz not traditionally trained in ceramics, but who may incorporate clay into their respective practices/works. Each artist unites varying or disparate materials, references domestic or architectural environments, and often evinces an installation sensibility. Convene was organized in conjunction with Maker, Mentors and Milestones, the 50th Anniversary Conference of the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) in Kansas City, March 16-19, 2016