Plates, Platters and Nothing Else Matters at LBI Foundation

By PAT JOHNSON | Jul 12, 2017
Photo by: Pat Johnson ‘Dry Times’ sculpture by Jess Benjamin of Omaha.

A great introduction to what ceramic artists are doing beyond the influences of New York and Philadelphia is “Plates, Platters and Nothing Else Matters,” a national juried show by Garth Johnson, appearing at the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences in Loveladies.

Johnson, who teaches at Arizona State University, has found artists from the south, north, east and west, plus Middle America, to highlight in his exhibit.

Although no one likes being categorized, there seem to be three types of ceramics on display. The first type utilizes the relatively new technology that allows for customized ceramic decals that can be lifted and placed on wares that then go in the kiln.

Work by the first-prize winner, “Catharsis” by Mimi Logothetis of North Carolina, seems to have been made this way, juxtaposing decal eyes, dollar bills, weapons, etc. on a plate in a pleasing and expert way.

Craig Crawford of Rhode Island uses ceramic decals of birds, fish, clams and other creatures on a host of platters and plates that are lovingly grouped together and called “I’ve Got the Blues,” for the indigo shades illustrating them. Many of these have a red dot next to them signaling they have been sold.

Stuart Asprey of Oklahoma may have painted “Legend of the Nihang,” a portrait of a Sikh and a crocodile, and sent it off to be made into a decal, as there are companies that can do that, or he may have painted the image on the plate itself. It’s hard to tell the difference unless the decal is commonly recognized as a print in the public domain.

For instance, “Three Flounders” by Shirley Groman of Maryland is a beautifully rendered “painting” of her subject that could have been a decal that was transferred or a real piece of sgraffito. Luckily the internet allows for us to know that Groman did this work by hand by drawing on the clay, then painting it with a thick, black clay slip that she then scratched away to reveal the white clay underneath.

The second type of ceramics on display uses the attributes of clay itself to make various textures and glazes that say “earth” or “of the earth.”

Adrian King from Maine won an honorable mention award with her stoneware platter “Rope Texture.” The image of a whirling star was made using a coarse rope. It has surprising, serene beauty.

“Transitional Tubes” by Todd Leach of Ohio and “Geological Platters” by Keith Ekstam of Missouri bring to mind mud and more mud – but in a good way.

“Camellia Coastal Bloom” by New Jersey artist Judi Tavil won an honorable mention for her stoneware with porcelain slip glaze that bubbled up, leaving many fine, lacey holes in the glaze and resembling plant material.

“Dried Up on the Ogallala Aquifer 3” by Jess Benjamin of Omaha, Neb., illustrates a political or social issue, the third type of work in the show. The cracked lakebed platter is a map of the Great Plains states that are using and depleting the aquifer and setting us up for another dust bowl. His accompanying installation, “Dry Times” (neither plates or platters, does it matter?) is a series of water standpipes that are all marked “dry.”

Stephanie Jaffe’s two works “Clementine Redux” and “Floradimonte” are created from recycled objects and are now “up-cycled” objects, unless they get thrown out again.

“I want to be an artist,” by Diane KW of Hawaii is at first glance a pretty, Bavarian-type platter covered with decals of the age, but there is a great deal of writing around the edge and on scrutiny, it is a decal of writing from Adolf Hitler’s autobiography “Mein Kampf,” from a section where he describes a trip to Vienna and his yearning to be an artist. But he was turned down from the Vienna Academy – twice. It begs the question what if he had been trained as an artist? Would the world have been spared the horror of Nazism?

More thought, or at least a trip to Wikipedia, is required for the next artwork. Timothy Woodbury’s “Shrödinger Cat Platter,” encased in a cardboard box, won the third and last honorable mention award.

According to Wikipedia, Schrödinger was a quantum physicist who wanted to disprove a theory that an atom could exist and not exist at the same time. He suggested a cat in a box with an atom that may or may not be radioactive would mean a dead or live cat, but not both. This is a simplistic way of describing it – and no cats were harmed in either the theory or the box that hangs in the exhibit.

Humor also shows up in Leslie Hinton’s “Dolphin Playing Virtual Reality Video” plate and her “Chicken Ride in the Country,” which she painted with glazes.

A series of cracked “Lawn Chair” platters by Californian Mary Cale Wilson are either useless or nihilistic statements.

But Nancy Kramer of sunny Kansas gives us hope with her terribly beautiful tiles, “The Nature of Things.”

If you are puzzled by “Plates, Platters and Nothing Else Matters,” or simply want to know more, on Wednesday, July 12, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. curator Garth Johnson will give a lecture titled “Decoding Contemporary Clay” at the LBIF, and admission is free to the public. The exhibit continues through July 19.

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