Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Thin Line of Embodiment

The Captain's Congress,  an installation by artist Anne Drew Potter, is currently on view at the Society for Contemporary Craft. This 25 foot installation consists of 16 distorted figures. All but one of the figures are placed in a circle, each wearing a jaunty sailor-style hat made from newspaper. The 15 “Captains” are depicted talking at once, in an animated manner, and the lone figure seated outside of the circle—ironically larger, more naturally rendered—is at the mercy of these shorter and more distorted figures. Her face betrays a hidden voice, a desire to share and an interest in being included in the group. The installation explores concepts of self-appointed authority, ineffective communication, bullying and victimization.

With an interest in the complex and contradictory nature of the human experience, Potter creates “performative” clay figures and unsettling installations that address the ways in which social meaning is projected onto forms of the body. By creating a tension between physical forms and exaggerated expressions Potter highlights signifiers of gender, race, and age and encourages viewers to confront their feelings about normalcy and difference. The artist explains, “I am interested in the moment when the self-evidence of our own experiences is challenged by confrontation with the other, the infinity of realities that exist outside of our own.” 

In his essay for this exhibition, The Thin Line of Embodiment, Professor Colin R. Johnson explains, "From a conceptual perspective, of course, Potter’s intention is never to misrepresent stone cold ambiguity as a solution to the sexism, racism, ageism, and homophobia she abhors. That would be easy, but it would also be naïve. Rather, the  point of Potter’s work is to lure viewers into the position of having to be explicit and  suddenly aware of the manner in which they make sense through and around bodies and, by doing so, to force some recognition that historically loaded characteristics such as age, race and sex always define our relation to one another in advance, no matter how sincerely we might wish to disavow their significance. "

Potter was born and grew up in Berkeley, California, and her childhood and education were permeated with an activist social awareness. The artist attended Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania for her undergraduate education. Her studies in history and dance at Swarthmore both directly informed the content and form of her developing artwork and helped her contextualize her experiences and observations in terms of larger historical-social-political narratives. 

Potter went on to earn two MFA degrees, the first from the New York Academy of Art in New York, and the second from Indiana University, Bloomington.  Upon finishing her second MFA, she was awarded the Matsutani Fellowship at the Archie Bray Foundation in Helena, MT, where she was a resident artist until 2009. Potter was honored in 2009 by the National Council on Education in the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) with the Emerging Artist award. She recently completed a resident artist at Pottery Northwest.  The artist currenty resides in Germany as a recipient of the German Chancellor Fellowship in order to complete a yearlong project at the Zentrum Für Keramik in Berlin. 

To see more views of this installation visit SCC's Flickr page

Friday, July 22, 2011

Urban Core

Opening on August 14th at our Satellite Gallery in Downtown Pittsburgh, we are proud to present the amazing work of Scott Goss!

Steel Mill (Cityscape Series #74),2009
Glass, enamel, copper
18" x 27"
Highlighting his Glass Panel Series, this show will delve into Goss's interest in deteriorating industrial cities. Currently a resident of Ohio, the artist earned his BFA in glass at the Cleveland Institute of Art in 2006.This series involves glass painting, engraving, fusing, and slumping; all to a piece of copper.

Cityscape Series #119, 2010
Glass, enamel, copper
7" x 10.5"
The theme of decaying urban centers and industrial detritus is fodder for many young artists these days. I am truly interested in in the appeal, because I myself find the subject matter beautiful in a sort of Western/Urban Wabi Sabi kind of way. Is it the stark contract between the colorful setting sun and the cold black silhouette of power lines? Is it weighing the differences and similarities between all that is natural and healthy vs all that is dangerous and cold?

Caitie Sellers, an SCC LEAP Award finalist, is another artist who has felt compelled to reveal the beauty of her urban environment through her jewelry designs. After spending 4 months teaching in Xela, Guatemala, Sellers was taken by the city. She explains, "The architectural forms of this city, in particular the wrought-ironwork, has inspired my art both in imagery and concept. I draw upon patterns from window bars and wall tiles, made for the purpose of securing houses and businesses in a city where robbery is epidemic. It intrigues me that such beautiful and intricate work is dedicated to such an ugly purpose with potentially violent implications." For her, the work is autobiographical - "protection of the delicate systems of our psyches, as their large-scale counterparts are physical protection from the threats of a dangerous street."

Dan Kuhn, who was recently featured in our satellite gallery and is also a LEAP Award finalist, is inspired by the melding of the natural and industrial landscapes that define Western Pennsylvania. The rust-colored decals fired onto ceramic forms reveal “engineered images of the Allegheny River… combined with photographs of Allegheny Ludlum and the surrounding towns, inferring a private connection and adaptation to the landscapes, “ explains Kuhn.

2nd Avenue
These are only three examples of artists whose work is inspired by the urban/industrial landscape, but there are many, many more. I would love to read about artist you like who are working within this concept. Email me your suggestions!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

On Collecting

Almost one year ago to the day I bought a house and since that day I have been remodeling, repairing and reclaiming the space to make it my own. After living a year with out anything on the walls or shelves, because of renovations, I'm finally ready to decorate. Not as simple a process as one might expect. After more than a decade spent collecting everything from old cameras to bottle openers, I have more than I can display. This has led me to ask myself, 'Why do I collect these? Do they still have great value to me? Is it something that is aesthetically appealing? What is it's story?' To help me through it all is not a tv program called Hoarders, but one of the very collections that is in question. That would be my collection of books about collecting. Re-visiting them is helping me to shed light on my habits, their importance, and how to organize, prioritize and let go of my artifacts. Below is a selection of these books that I particularly enjoy. I would love to hear any other book suggestions you might have, or tell me about your collections! You can email me at

Cover of Book
As a collector of stories and tchotchkes, I was drawn to this very beautifully designed book that highlights 75 things and the narratives those objects carry. It is often difficult for a non-collector to understand or appreciate the draw certain objects have, or the way in which a story or some abstract idea can imbue a worthless item with enough worth to make it priceless - or at least worth more than nothing.

"I gathered the red earth just outside the teepee at sunrise, still vibrating from all that had happened the night before. I took it to remind me what I'm made of."
-Marilyn Berlin Snell, Taking Things Seriously

After all, isn't that why we collect the strange things that we do? To have a memento of a memory or of a moment, like a ticket stub, or a wine bottle label, or even a petrified piece of cake.
In Flagrante Collecto: Caught in the Act of Collecting by Marilynn Gelfman Karp is another  book that captures the joy of collecting. Here is an excerpt:

"The Act of Collecting takes a broad look at objects and prototypical collectors, who fall into three precise categories. Silas Marner exemplifies those who collect goods of intrinsic value (ex: gold, gems), universally coveted substances that have been desirable through the ages. Lorenzo De’Medici represents those who collect commodities of extrinsic value (ex: art, stamps, baseball cards, comic books) with a competing collectorship and limited availability. Tom Sawyer typifies those who collect items without intrinsic or extrinsic value (ex: a thread spool, a blue glass shard, an orphaned key), which convey satisfaction and confer serenity upon the collectors who accumulate them. These objects and their ilk (ex: cigar rings, do not disturb signs and air sickness bags) are devalued, undervalued or simply not valued beyond their limited functionality by most people. Collections of the discarded, the unloved, inspire and fulfill those who have dominion over them."

I won't go into great detail about the rest of these books, you can find them all on amazon with reviews. Some of them are philosophical, some try to be, some are just fun, but they're all interesting, maybe even fascinating.

Evocative Objects: Things We Think With by Sherry Turkle

Collections of Nothing by William Davies King

On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection by Susan Stewart

Dry Storeroom No. 1: The Secret Life of the Natural History Museum by Richard Forty 

Mr. Wilson's Cabinet Of Wonder: Pronged Ants, Horned Humans, Mice on Toast, and Other Marvels of Jurassic Technology by Lawrence Weschler

To Have and To Hold: An Intimate History of Collectors and Collecting by Phillip Blom


Thursday, July 7, 2011

Worlds of Delight

Japanese-born metalsmith, Mariko Kusumoto, creates intimate metal environments that evoke the rich, sensual Japanese culture of her childhood. A brilliant technician, she masterfully fabricates and embellishes boxes using a variety of techniques including etching, electroforming, and patination. With astounding attention to detail she explores interior spaces, deftly transforming each compartment into interactive miniature theaters, revealing figures and objects with dozens of movable parts, rotating gears, and musical mechanisms. 

She comments, “In my work, I am striving to create a world of shadows, light, silence, spirituality, and my personal memories. My father is a Buddhist priest, and I grew up in a temple that was founded four hundred years ago. While living in the temple, I took the place for granted and didn't think anything special of it. However, the more time that I spend living in the United States—with its diverse cultures and varied ethnic groups, the more conscious I become of my identity as a Japanese. As the yearning for my temple grows, I gain a greater sense of appreciation of it, as well as of Japanese culture in general. As time goes by, my memories become stronger and more vivid. This feeling is the inspiration of my artwork today.” Complex in their assembly, each of Kusumoto’s featured works are made up of nearly 100 individual pieces.

To see more of Mariko's work, visit our Galleries at 2100 Smallman Street in Pittsburgh's Strip District, or check it out on our website!