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Baltimore Clayworks

POUR ME OUT: Joanne Brown's teapot design
POUR ME OUT: Joanne Brown's teapot design.
100 Teapots II

Baltimore Clayworks' transcendent teapot show was not be missed. One hundred ceramic examples of those icons of polite high society are on display, spouting off in several galleries. Juried by Rochester Institute of Technology ceramics chair Julia Galloway, a recognized master of the medium's range and unpredictability, the show attracted submissions from ceramic artists across the nation.

Teapots throughout time have invited various world cultures to mingle respectfully with each other. Tea for one might be a kettle and a cup; tea for two is a courteous teapot, time, and talk. The tradition in no way prevented discord from infiltrating harmony in Baltimore Clayworks' gathering of pots. Along with the purists who look backward for integrity of form, the show acknowledged the advocates of antithesis and oxymoron who are pretty equally disposed to leave the tea ceremony in the cupboard and indulge their tastes for humor, irony, or conflict.

Among the latter are David Collins, Alex Kutchins, and Noi Volkov. Collins' submissions are the most dysfunctional. They do not accept or pour water, having mixed-media handles, spouts, and lids applied to their low-fire clay bases. They taunt the base concerns of human nature instead. "Certain Side Effects" is about taking drugs, pharmaceutical or otherwise, with its bent-spoon spout and pill bottle lid flourish; his other work is a blingy tribute to pimp culture. The exhibition's scope provided for these as the most distinct representatives of cross-dressed, overt content craft.

Kutchins' tea sets are industrial landscapes. The spouts become smokestacks, handles arc overhead, and vessel elements are tucked inside the slab-built, annexed factory structures. A displacement of the East/West practice of tea, seemingly forsaken on behalf of labor and commodity, is implied in these sets.

Volkov's remarkable pots are elaborate deconstructed portraits from the art hall of fame. Salvador Dali and Mona Lisa--and is that other one the girl with the pearl earring?--are depicted in exploded fashion. You can draw inspiration from these masters as you steep tea in the subjects' craniums. Dali would approve.

The filibustering array of gestural pots otherwise included house forms, food still lifes, figures, pocketbooks, and tons of playful stuff. It also included a fine sampling of teapots that are about nothing more than grace of form and the pleasures of surface--beautiful, quiet works that are so sensuous they withstand the visual noise exuding from the more frivolous works. Such are the pots of Brian Taylor and Matthew Hyleck. A few of the tiniest teapots stole the show: Roberta Polfus' baby-green kumquat of a pot, the minute porcelain "Sea and Sky" by Susan Boase, and the sublime arte moderne teapot by Shane Porter, which wavers between being a sea mammal and an aerodynamic locomotive and holds a streamlined but visually nourishing half-cup of tea.




Reprinted from The Baltimore City Paper