Monday, August 29, 2011

Overthrown: Clay Without Limits, Part One

I visited the Denver Art Museum on Friday for the special exhibition Marvelous Mud: Clay Around the World. The first exhibit we visited was Overthrown: Clay Without Limits. I was immediately impressed! Outside the doors to enter the exhibit was this piece titled Footing by Nathan Craven:

Yes, that says to walk on it! I was very nervous doing that, it felt wrong. It was also really fun! The pieces fit snugly, but there was a little movement that gave the slightest noise of clay clinking together. I felt like I should step lightly, think airy thoughts. As I was walking very carefully a kid came running at full speed and jumped as high and hard as he could! It was fine. My heart was beating quickly though, again, it felt wrong in a delightful naughty way. 

After entering the exhibit the first thing I saw was a case with many (I think 12) very delicate pieces. All of them raised the question, "How the heck were these made?"  

RELIC HEAP by Cheryl Ann Thomas looked like fabric and it was as thin as paper. The only way I can imagine this being fired was if it was supported by something that burned away. But I still can't figure out how it was transported, how it was even removed from the kiln. I should mention that they were fairly large too- at least a few feet high and wide. 

RELIC HEAP (white) by Cheryl Ann Thomas

RELIC HEAP (black) by Cheryl Ann Thomas

RELIC HEAP (white) and RELIC HEAP (black) by Cheryl Ann Thomas

untitled thumbnail by Benjamin DeMott
The next piece that was very impressive was made by Martha Russo, titled Apoptosis. Her materials included Porcelain, paper clay, glaze materials, pigments, paints, assorted vintage tools, steel, hardware, silicone, LED lights, compact fluorescents, electrical cables, wires and conductors, utility poles, abaca paper, and beeswax. The definition of 'apoptosis' from is:

Noun1.apoptosis - a type of cell death in which the cell uses specialized cellular machinery to kill itself; a cell suicide mechanism that enables metazoans to control cell number and eliminate cells that threaten the animal's survival

Understanding the definition of apoptosis helped me make sense of this piece. It is LARGE, from floor to ceiling (and the ceilings were very high). I read in The Collective (DAM's blog) that 175 boxes of objects were brought in for this installation! 

Martha Russo is full of vivre. She came to talk at my college and I remember thinking that she was wacky in a very lovable way. She talked about getting membranes and  cow stomachs from the local butcher and using it in her art, laughing about the butcher's reaction. Russo definitely has her own unique vision! 

I'm realizing that this is becoming a looong post and there are still many more pieces from that exhibit that I'd like to share. So I guess that makes this Overthrown: Clay Without Limits, Part One. 

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