"Tidal Pool" by Carol Walkiewicz
Sure it's pretty, but can it pour?
At the Kenai Clay Exhibition, pieces were evaluated for more than just how they looked. They also were judged by how well they performed the duties inherent in their form. Jars had to have lids that fit well. Drinking cups needed to be comfortable to grip. Vessels meant to contain liquid had to do so without leaking and needed to dispense it without dribbling.
In an artistic medium where pieces often are made to be used, ceramics artists need to be concerned with form and function. That was the case at this year's clay exhibition, the 16th annual juried show sponsored by the Kenai Potters Guild.
"It was a nice show, there were some very nice pieces there," said Becky Holloway, who earned second-place recognition for her high-gloss, multicolored and multitextured large bowl, "Solace."
"Pitcher and Tumblers," a honorable mention winner, by Charlie LaForge.
This year, the show drew entries from 20 clay artists from the central Kenai Peninsula, Seward and Girdwood.
"A lot of local new people entered into the show, which is always nice to see," said Charlie LaForge, an exhibition organizer and honorable mention winner. "... It's a lot of work to put it on, but it's got a lot of rewards as far as seeing everyone contribute and seeing new people show up."
One of the highlights of this year's exhibition was having someone local juror the show, LaForge said. Retired art instructor Terry McBee, who taught at Soldotna Junior High-Middle School for 27 years and in the Soldotna Community Schools program, accepted the task of evaluating the show's 47 entries.
McBee said he was honored to jury the show, since he still has a heartfelt commitment to the arts.
"Coming in and jurying the show is an opportunity to continue, on one hand, sharing my opinions as works are awarded and at the same time be recognized as a person in the community with valuable foundations to form those options," he said.
In evaluating ceramics art, McBee said function is one of the things he evaluates pieces for, but his critique goes beyond that, especially since some pieces are strictly visual art meant for display and not any use beyond that.
"If you look at the works I awarded, you'll find a common factor in the awarded pieces they did something that moved the work beyond the realm of functional," McBee said.
Just because something has a somewhat mundane purpose, like a cup, doesn't mean it can't be art, too, and shouldn't be judged by high artistic standards. Before questions of function arise for him, McBee said he is interested in the more creative aspects of ceramics works.
"A variety of things make ceramics visually enticing," McBee said. "For me the thing that does that most is manipulation of the mechanics, whether it be form or texture or accents that are added to the visual composition of a piece that moves it a little bit into the realm of artistic personalized expression."
After evaluating a piece's visual appeal, McBee considers how skillfully the piece was created.
"Solace" by Becky Holloway, which won second place.
"Having been enticed to a piece because of those types of things, then I evaluate it for the mechanics of the creative process, because I feel it's important that those things work together," he said.
McBee awarded first, second and third places as well as five honorable mentions. Several artists submitted pieces that were similar in design and technique, but McBee strove for diversity in his awards.
"All of them were truly superior pieces," he said. "What I did not do is also allocate to them another award. ... Part of it is sharing the recognition and part of it is nurturing people that are also performing and achieving within the medium and doing a good job."
This year's show drew a wide range of styles in submissions, everything from wheel-thrown works and hand-built forms to sculpture and pots made by obscure methods, like Joy Falls' "Earth Nanban" that is shaped completely from the inside of the pot by pressing sticks into the clay.
"There are a lot of different techniques this year and a few more different styles." LaForge said. "It's well represented of all the different things you can do with clay."
"Just Ducky" by Letha Cress Woolf, which was done in a similar style to Woolf's first-place entry, "Blowing In The Wind."
McBee also was pleased with the variety.
"I think there is a great deal of diversity in the show," he said. "I think the intensity of that diversity is a real good statement of the commitment of our commitment as a whole to the arts."
LaForge said the exhibition, being a local annual show, gives area potters a yearly opportunity to stretch themselves and try new things.
"It is a chance to take your work and draw a little more creativity out of yourself just to put pieces in a show to go beyond what you do normally," he said. "I think it's good for any potters or anyone creatively involved in a medium to have an exhibition like this. And especially some of the potters who've contributed for years, you can see it in their work they have progressed and increased in their skill and understanding of the media."
The 16th annual Kenai Clay Exhibition is on display through November at the Kenai Fine Arts Center, 816 Cook Ave. in Old Town Kenai.
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