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Archive for the ‘Instructor’ Category

Iraq Map

Shawn Panepinto joined the ceramics program 30 years ago when it was affiliated with Radcliffe College.  Now she teaches classes, manages registration, the semi-annual show and sale and the myriad details of running the studio.  Her presence in the studio can be felt in every corner.  From the time she arrives in her office, people engulf her with questions about anything and everything.  She listens to each, points people to resources, gives or denies permission, resolves quagmires of all sorts and gives advice – which is invariably right.

Panepinto is a graduate of the Ridgewood College of Art (NJ) with concentrations in graphics and commercial art and the Boston Museum School with a dual major in ceramics and painting. One of her early teaching jobs was for the Prison Art Program at Framingham State Prison. Panepinto describes herself as an ‘emotional’ artist as opposed to an ‘intellectual’ one, using her emotions as a source of inspiration. 

Panepinto creates large sculptural pieces, as well as smaller, more functional objects, exploring textures and glazes, generating startling and unexpected contrasts between surface and subject.   Often her forms are humorous or suggest a certain jauntiness. She surprises the viewer with her choice and juxtaposition of color, a palette influenced by her training in painting. She pushes the imagination and shows a gift for the dramatic, revealing her childhood desire to be an actress.

An exhibition of her class’s work at the Fuller Craft Museum in 2007 was a celebration of her 25 years of teaching excellence.  Her sculpture, “U.S. Map of Iraq,” for this show, her largest work to date, exposes the deep and personal emotions aroused by our current involvement in that arena.  Forty-six human heads of textured porcelain are placed along upright rods in an arrangement that mimics the map of Iraq. Tiny impressions of human faces are embedded in each head; the combination of heads and faces represent U.S. soldiers and Iraqi people who have lost their lives.  

Panepinto is a creative teacher.  She generates a safe and nurturing space where people feel challenged to work beyond the edge of their comfort level.  Her class twists and turns around new ideas and techniques.  Each class is usually begun with slides of work from outside sources, illustrating the infinite possibilities of the medium.  In the fast-paced, playfully humorous and highly demanding environment, students exceed their own expectations as they discover their own creative ideas and imagery.

Shawn PanepintoPanepinto’s final class is a banquet, often using tableware made especially for the occasion.  She turns the studio into a magical place decorated with her inexhaustible supply of lights strung around pipes and over the tables.  The sense of celebration is in proportion to all of the hard work and anxious moments during the semester.  The evening cements the bonds built during the weeks of class during which everyone is focused on the common goal of achieving new heights.

~Liz Golbus, excerpted from vol 1. number 2, Fall 2008 of Sgraffito the Harvard Ceramics Programs newsletter

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Wasmaa Chorbachi Tiles

Dr. Wasma’a Chorbachi, artist and expert in Islamic Art and History, bridges Mesopo­tamian and contemporary Western cultures. She was born in Cairo of Iraqi parents and lived in Baghdad during the early years of her life. “My earliest recollection of my love for clay and the excitement of firing a piece of clay goes back to when I was five years old. During promenades on the banks of the Tigris River, I discovered that these Meso­potamian clay deposits were the greatest toy. The making of the piece and the material transformation with its sense of magic, over­whelmed my imagination. After that, I often ‘played’ with clay and found that it brought me joy and peace of mind,” Chorbachi writes. Educated in the best Islamic, European and American traditions, she earned her Ph.D. from Harvard with a thesis on The Meet­ing of Science & Art in Islamic Civilization: Design in Islamic Architectural Decoration.

Chorbachi recently taught a course entitled “The Arabesque and Islamic Geometric Pattern Design” to M.I.T. archi­tecture students. She also teaches a practi­cal course at the HCP Studio on the structural rules of pattern formation, along with the fabrication of tiles and murals, low-fire tech­niques of decorating and glazing, and luster firing. Students are attracted to the topic of pattern forma­tion because it shows how the simplest design can be­come a complicated tapestry with only a few fixed moves of the design elements.

Chorbachi works in the Islamic calligraphic tradi­tion, primarily in clay, but also through painting on large pieces of silk. The central theme of Chorba­chi’s surface design is Ara­bic calligraphy, a prayer or a poem, which is surrounded by textural patterning. Inscription is the dominant feature of Chorbachi’s plates, tiles and murals in which the background is expressed in extraordinary textures, patterns and colors that refer to her ancestral land. These surrounding decorative areas remind us of the traditions of ancient Mesopotamia and the first attempts of humans to create a written and numerical system on clay tab­lets with an angled wooden stylus.

Wasma'a ChorbachiChorbachi’s work retells the an­cient Islamic story within a contem­porary context and holds its own side by side with its origins as can be seen in various exhibits and mu­seums throughout the world where her work is shown.  To see more of Wasma’a’s work, click here.

~Raquel Wharton Rohr excerpted from vol 1. number 3 Spring 2009 of Sgraffito, the Harvard Ceramics Program newsletter

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Dennis McLaughlin Pot

Denny McLaughlin is one of the more recent additions to the Harvard Ceramics Program staff. He was born in southwest Minnesota and lived there for most of his life. About five years ago during a transitional period he moved to Boston. Having taught a class here in 2003, he was familiar with the Harvard Ceram­ics Studio and its community. Within a very few years he has become a central figure at the Studio. Midwestern to his core, McLaughlin has a deep and resonant voice, a huge, warm and open smile and a pioneer spirit that en­courages exploration and promotes possibility.

McLaughlin started his university studies as an art major concentrating on two-dimen­sional work at Southwest State University, Marshall, MN, but with his first course in ceramics in the spring semester of his sopho­more year he switched his focus. After gradu­ating from Southwest State he spent one year working in the pottery studio at Marylhurst College in Portland, Oregon, and earned a Master’s degree in ceramics from Kansas State University in Manhattan, KS. He then returned to Minnesota where he started his family and his career as a production potter.

A friend helped him open his own pottery studio and taught him to balance his atten­tion between the business of selling and the production of the pottery. Consequently his customers were welcomed into his working area where they were educated in the process of producing pottery. His charismatic personality and passion for what he was doing guaranteed that no one left empty handed and would almost certainly come back for more.

He also organized spring and fall events, drawing large crowds. An annual event called “Harvest Gathering at Birch Coulee,” held on the first Sunday of October, cel­ebrated the harvest season and the regional arts and crafts. The event, located next to the historic Birch Coulee Battlefield, attracted thou­sands of visitors. When McLaughlin goes home people still ask about the harvest gathering. His pottery produc­tion in Minnesota spanned close to 20 years.

McLaughlin’s artistic sensibility was in­fluenced by his undergraduate and graduate ceramics professors, in particular under­graduate professor Gordon Dingman, whose work was similar to the work of Bernard Leach and Warren MacKenzie. McLaughlin combines this sensibility with the explora­tion of indigenous clays and glazes, produc­ing work that is strong in form and delicate in surface. He favors stoneware clays, because of their potential for varied interactions with glazes, and ash glazes for their interplay with the clay. He is precise, efficient and fast, has a broad vocabulary of forms, and each is as fresh and fluid as if he’d made only one.

Denny McLaughlin“I draw my inspiration from all work and traditions,” McLaughlin says when asked to define the sources of his artistic style. McLaughlin’s work is predomi­nantly functional, mostly wheel-thrown or formed in molds he makes, and is decorated with slip trails, sprigs and glazes he creates. Although not process oriented, he enjoys direct in­volvement in process, and even built a wood-burning, climb­ing kiln as a graduate student. McLaughlin brings all of these skills to his teaching. He is able to demonstrate processes step by step. The skills he teaches al­low his students a greater free­dom and spontaneity flowing from con­fidence in the ability to control the clay. McLaughlin’s seriousness of purpose and attention to detail complement his genu­ine warmth and his passion for his work.

~Liz Golbus excerpted from vol 1. number 3 Spring 2009 of Sgraffito, the Harvard Ceramics Program newsletter

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Flow Mural

The Harvard community is fortunate to have Nancy Selvage as the director of the ceramics program, a position she has held since 1978. During this time Selvage has produced a large body of public sculptural and mural work as well as other pieces shown in galleries and museums. She has also written articles and grant proposals, organized many scholarly and hands-on symposia, taught classes at the studio, and attended residencies and meetings in the field.

Selvage began her undergraduate studies at Wellesley College assuming a premed track. Fascinated by art history, she soon decided to pursue a career in art, ultimately earning an M.F.A. in Sculpture from Tufts University, School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The sciences have, however, continued to wield a strong influence on her creative work, which she has successfully blended in her choice of subject and handling of the material.

One mark of her scientific approach is the meticulous research she does for each project, finding the most appropriate combinations of clays, glazes or other materials, and checking and testing every detail, every creature in a mural, every scientific formula or animal color and shape, every metal or method to be used, so that the finished product will please and endure.

In her impressive body of work, three major pieces stand out, representing her permanent public, ceramic art. In order by date of fabrication, the first is a ceramic tile mural, “Sonoran Snake”, a 50-foot-long rattlesnake whose skin is colorfully decorated with desert animals and plants. Created in 1993, it is attached to a wall leading to the entrance of the Sonora Desert Pavilion at the North Carolina Zoo at Asheboro, North Carolina.

The second is a group of ceramic pieces, created in 2000, for the Canyon View Information Plaza at the Grand Canyon. One part, “Canyon Rim”, is a 3D relief map model of 30 miles of the South Canyon, essentially replicating the topography of the rim area. It interfaces with a floor photo of the Canyon and orients visitors to the area. Another part, “Grand Canyon Camouflage”, consists of 30 low-relief sculptures of plants, animals and fossils that decorate the walls of the orientation building.

The third piece, “Flow”, constructed in 2005, is a ceramic tile mural located on the Science Building at Keene State College in Keene, N.H. It is in the shape of the local Ashuelot River and is a ‘river of scientific knowledge’ elaborately filled with symbols and images from all of the sciences.

In her artists statement she declares:

Nancy SelvageI have always been interested in the overlapping connections and associations between a functional object and the significance of its specific or broader context. A series of plates became embodiments of table manners; a table was inscribed with a litany of food blessings; some map vessels poured specific river systems; the Iraq vessel poured oil; “Wishing Well” pulled the gallery space into a vortex; “Nuclear Home” hovered between cohesion and fallout; a hearth endangered a hunt; one educational mural became a mythic snake ;another became a river of knowledge; a wall animated the streetscape and sheltered the plaza. Whether I start with a plate on a table or a wall in a plaza I work in response to the character and context of that private or public site, with the need to enhance awareness, transform experience, and discover new means of expression.

For images of Selvage’s sculpture click here.

~Suzanne Garen-Fazio, excerpted from vol. 1, number 1 Summer 2008 of Sgraffito, the Harvard Ceramics Program newsletter

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Meng Zhao Sculpture

Meng Zhao came to the Harvard Ceramics Program studio as an Artist in Residence in 2005, where he has taught classes in traditional Chinese brush painting and clay surface design. Inspired by ancient Chinese rocks and water forms, and by Chinese philosophy, Zhao’s work has brought him wide recognition and several prizes, including the Gold Medal at the 53rd International Ceramic Art Competition in Faenza, Italy, 2003.

Zhao’s current work reflects his process of bridging the two distinct cultures of ancient East and modern West. His sculptural pieces explore the ancient paradigms of Chinese art to test the boundaries of form and balance, surface and texture, made possible with clay and glazes. Zhao prefers clay for the qualities of flexibility and suppleness of the material. Philosophically he is attracted by the combination of elements in the ceramics process, earth and water, fire and air, complementing each other rather than competing with each other.

Rocks in China have long been admired as an essential feature in gardens, representing a miniaturization of mountains and inviting meditation and contemplation. Prized by collectors, scholar’s rocks are a natural sculptural form, found and refined, and can be viewed as a major three-dimensional tradition of Chinese art. Non-traditional colors, textures, and shapes have emerged in the rock and water pieces Zhao has created at the Harvard Ceramics Program. Zhao creates his scholar’s rocks with an eye to his Asian past and with a hand in contemporary clay sculpture. Similarly, Zhao creates clay images of water and waves that have a visual reference to the calligraphic line in Chinese brush painting. Following the teachings of the Tao Te Ching as a source of inspiration, Zhao uses the philosophy of vacuity or emptiness, “form is emptiness, emptiness is form”, as a common theme in his work.

Meng Zhao

 We put thirty spokes together and call it a wheel; But it is on the space where there is nothing that the usefulness of the wheel depends.  We turn clay to make a vessel; But it is on the space where there is nothing that the usefulness of the vessel depends. We pierce doors and windows to make a house; And it is on these spaces where there is nothing that the usefulness of the house depends. Therefore just as we take advantage of what is, we should recognize the usefulness of what is not.

 Chapter 11 of the Tao Te Ching  (translated by Waley)

 –Maria Luisa Mansfield, excerpted from vol. 1, number 1 Summer 2008 of Sgraffito, the Harvard Ceramics Program newsletter

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South Station

2 to 1

Pam Gorgone is a Ceramics Program instructor and a long-time Non-Resident Tutor and ceramics Instructor at Harvard’s Mather House. Her small scale sculptural work, often focusing on sets and serial objects, has been described as quiet, meditative, and elemental. Pushing the limits of porcelain’s plasticity she rises to the challenge of making ultra-thin hand-built pieces, and is more interested in the color being part of the material rather than something applied to the surface. “Born to pot,” Pam finds inspiration in repetition and rhythm, the paintings of Agnes Martin and the sculpture of Donald Judd, and the interrelationships within her own family. She prefers the “doing and the making” of her vessels and sculptural componants and, once they have been fired, in their recombination.

 

Pam Gorgone Pam Gorgone BFA at Tufts/Museum School and instructor at Harvard’s Mather House.

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Lucy Scanlon

wave tiles

wave tiles

Lucy Scanlon credits the required and often difficult ‘source talks’ she gave as a graduate student at RISD with helping her understand “what I wish my pots were about.” Verbalizing her intentions, she says, is like being forced to throw on a kick wheel, where a potter translates their effort into kinetic energy that in turn becomes the potential energy used to create the pot. The roster of mentors Scanlon has worked with as she moved about with her growing family includes first-tier ceramicists Toshiko Takaezu at Princeton, Mikhail Zakim and Byron Temple in NYC, and Makoto Yabe at the DeCordova Museum school. Scanlon inspires her own students to work with ideas and forms that excite them, in addition to imparting technique. Her love of the sea, which she enjoys from a summer studio on Martha’s Vineyard, is evident in both the aqua color and water motifs of many of her soda-fired slab and altered wheel-thrown pieces.

Lucy ScanlonLucy Scanlon BA in Geology in Harvard College; MFA in Ceramics from Rhode Island School of Design; former instructor of ceramics at Rhode Island School of Design. Lucy makes hand built and wheel thrown functional pottery, often incorporating animal and water motifs.

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