Blown Away by Clay

Blown Away by Clay

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Dubhe Carreño in her gallery with a recent exhibition of stoneware works by Ruth Borgenicht. Photo/©2007 Eric Young Smith/Smitty Image

Dubhe Carreño Gallery
1841 S. Halsted St.
Chicago, Illinois 60608
312-666-3150

Passion animates Dubhe Carreño's voice when she talks about her gallery, opened in 2004 in Chicago. Born and raised in Venezuela, Carreño, 33, came to the United States at 18 to study ballet, but weary of its demands, quit the next year. "When I stopped dancing, I was born again," she recalls. "I wasn't too old to do anything else, and that felt wonderful." She enrolled at the Massachusetts College of Art as a ceramics major. Later she earned her M.F.A. at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Here she reflects on her mission to discover the "new stars of ceramics."

American Craft: What was your vision for the gallery?
Dubhe Carreño: A lot of people, when I say ceramics, think of tureens and china. I wanted a platform where they understood the full capacity of the material.

AC: Is it a challenge to present cutting-edge work and sustain a business?
DC: My goal is to find artists who are both sellable and push the envelope-someone like Mariana Montea, a Venezuelan artist. If I can find more artists like that, where I'm not compromising, but also making a living and helping the artist make a living, it's ideal.

AC: Your focus is artists who deal with "issues of contemporary relevance."
DC: Sometimes I think, am I creating this gap-having a ceramics-only gallery-from contemporary art? It's important that artists I represent understand what's going on with art as well, and aren't in a bubble.

AC: Describe the gallery.
DC: It has the front commercial space with windows. The back is the loft. The back room, which is my office and living room, serves as an environment. It has my artists' art in it. It's great because with sculpture, [some wonder] what do I do with it? They see that they can plop it anywhere and it looks beautiful!

AC: Where do you see ceramic art going?
DC: I think that the museums and schools are going to determine that. I'm impressed with the Daum Museum in Missouri; I like what [its director] Douglass Freed is doing, mixing large-scale ceramics with contemporary paintings. The same with schools; there are a lot of interdisciplinary departments. Although, you go to these departments and sometimes you don't see clay. If you're entering a ceramics department, you should actually touch the clay!

AC: You've been an artist, teacher, and now a dealer. How has it been, shifting roles?
DC: What I was in love with these past three years was being in the presence of something I was inspired by. As an artist, it didn't happen often. One or two times I was blown away by something that I did. Other artists blew me away daily. That thrill I have every day by having a gallery. Teaching [currently at Northeastern Illinois University] is important because there is this need to be in contact with the material. I think I need to create [again]. But I'd never show my own work in my own gallery. [Laughs] I'm not good enough for my gallery!