NCECA: Whirlwind Conference Recap & Slideshow

NCECA: Whirlwind Conference Recap & Slideshow

NCECA Mark Chatterley Nave

Mark Chatterley's Nave (2010) at the Bellevue Arts Museum during NCECA 2012.

We returned from NCECA this week, and we did not come back empty handed – in any sense. I’ve already found uses for my new Alleghany Meadows plate with handle, purchased at the Artstream Nomadic Gallery’s stop at Seattle’s ACT Theatre. American Craft creative directors Mary K. Baumann and Will Hopkins added a Sam Scott mug to their beautiful collection. But the true haul came in the form of ideas and excitement. Here are some of the stellar things we saw:

Push Play: The 2012 NCECA Invitational” at the Bellevue Arts Museum wowed us with its ambitious installations and the scope of work on display. We were greeted by Mark Chatterley’s Nave (2010), an evocative group of stoneware figures who have gathered, stacked upon one upon another, into a kind of contemplative coliseum, their attention turned upon a small rabbit figure on the floor. The idea of scrutiny, and of inclusion and exclusion, returned with Anne Drew Potter’s The Captains Congress (2011), a disquieting group of grotesquely distorted figures passing judgment on an ostracized member. Check out the photos above in the slideshow, because there were so many wonderful works. “Push Play” is up through June 17.

Bonus: We popped into “Knitted, Knotted, Twisted & Twined: The Jewelry of Mary Lee Hu,” an ACC Fellow who was recently the subject of librarian Jessica Shaykett’s Master Class column. Dazzling!

Next stop: The Seattle Design Center. Talk about an embarrassment of riches. We counted 30 some exhibitions, put up just for NCECA, throughout this 390,000-square-foot interior design facility/marketplace. We were immediately taken by a grouping of Deborah Schwartzkopf’s functional work (including a spectacular nested set of mugs, pitcher, sugar, and creamer in the slideshow above), part of “A Great Place to Make Art,” an exhibition of Seward Park Clay Studio residents and teachers. Just around the corner, we encountered Sequoia Miller’s Cityscape/Statdbild, part of “Stepping Back for the Long View.” Miller executed the tabletop grouping during a time of transition, moving from the Pacific Northwest back to his native Manhattan. “My apartment hunt, aided by Google street view and its novel representation of place, became an unexpected source for the work,” he writes.

From there, Annette Bellamy’s Tripod vases, part of a six-person show of Alaskan artists called “Blooms from the North Country,” caught my eye. And the “National Porcelain Invitational” was another stand-out treat, with work from Doug Peltzman, Ben Krupka, Kate Maury, and Nicholas Bivins (a 2012 NCECA Emerging Artist), among others. Bear in mind, at this point we hadn’t hit even half of the exhibitions…

Over in another wing of the SDC, we enjoyed “Breaking Ground,” work from the long-term residents of the Clay Studio of Missoula. Audrey Rosulek’s porcelain teapot and saucer (and mugs with saucers) were favorites, uniquely adorned with underglaze pencil and glaze. Five impressive installations comprised “Distillations and Eruptions,” including striking pieces by Tina Aufiero and Catherine Paleczny. “The Pottery Workshop: 25 Years of Passion and Education” was another great stop, organized by Ben Carter, whose harmonious British and Chinese tea sets (quite coincidentally) were some of my favorite pieces in the show.

Meanwhile, “LH Project: A Decade of Distinction” was a powerhouse, with a truly impressive range of work on display, from Tara Wilson’s exquisite wood-fired ceramic baskets to Ryan LaBar’s spectacularly tangled ceramic constructions. And for “Well Served,” another strong show, organizers (and participants) Julia Galloway and Schwartzkopf gave a full tabletop to 12 artists, including Liz Quackenbush, Jen Allen, and Munemitsu Taguchi.

Back at the Washington State Convention Center, we saw some excellent presentations, panels, and demonstrations, too. Jason Walker, Christa Assad, Tip Toland, and Walter Keeler were fantastic (and terrifically charismatic) as demonstrating artists. As part of the panel “Sustainable Ceramics: Contradiction or Possibility,” David Binns presented his research into (and artistic practice with) recycled ceramics, including his co-development of a mineral-waste-based alternative to traditional construction materials. That might sound a little wonky – but the fused slabs of recycled ceramic and glass were striking, and his curiosity-driven process of discovery, engrossing.

Stefano Catalani (Bellevue Arts Museum) and Gwen Chanzit (Denver Art Museum) gave a lovely “Distinguished Co-Lecture: Curatorial Perspectives,” covering their recent exhibitions, "BAM Biennial 2010: Clay Throwdown!” and “Overthrown: Clay Without Limits” at DAM. The next BAM Biennial, “High Fiber Diet,” opens this October. (Meanwhile, with a recent substantial gift to DAM's textile art department, fiber/textiles look to be cooking there, too.) A final favorite: Janet DeBoos’ wonderful lecture on “Boredom, Repetition, and the Creative Act,” wherein DeBoos reflected on today’s culture of entertainment (more, new, next!), and what seemingly boring activities – such as repeatedly throwing the same form – have to offer, from a pathway to skill to deep states of creativity.

And for the grand finale, on Saturday morning, the six emerging artists (Bivins, Dylan Beck, Chandra DeBuse, Darien Johnson, Peter Christian Johnson, and Matthew McConnell) spoke about their work, before a winning closing lecture by Sandy Simon and Robert Brady.

Sounds great, right? NCECA publishes an annual journal, documenting the presentations, exhibitions, and events at each conference. The next one takes place in Houston, March 20-23. Hope to see you there!


Read about three more NCECA 2012 exhibitions at Foster/White Gallery, KOBO Gallery, and SOIL.