Remembering: Victor Spinski

Remembering: Victor Spinski

Machine III by Victor Spinski

Machine III by Victor Spinski; stoneware; lustres, decals; 60 x 40 in.; "Men are awed by the contraptions they build: channeled natural phenomenon. Yet through some warped, primitive instict for survival, he has begun to take on the characteristics of the mechanical creatures in his environment, camouflaging himself, fearful of detection by this mysterious predator. The prey is the predator." ~Victor Spinski.

Victor Spinski, a leading figure in the avant-garde ceramics movement of the 1960s and 70s died on Monday, January 21, 2013, at the age of 72. 

Spinski was born on October 10, 1940. He attended the Kansas State Teachers College in Emporia, Kansas, where he earned a B.S.E. in Art and Foreign Languages in 1963. He went on to earn an MFA in Ceramics with minors in jewelry and photography from Indiana University in Bloomington. Following graduation from his master's program in 1967, Spinski became a full-time faculty member in the art department at the University of Delaware in Newark, where he served as a professor until his retirement in 2006.

Throughout his career, Spinski experimented with many different materials, forms and techniques, becoming most well-known for his tromp l'oeil clay sculptures, which often incorporated humor and, occassionally, a jestering live performance. In a 1983 article in the New York Times, art historian Helen A. Harrison describes Spinski's works as being "technically sophisticated and fascinating in their imitation of nonceramic objects, such as metal cans filled with garbage. His "fountains," including an overflowing sink full of dirty dishes and a pile of beer cartons that have sprung a leak, are both cleverly conceived and beautifully realized." Spinski participated in many historic solo and group exhibitions during his lifetime, including "Clayworks: 20 Americans" and "Coffee, Tea and Other Cups" both held in 1971 at the Museum of Contemporary Crafts in New York City. Most recently, he exhibited at the Vero Beach Museum of Art in Florida and the Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton, Massachusetts. 

Today, Spinski's works can be found in major museum collections across the United States, including the Racine Art Museum in Racine, Wisconsin, the Delaware Art Museum in Wilmington and the Mint Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina, among others.

According to ceramicist and scholar Garth Johnson, who interviewed the artist early last year, "Spinski is a consummate craftsman. He knows his materials, knows his processes, knows his decals and knows his china paint. He's not afraid to pour hundreds of hours into a piece, because he knows his efforts will pay off."

For more information on the work of Spinski, please visit his website or check out Johnson's own unique remembrance of the artist at