The Island Gallery
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The Island Gallery
100- 106 Madison Avenue N, Bainbridge Island, WA. 98110
Tel. 206-780-9500,
Contact Susan Swannack-Nunn, Owner

July 31, 2006.
The Island Gallery, a destination spot on Bainbridge Island featuring internationally recognized artists, is pleased to announce its next exhibit:

A Celebration of American Contemporary Wood-Fired Ceramics by Artists from the Prairie, Plains and Pacific

August 4 – September 29, 2006

From the Prairie and Plains: Richard Bresnahan . Gina Freuen . Chuck Hindes . Randy Johnston . Jan McKeachie-Johnston . Nathan Lekan . Gavin Noyes . From the Pacific: Jenny Andersen . John Benn . Barb Campbell . Colleen Gallagher . John Harris . Chris Knapp . Ken Lundemo . Steve Sauer Al Tennant . Ben Waterman . Rigel Weis Special Contribution: Shiho Kanzaki, Shigaraki, Japan and Owen Rye, Victoria, Australia

by Chris Knapp: Friday, August 4, 6-8 PM

The Island Gallery is pleased to bring together in a major show the work of eighteen leading American wood fire ceramic artists. In addition, we are honored to include the special contribution of two renowned wood fire potters from abroad: Shiho Kanzaki from Shigaraki, Japan, a center of one of the world’s great wood fire traditions and a gathering place for many American ceramic artists; and Owen Rye, one of Australia’s foremost ceramicists. These artists, hailing from diverse locales, represent a number of different artistic schools, styles and kilns but share a common commitment to artistic exploration, creativity and environmental conservation. Our artists find ways to explore nature’s promise: searching for and digging their own clay, using woods and materials native to their area, and experimenting with different forms that reveal alternative paths to fired beauty. The work exhibited in this show ranges from rustic tea bowls to pots and sculptures that appear to be excavated from archeological ruins of centuries past, to elegantly shaped boat like forms and contemporary angular tea pots and baskets. The range of colors surprise, flowing from the selection of clays and the use of natural ash glazes that delight the eye. These potters’ processes and commitment to their art are as awe inspiring as the vessels they create.

Artist Profiles from the Prairie and Plains

Richard Bresnahan, artist-in-residence at St. John’s University in Minnesota since 1979, operates the largest wood fired ceramics kiln in North America. He combines his expertise in Japanese ceramics with his interest in the use of local materials and natural resources to create stunning ceramics and a program which is attracting international attention. Gerry Williams, Editor of Studio Potter, calls Bresnahan “one of the preeminent potters in contemporary American ceramics.”

Chuck Hindes has been a professor of ceramics at the University of Iowa since 1973. He says his main inspiration is the Japanese aesthetic, with reference to the tea ceremony and its use of unglazed ware. In addition, he believes “the gestural qualities of clays should be emphasized, not dulled or subdued with an opaque or transparent skin.” Wood firing, he believes, strengthens his forms visually. Randy Johnston has been a studio potter since 1972 and a professor of ceramics at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls since 1993. Randy has a keen interest in the sculptural aspects of functional forms, especially in the “architectural edge and tensile strength of clay to assume certain types of volumetric curvatures when supported by a perimeter shape.” Working as a stone mason for 15 years has had a profound influence on his work. Both artists have taught and lectured extensively throughout the U.S. and abroad, have been featured in major ceramics publications, and are represented in major private and public collections including the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

Jan McKeachie-Johnston, a studio potter in Wisconsin since 1979, says she has been heavily influenced by the Leach/Hamada tradition. Recently her attention has turned to the main sculptural aspects of pots and the development of color in the surface decoration.

Gina Freuen has been active in the regional arts community in Washington State for over 30 years and is currently an instructor of ceramics and drawing at Gonzaga University in Spokane. Her sculptural tea pots astutely address the utilitarian vs. non-utilitarian debate in a “quirky and clever manner.”

Nathan Lekan and Gavin Noyes represent a younger generation of potters who are operating kilns in Kansas, Montana and Utah, experimenting with a variety of vessel shapes and clays and wood firing processes. Nathan is building “nesting” sets of functional vessels while Gavin is working on very large forms.

Artist Profiles from the Pacific

Potters associated with two important wood fired kilns in the Bainbridge area are represented in this show. All are exhibited nationally. First is a group of five potters who fire regularly at the Santatsugama Three Dragon Kiln in Seabeck, Washington. Ken Lundemo and Steve Sauer, who built the kiln in 1985, are accomplished studio potters who have produced a wide range of ceramic and stone sculptures. Jenny Andersen, declared a Bainbridge Island Treasure, is well known for her elegant lidded vessels and chests which are meant to evoke stories and intrigue. Al Tennant, a former professor of ceramics at the University of Alaska for many years, is known for beautiful tea bowls and fires both at Seabeck and at his own train kiln on Whidbey Island. Rigel Weis, a young potter influenced by Japanese aesthetics and concepts of Abstract Expressionism, is producing an exciting range of functional ware with both refined and craggy surfaces.

A second group fires with John Benn and Colleen Gallagher, owners of a kiln on Harstine Island. John and Colleen are producing a range of functional ware including earthy teapots and etched vessels. John Harris and Chris Knapp from the Seattle area fire both on Harstine Island and in Oregon. They are producing large dramatic vessels. Chris will be demonstrating hand building techniques at the opening on Friday, August 4.

Barb Campbell from Oregon fires at kilns in Oregon and Washington and is currently developing a series of large human figures, influenced by her archeological background and living for extended periods in Mexico. Ben Waterman, a former student of Chuck Hindes now living in Oregon, fires at kilns in Oregon and Washington, hand building and refiring vessels until they attain an appearance of aging cragginess. Ben says, “If drinking from a tea bowl that I have made, I want there to be a feeling of drinking from a craggy mountain pool, hands together. If placing flowers in a vase that I have made, I want there to be the feeling of a bloom pushing its way up between stones.”

Shiho Kanzaki, recently the subject of several movie documentaries (Recording the Flame: Woodfired Pottery” and “Kamataki”) is one of Japan’s preeminent ceramic artists who fires both in Shigaraki and in the U.S. Trained as a lawyer in Japan, he became a potter in 1965 and has been showing widely in Japan since his first exhibition in 1973, later exhibiting in the U.S. and in Germany.

Owen Rye, a ceramicist and educator, is among Australia’s best known ceramic artists and is the author of numerous books and articles on ceramic art and technology. He became a potter in 1961 and has exhibited in the U.S., Germany, Japan, and South Korea.