NCECA In Review: Portland 2017. National Student Juried Exhibition, OCAC.

It was about 8:58pm when we made it to the Oregon College of Art and Craft. The gallery closed at 9pm. A late dinner had postponed our arrival somewhat. But the lady in charge was very nice and let us in to see the show for as long as we liked. The pieces sat well in the newly renovated gallery at OCAC.

Being in the gallery after hours, on the night of the reception, there was a kind of leftover electricity in the air. The feeling that hundreds of people had already traipsed through and had their fill. Despite the lack of functional work, I enjoyed the show; the choices were whimsical. I particularly enjoyed Kaysner's cow, with weeping feldspatic chunks, and Pasquale's utterly squashed donut.

I have not included all of the pieces in the show, but most of them, with links to the artists websites where available.

Black Holstein Shigaraki, Elliot Kaysner, 2016. 
Terracotta, underglaze, felspathic chunks. Graduate, Arizona State University.

Regretting Yet Wanting, Taylor Pasquale, 2016.
Ceramic materials, ceramic plate, donut. Graduate, Kent State University.

I was curious about the lifespan of the donut. Pasquale told me she does not treat it with anything, replacing the donut if it's part of a new show or she's taking photos. She says, "The donut looks so good when the glaze is still wet and drippy, but the reception didn't line up with that part of the piece's life cycle."

I had most fun with Kingshill's Dream Truck. Coming upon it, I gave in to the urge to pick it up. In doing so, I realised it came apart -- the surfboard was completely unattached and the whole cab was removable, too. Surprised and delighted I took the cab off and placed the board in the flatbed of the truck. That was about as far as it went; I was tempted to take it off the pedestal, onto the floor, but resisted.

Dream Truck, Patrick Kingshill, 2016. 
Ceramic. Graduate, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

I emailed a bit with Patrick Kingshill and he said that Dream Truck represents a departure from his normal practice of making functional vessels. He is an 'obsessive doodler' who grew up in Eureka on the coast of Northern California and has surfed since he was 14. The downside to getting a grad degree in Nebraska = it's very far from the surf. This latent desire really came out in this three-dimensional doodle.

Dream Truck, Patrick Kingshill, 2016. 
Ceramic. Graduate, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

No one saw as I gingerly put it back together.

I did not touch Franco's Golden. In fact, I felt rather awkward examining and taking pictures of her golden behind. Imagine applying that lustre in the studio. 

Golden, Lorraine Franco, 2016. 
Ceramics. Undergraduate, University of Miami.

Golden, Lorraine Franco, 2016. 
Ceramics. Undergraduate, University of Miami.

I have to admit that some pieces fell flat in my eyes; Bevington's It's okay... I'm okay was simply silly, and I did not find much significance in Jeong's Want to Value

It's okay... I'm okay. Ashley Bevington, 2016. 
Clay, glaze, wood, mirror, paint. Graduate, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania.

Want to Value, Kwan Jeong, 2016. 
Porcelain, underglaze, low firing glaze. Graduate, Syracuse University.

Overall, I was left wanting more pots. There were only four representatives of functional ceramics in the exhibition. When I got to McDaniel's Sunshine Mug I had this sense of deja vu because, as I realised later, it had been featured in the NCECA Program guide. It made me laugh at the time though... to have a simple, yet well-made, mug sat right next to Fahley's deconstructed horse. It felt totally incongruous... as if someone in charge had been like "oh shit, we need a cup in the show." 

Sunshine Mug, Caelin McDaniel, 2016. 
Stoneware. Undergraduate, Edinboro University of Pennysylvania.

Survived by:, Shauna Fahley, 2016. 
Ceramic, wood, resin. Undergraduate, University of Washington.

Stuart Gair's tea set also felt out of place, as if stranded on a life-raft in a choppy sea of ardently Parisian coffee drinkers. 

Large jar, teapot and teabowlStuart Gair, 2016. 

Soda fired stoneware. Graduate, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

I thought the other two functional pieces were thoughtfully placed, though: Tang's porcelain jar stood out, with its bright shiny porcelain surface and obsessive blue dots, complemented by Deroualle's soft panels nearby. 

Individuality, Tiffany Tang, 2016. 
Porcelain. Graduate, University of Montana.

Untitled, Louise Deroualle, 2016. 
Ceramic. University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

Close ups...

Individuality, Tiffany Tang, 2016. 

Porcelain. Graduate, University of Montana.

Untitled, Louise Deroualle, 2016. 
Ceramic. University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

And I chuckled at the ironic placement of Kellner's earthenware Meat Tray underneath Larrabee's skeletal Companions. 

Companions, Teresa Larrabee, 2016. 
Stoneware, underglaze, mixed media. Post-baccalaureate, University of North Texas.

Meat Tray, Andrew Kellner, 2016. 
Earthenware. Graduate, West Virginia University.

I thought, to begin, that the show's main collision was between 'art' and 'craft.' But then, it is not that simple -- many of the sculptures, such as Wilson's Foul Fowl and Calhoun's Self-Image, are finely crafted, and Tang's piece could be seen as Art with a capital A. Perhaps a better way to describe the collision is between the 'conceptual art piece' and the 'functional pot.' This is the great dichotomy of the current ceramic art world, especially that of university programs. Students seem to be pushed to conceptualise first and make second. 

Foul Fowl, Mary Cale Wilson, 2016. 
Earthenware. Graduate, San Diego State University.

Self Image, Liam Calhoun, 2016.  
Raku fired ceramic. Undergraduate, Buffalo State College.

To my mind, there is something inherently special about a well-conceived and executed functional pot; the possibility of its use imbues it with some sort of magic. But this magic was present in Kingshill's Truck, too. I wanted to take it apart and play with it. And that is not to say I value function over all else, but it certainly informs my aesthetic inclination. Would I enjoy Cinelli's Reliquary for Boredom more if it 1) were an open vessel 2) did not have a brain hovering over it and 3) did not have a fancy title? Possibly. Why? I don't know. Maybe because I am a peasant potter at heart.

Reliquary for Boredom, Mike Cinelli, 2016. 
Earthenware, commercial underglaze, terra sigilata. Post-baccalaureate, University of Mississippi.

There's more under the surface of my present thoughts, bugging me. Take Ballard's Brave, for instance. What does a peasant potter do with that? It's earthenware, sure, but with nail polish?

Brave, Rachel Ballard, 2016. 
Earthenware glaze, micro-crystalline glaze, nail polish. Graduate, Georgia State University.

I don't know. I'm confused. That's NCECA. Maybe that's the point. Maybe it's fine. I should probably let go and embrace the collisions. Here's a last couple of pieces with fantastic surface and texture.

Blue Velvet Water, Sarah Heitmeyer, 2016. 
Slip cast porcelain, glaze. Graduate, SUNY New Paltz.

Squares on Squares on Square, 2016, Yewen Dong
Ceramic. Graduate, School of Art Institute of Chicago.

Squares on Squares on Square, 2016, Yewen Dong
Ceramic. Graduate, School of Art Institute of Chicago.

I can't help feeling that we should have separate exhibitions for students' functional and conceptual pieces, but the clash of them can indeed be compelling. Perhaps I just want a fairer representation of the excellent functional pots being made out there. I want them to be prominent and not feel like afterthoughts. Here is my afterthought for now... LeFever's untitled wall sculpture. It was made originally with a 3D printer and then slip cast from that. The world's a changing.

Untitled, Amy LeFever, 2016. 
Slip cast earthenware from 3D printed model, designed in Rhino software program. Graduate, University of Tennessee, Knoxville.