“America’s Clayfest III” at Blue Line Arts in Roseville is jam-packed with more than 70 ceramic works that are, for the most part, imaginative and engaging. They were selected by jurors Tip Toland and Peter Held from a field of 557 entries from 41 U.S. states as well as Canada, Ireland, England, Mexico, the Netherlands and Singapore.
Formerly known as “Feats of Clay,” the show, which used to be mounted in the Gladding, McBean ceramic works in Lincoln, is presented in conjunction with the Art League of Lincoln. While not as dramatic as the Gladding, McBean factory, Blue Line Arts is a large space that is more accessible than the Lincoln site.
“You often think of Davis when you think of ceramics,” said Blue Line curator Tony Natsoulas, “but this show and satellite exhibits at Sierra College, Alpha Applied Arts and Lincoln’s Art League gallery bring attention to a different area.”
At the forefront of the show are the three top prize-winners. “Standing Figure With Toy,” a sentimental piece of an armless man contemplating an oversized toy top by Georgia artist David Robinson, took the top prize.
It’s a well-done piece, but I liked better the second-prize winner, “Stretched Thin,” a quirky figure of a woman sitting on a dog, by Calvin Ma of San Francisco. The complexly articulated figures are glazed to look like they are made of strips of wood, and the effect of the piece is oddly compelling.
Third prize went to “Long Lidded Form,” an ornate serving vessel, by Texas artist Roy Hanscom. It’s a fun piece that somehow made me think of a subtler version of David Gilhooly’s frog sculptures.
There are many strong works in the show based on the human figure. I particularly liked “Sentry,” a skeletal figure covered with pots, by Bill Abright of San Anselmo. Also compelling was “Anthropophobia (Fear of Other)” by South Carolina artist Angelique Brickner. It takes the form of two nudes, a man and a woman, standing stiffly on either side of a lucite panel, contemplating each other with suspicion. More in the tradition of Northern California art is Benicia artist Pam Dixon’s “S’Matter Man, “ a small male figure spattered with painterly glazes.
Original takes on functional vessels are offered by two artists from outside the United States. Maria ten Kortenaar of Amsterdam gives us “Flower Bomb 2,” a blatantly beautiful cylindrical vessel with an offset rim that is covered with gorgeous morning glories and other flowers. Wonderfully delicate and austere is Singapore artist Leilani Trinka’s “Breakfast Set with Spoon,” a fragile porcelain piece that extends functional ceramics into the realm of fine art.
Decidedly odd are two works that drew my attention. Ohio artist April Felipe presents “Azabache,” a wacky, heavily patterned, quixotically shaped wall piece with an image of a woman wearing a duck mask. It’s both humorous and beguiling. But the prize for sheer strangeness goes to New York artist RJ Sturgess’ “Ginger,” a porcelain phallic form with a beard of pale red human hair. It’s so peculiar that you can’t stop looking at it.
There is little abstract work in the show, but Washington state artist Lisa Nappa’s “Merge” a pair of flat spheres with concentric markings joined to form a kind of figure eight, stands out, as does Kansas artist Marshall Maude’s “Horizon Series #11,” a minimalist yet rich arrangement of two rectangles.
For sheer beauty and delicacy Petaluma artist Bambi Waterman’s “Polyp Series” stands out, as does Sacramentan Lee Kavaljian’s richly luxurious “Copper Spirit House.”
Kavaljian’s work also stands out in an auxiliary show, “Purposeful Pottery,” which presents functional ceramics. Kavaljian’s small red vase and purple bowl are stunning, as is Janis Wilson Hughes’ cool “Sky Vase” with its subtle figurative implications. Both shows are well worth a trip to Roseville.
America’s ClayFest III
Where: Blue Line Arts, 405 Vernon St., Roseville
When: Through May 30. 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Tuesday, Thursday; 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Wednesday, Friday, Saturday
Information: (916) 783-4117, www.americasclayfest.org, www.bluelinearts.org