Art review: America’s ClayFest II in Placer County

05/15/2014 4:00 PM

05/14/2014 11:47 AM

“America’s ClayFest II,” presented by Roseville’s Blue Line Arts and the Art League of Lincoln, celebrates the rich history of 25 years of the clay competition formerly known as Feats of Clay.

Over the years, Feats of Clay brought strong works by ceramic artists from all over the country to the Gladding, McBean clay manufacturing company in Lincoln. Last year, with a new name, the exhibit moved to Roseville. Installed in the spacious Coker Gallery at Blue Line, this year’s show (as was last year’s) is a strong compendium of high-quality work being done in ceramics in America.

In addition to the main show at Blue Line, auxiliary exhibitions are concurrently being displayed at other venues. A student competition is up at the Ridley Gallery at Sierra College. A tribute to Gladding, McBean is on view at the Lincoln Art Center, and there are satellite shows at Alpha Fired Arts and Shimo Center for the Arts in Sacramento and the Maidu Museum in Roseville.

The more than 80 pieces on view at Blue Line range from utilitarian objects to figurative and abstract sculptures. The first-place award went to Tiffany Schmierer for her ambitious tower of cumulative eccentric forms titled “Accumulated View.” It’s a richly colored, playful accretion of organic and architectural forms that has the pizzazz of a crazy quilt.

No less appealing is the second-place winner, Colleen Sidey Yerian’s “Let Them,” a startling sculpture of Marie Antoinette’s head resting on a cake. Both horrifying and hilarious, it is a delicious if disturbing confection.

The third-place award went to Suzanne Storer for “Young Man II,” a sculpture of a head seen from a distorted perspective. At first I didn’t like this piece very much, but after looking at three more examples of Storer’s work, all playing with perspective in an original and lighthearted way, combining volumetric form with dashing calligraphy, I was won over.

But there were many works in the show deserving of prizes. Among the utilitarian pieces, Tom Caswell’s elegant vase “Naked Raku II,” Doris Fischer-Colbrie’s intricately decorated “Serial Bowls” and Miki Shim’s exquisite “Pit Fired Vase” stood out. In a different vein, Bruce Cadman’s comic teapot, “Clowns Don’t Make Good Friends,” provokes a chuckle, and Maile Iwanaga’s “Chromophobic Japanophilia Series – Pitchers” are fascinating, surreal vessels.

In addition to Storer’s heads, there were a number of strong figurative works in the show, ranging from Dan Woodard’s Arneson-like “Portrait of the Artist as an Old Fart” to Nancy Zberg-Jennings’ haunting, metaphoric sculpture “The Delphic Bee,” a woman’s bared torso opened at the heart on a honeycomb. I also liked Malia Landis’ surreal sculpture of a plump nude with a stack of boats piled up where her head would be and GV Kelley’s “Codependency,” a whimsical pair of humanoid rabbits wrapped in a tight embrace.

Among the more architectural pieces, Lee Kavaljian’s “Spirit Houses” were, as always, intricate and lyrical constructions, and I was fascinated by John Lennertz’s missilelike “Weapon of Mass Instruction,” an ominous armament opened on a medieval-looking book press atop a stack of books.

A couple of works stood out for their inventiveness and incorporation of other media. Stephanie Osser’s “The Barber of Seville in My Home Town” is a clever stage set of blue-and-white figures and props with an added feature. You can hear two arias from the opera by using an app on your cellphone. Also intriguing is Carilyn Moyer’s “Emancipation Proclamation,” which incorporates Civil War scenes with an antique camera that has a button that when pushed reveals a photo of Barack Obama seen through the lens.

Note: Richard Mayhew’s lecture at Evolve the Gallery, which had been scheduled for Saturday, has been postponed. The current exhibition, “Spiral: American Masters,” has been extended through June 22.

Editor’s note: This story was changed on May 16.

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