NCECA Ceramics Pittsburgh.
Truth be told, the sum total of all I know about ceramics could fit into a soup bowl. Naturally I never thought I'd be writing a post about this crafty art form. But one never knows how the exigencies of fate will conspire to make you consider something you never really expected to think about. I guess the seeds for this particular post were planted when the funding for the new David L. Lawrence Convention Center was in place. The state-of-the-art facilities have attracted a number of events that ordinarily would have bypassed Pittsburgh. Who could have ever predicted that the Furries would come to the Three Rivers? Likewise, who would have known that NCECA would decide to locate their annual event in the Burgh?
NCECA stands for the National Council on Education for the Ceramics Arts. It's too late to book your reservations for this year's conference, but you can still take advantage of the many events around the city that galleries, studios and other cultural institutions have planned in conjunction with NCECA. In fact, if you are a regular at art openings around town, you've likely already seen a fair amount of ceramics work this month. As I (somewhat offhandedly) remarked to one friend via e-mail- "This town is lousy wit' 'em" (ceramics, that is). And just from one observer's perspective, it is amazing how versatile artists can be while working in this medium.
Surely anyone who grew up in the 80's knew at least one person that got caught up in the trend of ceramics painting. You'd go choose one from among many generic molds, and paint a hardened gray object to suit your tastes, and to match the colors of your home furnishings. I'm not very proud of the fact that I broke many of these craft products in the process of negotiating my way through my tempestuous preteen years. Little did I know that I'd be looking at examples of the form in art galleries a couple of decades later. The difference is that these are one-of-a-kind works of genius. The range of subjects that can be conveyed in clay of one sort of another is limited only by the wild imaginations of the creators.
I bought my first ceramics piece from Laura Jean McLaughlin -a friend of mine that runs a great galley/studio called the Clay Penn. I caught sight of a truly wondrous object- a round glass tabletop suspended above a fantastically strange mermaid. It was something out of a child's fevered hallucination-dream. It was truly unlike anything else I had ever seen, and I had to have it. It took me months to arrange its purchase, but it now occupies a central place in my burgeoning art collection. I have since acquired several more of McLaughlin's pieces, which are dispersed throughout my house. I've also subsequently learned that my friend is internationally-known for her work. And I've started to appreciate ceramic arts in a way that I would have never guessed. But you can see for yourself this weekend...
Particular highlights around town include the work at the La Vie Gallery, the Clay Penn, Fe Gallery, and Modern Formations. I've seen these shows personally, and so I can recommend them without reservation. Now that the official participants of NCECA have arrived (approximately 5000 of them), these places will be having official receptions to welcome connoisseurs. You can find out what's happening at the larger institutions around town by visiting NCECA's official site. But to really get the most out of this weekend, you are going to have to do some digging. If you have a favorite gallery in the area, stop by and see what they are offering. Some of the places that I know are hosting ceramic art (that I haven't visited) include Moxie Dada (North Side) and the James Simon Gallery (Uptown). This "gallery guide" site is an especially comprehensive gateway for specific information.