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Making mud magical

World-class clay slingers show their art at Brand Library Art Galleries.

August 11, 2011|By A. More
  • Kelly Berning's"The Proportionist" and other sculptures are on exhibition at Brand Library Art Galleries in Glendale on Wednesday, August 10, 2011. (Raul Roa/Staff Photographer)
Kelly Berning's"The Proportionist"…

“You cannot help but learn more as you take the world into your hands. Take it up reverently, for it is an old piece of clay, with millions of thumbprints on it.”

— John Updike

At the West Coast Mud Slingers exhibition at the Brand Library Art Galleries, a selection of California-based artists with varied backgrounds and styles bring to life their intimate yet vastly diverse relationship with ceramics.

The title of the exhibition, which is curated by Ricky Maldonado, borrows its name from ceramics lingo; a “mud slinger” is someone who crafts pottery or uses a potters wheel. The “slinging” refers to the way the mud slips off the wheel as it spins.

While the works of mud slingers and contemporaries Kelly Berning, Trent Berning, Nina Kellogg, Maldonado, Adrian Sandstrom and Fred Yokel vary in subject, form, theme and technique, their passion and desire to explore the possibilities of the clay medium creates a unified narrative.

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An education in the ceramic practice, the exhibition points to the demand, rigor and patience required as the fate of the artist’s vision rests in an unpredictable medium that can change at the slightest touch.

Each artist is inextricably linked to the work they create, but it seems an even more intimate gesture when considering the ceramicist and their close interaction with their work, born from their bare hands.

Kelly Berning’s hand-built and wheel-thrown ceramic human form called “The Acrobat” is an oversized female marionette whose vacant and piercing eyes first confront the viewer upon entering the Brand Library Art Gallery. Suspended from an oversized wood bracing, the bald and sallow form delicately poses in mid-air. Separated by heavy chains, the limbs are further removed from the body while three colored ceramic weights placed at varying heights below the marionette seem to support the weight of “The Acrobat.” The sculpture seems an allegory of the artist identifying her internal struggle to find balance in the creative process, which more often feels like a juggling act.

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