Michael Corney is obviously inspired by R. Crumb of the bawdy ZAP COMIX for his material. Dan Anderson riffs off Rt. 66 as inspiration for making ceramic oil cans.
The Anagama kiln firings of Chris Gustin result in pieces that are sculptural, abstract and very large scale. Jun Kaneko makes 12-foot patterned clay totems. Kellogg Johnson's amphora shapes relate to western classical forms. For finely crafted pots you can cook with and eat from, you want micaceous. Northern New Mexico has its master in Felipe Ortega whose usable kitchenwear demands display elsewhere beside the stove.
Ruth Duckworth is now a 70-year-old artist in Chicago who makes miniature sculptural marvels in white porcelain. Though the sculpture can be small, its scale far exceeds its actual size. Is it art? Craft? Sometimes it seems that context decides the issue.
Stand in front of a case of finely crafted wood objects and you will quickly notice how much about surface this medium is. Is the wood smooth and satiny? Or is it roughhewn and treated with a tool that may actually blacken or seem to scar it?
For a good number of years, wood aficionados have associated fine wood crafts with the art of wood turning. Bud Latven's turned vessels have a negative space sensibility--plentiful dashes inset in the form--that give them a feeling of motion. More classically straight, Philip Moulthrop's turned wood vessels are poised and coolly suave.
Christian Burchard works with the gnarled and crooked forms of madrone wood in his works carved by chainsaw. Jack Slentz's scorched ash work delivers to the whiteness and smooth grain of the ash its opposite and counterpoint of color and texture. Todd Hoyer splits vessel forms and inserts between the halves wooden disks that seem to be traveling across the passage.
Maybe it's the love and the light of Venice, or simply the fact that glass refracts, but one of glass' biggest appeals is the color that infuses and seems to distill the medium to a concentration up around 150 percent. Dante Marioni is a colorist and contemporary classicist working with a rococo flair. Benjamin Moore and Paul Cunningham both craft glass vases and jars that reflect an intensity of geometry and ensuing spectral perception.
Flo Perkins is a Santa Fe glassblower who turned from blowing sprays of glass flowers to making high whimsy--bright orange glass-blown traffic cones you wouldn't want to hit with a vacuum cleaner, much less a car.
Clearly, fine craft is commanding a lot of attention. You could say New Mexico has always been generous about the art versus craft distinctions. In Georgia O'Keeffe's last days, with her eyesight failing, she threw large black pots. Ceramist Ken Price's works accompanied Ellsworth Kelly paintings at Dave Hickey's SITE Santa Fe biennial in '01. On the national scene, the quilts of Gee's Bend got a best of show by critics and traveled from the Whitney Museum of American Art to other museums last year. You might consider all this the "hands back on" aphorism of the 21st century.
Thanks to Ellen Berkovitch, a writer living in Santa Fe, NM.
Originally appeared in
The Wingspread Collector’s Guide to Santa Fe, Taos & Albuquerque — Volume 18