Sunday, September 30, 2012

Cincinnati’s Best Known Vessels

One of my favorite Rookwood artists
was Sara Sax. Rookwood artists tended
to develop specialties. One of hers was
the use of a particular bright red glaze.
I was inspired by a vase she made in 1922
to make my own version using my 
Straight Stitch Painting technique. I call
mine Summer Bouquet. 
If you have lived in this town for any length of time, you have no doubt heard of Rookwood Pottery. Your grandparents probably received at least one piece as a wedding present. Many public buildings -- especially schools -- had Rookwood drinking fountains.

Rookwood Pottery was founded in 1880 by Maria Longworth Nichols. Maria was part of the very wealthy Longworth family of Cincinnati. After admiring Japanese ceramics at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876, Maria decided to open her own pottery. Luckily she had a lot of money and the area had a lot of clay. Cincinnati was already a center for commercial potteries. The School of Design of the University of Cincinnati provided her with trained artists. Her vision was to produce pottery individually decorated by artists. While her vision did come true, Rookwood was somewhat forced to have what became known as Standard Ware to help pay the bills.

Rookwood had ups and downs for many years. The Paris Exposition Universelle of 1889 earned Rookwood several gold medals. This triumph ensured the pottery’s financial profitability. Rookwood attracted the most talented decorators in the business. Things went well until the 1930s depression from which they never fully recovered.  Sadly in the 1960’s Rookwood closed its doors. In 2004 Dr. Art Townley who had purchased the company’s assets, including molds, glaze formulas, and trademarks found a group of investors willing to restore and return the manufacture of Rookwood Pottery to Cincinnati. Today the kilns turn out art tile, art pottery, corporate gifts and special commissions.

So the next time you are at grandmas take a peek at the bottom of her nick knacks. Who knows you may find a genuine piece of Rookwood. If you don’t find any in your family china cabinet go to the Cincinnati Art Museum and admire their extensive collection.

For more information, these two sources might be of interest.
--About Rookwood. This is on the contemporary Rookwood Pottery web site.
--How to Identify Rookwood Pottery. An article by B. Ellen Vonstenburg.

--Lynn Conaway

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Opium Poppy Seed Pod, a Natural Vessel

Put very simply a pod is a seed vessel. At a  time in the life cycle of certain plants the seed pod will burst open and the seeds will be expelled to sprout forth the next generation. Legumes or beans are the most well known to humans as many of these have edible pods. But well known to artists due to their interesting and graphic shape are Opium Poppy seed pods. Of course it doesn't hurt that poppies also have beautiful flowers.

The milky latex sap of opium poppies contain isoquinoline alkaloids.These alkaloids are classified as a narcotic and can be turned into what is known as heroin or opium. These potent alkaloids are obtained from the mature seed pod of the opium poppy plant. The addictive and harmful affects of opium have been known for a long time. However, for many centuries opium was not considered harmful  and was in fact revered as something from the gods.

In ancient art the poppy was the mythological symbol of sleep( Wake up, Dorothy!) Poppies were often a personification of the Greek Hypnos the 'god of sleep" portrayed by a bearded man leaning over the sleeper and pouring poppy juice into his eyes. Representations of poppies were engraved on Roman coins and also on bronze coins of the Maccabees (135-106BC). Toward the end of the Bronze age vases were used to carry pharmaceutical preparations made from poppies. Cyprian vases found in Egypt were shaped like a poppy pod. Many ancient cultures made jewelry with representations of poppy pods. Some scholars think it was drugs like opium and halucigenetic mushrooms which led to the evolutionary human capability for symbolism which in turn led to religion and art.

Of course some of the most beautiful poppy art was made by the French Impressionists. A quick Google check will show tens of thousands of artists still using the image of poppies and poppy pods.
--Lynn Conaway

Monday, September 17, 2012

Art History: The Feminine Form

Dan Brown’s bestseller DaVinci Code used a chalice and the letter “V” to symbolize the shape of a woman’s womb. Brown drew heavily  from art history in his works of fiction, and it is easy to find many references across time and culture to vessels that represent the feminine form. 

The Last Supper: In the novel, Brown suggested that the Holy Grail was not the cup of wine Jesus used at the Last Supper. Brown asserted that the Holy Grail was Mary Magdeline, that she was the wife of Jesus and that she was a vessel for His unborn child. Brown's super sleuth, Robert Langdon, discovers that Leonard DaVinci was part of a great conspiracy of scientists and artists who concealed the truth about the descendents of Jesus secret, but hinted at it through codes seen in famous works of art. One of these codes was in the masterpiece itself. In DaVinci’s Last Supper, Brown suggested the V-shaped void between Mary and Jesus was code for this womanly vessel. 

Shrine Vessel: The long neck and belly of the Nigerian Ga’anda Shrine Vessel is no veiled and secretive reference to the form of a woman's body. The markings on the vase obviously refer to the reproductive capabilities of a woman. According to WNET's "Art through Time: A Global View," the marks around the lower body of the vessel represent the ritual scarification of girls -- starting at age five and progressing through maturity -- that was typical in the culture of the time.  Reference.

The Female Effigy Vessel: This vase from early 20th Century Zaire shows the elaborate hair style of Mangebetu women. The patterns on the face and rounded chamber of the body show the body decoration typical of the era.

Woman with a Vessel: classic Mesoamerican jar from from southern Nayarit has a multiplicity of meanings relating to the feminine form. In this piece, the woman carries a vessel on her head. The sculpture itself is a vessel. As, of course, is the woman. Viewed in profile, the woman is obviously pregnant. Reference.  

Lekythos in the Form of Sphinx: A late 5th Century BC work from ancient Greece, this was a vessel for perfumed oil. The rim, neck and handle represents a lakythos, the body a Sphinx and the face a woman’s head. Reference

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Proper Vessel for Beer

When my Cincinnati ancestor Griffin Yeatman opened his tavern called the Square and Compass in the late 1790's, the alcoholic drink of choice was often punch. Punch was a concoction of liquor plus God knows what served in a common bowl or punch bowl. By the way the actual punch bowl used by Griffin Yeatman is on display at the Cincinnati Museum Center History Museum. So punch went out of style and with the large influx of Germans, Cincinnati became a beer drinkers paradise.

Before the advent of cans beer was drunk from a stein or tankard. Old beer steins were made of stoneware. Stein is German for stone. Over time these steins became highly decorative and often came with a hinged lid. The lid was to keep out insects.

In the late 19th century Cincinnatians could choose from around 1,810 saloons. If you didn't want to drink your share of the 40 gallons consumed by every man, woman and child at the saloon you could bring your beer home in a "growler". So whether you "pop open a tall one" or "hoist a few" in a stein enjoy your beer in moderation and always in a cool vessel.

For your enjoyment;

source- Cincinnati, The Queen City by Daniel Hurley
--Lynn Conaway

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Please Help Us Spread the Word

My name is Nancy Berlier and I’m working behind the scenes to help get the word out about Vessels: All the Eyes Can Hold.

I had the pleasure of working with Vessels curators Lynn Conaway and Carole Gary Staples a couple years ago on the fabulously successful fiber arts show, Fibers, also held at the Kennedy Heights Arts Center (KHAC). Lynn and Carole have a passion for this community arts center and have drafted another KHAC champion, Debra Wallace, to manage the show’s gift shop.

If you are not familiar with the center, it is a beautiful Victorian in the heart of Kennedy Heights. Both homey and architecturally stunning, this was the perfect venue for about 30 artists whose work was shown in Fibers. Family and friends of the artists who gathered for the opening reception were treated to food and music as they wandered from room to room of the rambling old building to greet and meet the artists. 

I think Vessels: All the Eyes Can Hold promises to be another success. The inclusion of many artists whose work crosses genres – ceramics, fiber, wood, basketry and other media – will ensure the gallery will be filled with diverse works. The idea of the show is so imaginative. A vessel can be a vase, a basket or a ceramic pot. Or it can be a ship. Or it can be a human heart -- biologically or spiritually.  I'm sure we will see a few surprises.

Please help us get the word out about the show by sending them a link to this blog. The Call to Artists will go out Nov. 5, 2012 when we will provide details about rules and procedures. Deadline for entries will be June 7.

The show will open Aug. 17, 2013. I hope to see you there.

--Nancy Berlier

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Lynn Conaway: The Origin of Vessels

Lynn Conaway
Several months ago, I had an idea for an art show about vessels. At the time, I was thinking about vases and bowls. Then I realized that vessels could be many other things. So I began to toss around the idea of a show about all connotations of the word vessel. My idea just kept getting bigger and bigger until I thought this is crazy, I can't do this by myself. One day, I ran into Carole Staples and just mentioned that I had this idea. Carole jumped right on it, and we were off and running. She and I have co-curated a show before. A couple of years ago we put together a large fiber art show called Fibers: A Celebration of Cincinnati's Fiber Artists. It was at the Kennedy Heights Arts Center and was very successful. So that is how I got into the curating business.

I am actually a self taught artist. I work mainly in fiber and mixed media. My work is shown in galleries locally. Six or so years ago I came up with a large scale embroidery technique which I call Straight Stitch Painting. So far as I know it is unique to me. 

Another technique I enjoy is making fabric wrapped coiled vessels. I am making some very interesting and different coiled vessels for this show. Later on I'll post some links to instructions Meanwhile, here are a couple of pictures of my work.
 --Lynn Conaway