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“Teapots: Object to Subject” Opens Gallery Season at Ohio Northern University

teapotA teapot has a traditional silhouette: the pour spout protrudes at an angle, the handle is a simple loop for the server to grasp while pouring the tea, and the vessel itself is a symmetrical receptacle for liquid. Yet among the artworks included in the Ohio Northern University exhibit, Teapots: Object to Subject, there are wildly inventive and engaging vessels.

This exhibition will open the 2008–09 gallery season at Ohio Northern University from September 9 through October 19 in the Elzay Gallery of Art. A “High Tea” reception will be held Friday, Sept. 19, at 5p.m.

The works on display are examples of the most ingenious approaches to the contemporary teapot. Of course, teapots are still produced in the traditional materials of ceramics, metal, and glass, but artists constantly stretch and test the boundaries of the genre. They strive to challenge the concept of the teapot as a predictable, traditional vessel. Some of these visionaries incorporate fabric, precious metals, or found items from nature, and their artistic approaches vary from tromp d’oeil to the whimsical and sculptural.

The appeal of the teapot has many roots. This modest domestic object is so familiar, so comfortable, yet its rich history and misleadingly simple form make it an ideal object for artistic exploration. Today the teapot has one foot in the art world and the other in the kitchen. The contemporary American teapot has become one of the most significant objects of art pottery being produced and collected in this country. While some artists create teapots intended for use, others view the traditional teapot as a starting point for individual artistic expression. For both the creator and the collector, teapots that challenge the division between the worlds of art and everyday use are often the most exciting.

Exhibition curator Leslie Ferrin, author of Teapots Transformed: Exploration of an Object, has been curating exhibitions on contemporary teapots for more than 20 years. In this exhibition, Ferrin presents the concept that as the teapot becomes more abstracted, its function becomes less relevant. In effect, the subject of the work becomes the primary focus; the initial object, the teapot, becomes a secondary concern for the artist and the viewer.

Claudia Tarantino, who works exclusively in porcelain, explains, “Organic forms and the artistry and complexity of nature inspire my work… that brief moment when the fruit or vegetable is just right, at its prime, ready to be eaten…” Another artist working with luscious glazes and china paints is Karen Marie Portaleo.

Having been born and raised in Colorado, Blair Meerfeld enjoys incorporating native clays and material in his work, particularly salt-glazed stoneware. The objective of his work, says the artist, “is to unite traditional processes with contemporary color and form, resulting in a unique statement in clay.”

Richard Notkin is a full-time studio artist who lives and works in Helena, Montana. He has worked mainly in ceramics for over 30 years, and his series of Yixing-inspired teapots and ceramic sculptures have been exhibited and collected internationally. Other artists in the exhibition include Adrian Arleo, Peter Scherzer, Richard Swanson, Bennett Bean, Michael Simon, and Noi Volkov.

The exhibition will be accompanied by educational materials covering the history of the teapot, tea ceremonies, and cultivation, as well as the most current publications available on the contemporary teapot.

Admission to the Elzay Gallery of Art is free and open to the public, daily from noon to 5 p.m. For additional information, to schedule a tour or to be placed on the arts exhibition mailing list, please contact the department of art & design at (419) 772-2160 or art@onu.edu.