Art in Clay: Masterworks of North Carolina Earthenware Opens Sept. 2

Posted on August 16th, 2010

Claudia Mooney       

Kristin Settle

Art in Clay: Masterworks of North Carolina Earthenware Comes To The Milwaukee Art Museum
Major Earthenware Survey Alters American Ceramic History

Milwaukee, WI – August 16, 2010 –  The first major North Carolina earthenware survey completed in the United States, Art in Clay: Masterworks of North Carolina Earthenware, opens at the Milwaukee Art Museum on Thursday, September 2, 2010, and runs through Monday, January 17, 2011. Art in Clay presents groundbreaking scholarship that re-attributes ceramic forms long believed to be Moravian to diverse North Carolina cultural groups.

During the last half of the eighteenth century, potters of European descent introduced a variety of Old World ceramic traditions to the North Carolina backcountry. The achievements of these craftsmen often surpassed those of their Middle Atlantic and New England contemporaries, particularly in the application of slip-trailed decoration.

The exhibition will showcase 120 masterworks, including slipware, creamware, faience, and sculptural bottles. Among the most masterful are slipware dishes associated with Moravian potters who trained under, or were influenced by, Gottfried Aust (1722-1788) — a master craftsman who apprenticed in Saxony, Germany and worked briefly in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, before moving to North Carolina in 1756 . The Moravians came to North Carolina as part of their missionary effort, establishing one of the first potteries in the central piedmont region.

 “For the Moravians, slipware plates and dishes functioned as reminders of their European roots as well as potent symbols of religion and the cycle of life,” said Luke Beckerdite, curator of the exhibition. “For other potters and their patrons, decorated earthenware was a means of expressing and preserving their identity in the New World.” 

Other objects in the exhibition can be attributed to the Loy family, who were French Huguenot descendants who settled in Alamance County. They created pottery decorated with cruciform designs and fleur-de-lis, long considered classic French motifs.

“The North Carolina potters created vessels that were not only practical and beautiful, but also significant to their culture and religion, during this time,” said Beckerdite.

Art in Clay is co-sponsored by the Chipstone Foundation, Caxambas Foundation, and Old Salem Museums and Gardens, North Carolina.

The exhibition is curated by Luke Beckerdite, an authority on American decorative arts; Johanna Brown, curator of Moravian arts at Old Salem Museums and Gardens; and Rob Hunter, editor of Ceramics in America. It is organized at the Milwaukee Art Museum by Ethan Lasser and Claudia Mooney of the Chipstone Foundation.

The Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Thursdays until 8 p.m. Admission is $12 for adults and $10 for students, seniors, and active military, and is free for Members and children 12 and under. 

The Milwaukee Art Museum’s far-reaching holdings include more than 20,000 works spanning antiquity to the present day. With a history dating back to 1888, the Museum houses a collection with strengths in 19th- and 20th-century American and European art, contemporary art, American decorative arts, and folk and self-taught art. The Museum includes the Santiago Calatrava-designed Quadracci Pavilion, named by Time magazine as “Best Design of 2001.” For more information, please visit www.mam.org.



Gallery Talks
1:30 p.m.
Thurs, Sept 23 | with Luke Beckerdite
Tues, Sept 28 | with Claudia Mooney
Tues, Nov 2 | with Rob Hunter

Lecture: Art in Clay
Thurs, Nov. 4, 6:15 p.m.
Take a closer look at the pottery traditions in the exhibition with Luke Beckerdite, Art in Clay curator and editor of the Chipstone Foundation’s annual publication American Furniture.

Symposium: American Ceramics Circle
Fri–Sat, Nov 5–6, 2010
Attend presentations by top scholars at this symposium of the American Ceramics Circle (ACC), a national educational organization committed to the study and appreciation of ceramics. Visit the ACC website at www.amercercir.org to register. Contact Mel Buchanan (mel.buchanan@mam.org or 414-224-3281) with questions.