An explosion of ceramics in Orange County

Annie Newton, 21, Art, observing a clay art piece by Monica Dunham at the Artists’ Reception on Nov.1 ( Melanie Roberts/Lariat)

Melanie Roberts

Art appreciators of all types crowded the Saddleback College Art Gallery on Nov. 1, for the opening of the exhibit, “Clay Today: A Re-visit.”

The exhibit was first shown in 1995 and featured 14 active ceramic artists in Orange County, who were professionals in the field. In the returning exhibit, seven of the original artists have come back and six new artists have joined them.

“It’s nice to see 16 years later what the artists from 1995 are up to,” said Scott Young, the curator for the exhibit. “Some have retired, died, or are no longer in the area.”

Young said, “It’s different from the old show, because we had more funding back then to have workshops and lectures. Now we are limited to what we can do.”

Young has been an instructor at Saddleback since 1986.

Bob Rickerson, the art gallery director, said the object of shows like these is to display the type of art taught during classes, so that students can see professionals from their community.

“My job is to display the pieces and make them look beautiful. That was not hard with these particular pieces,” Rickerson said.

Erika Shrader, 22, art, a ceramic student in Young’s class, said she became interested in the exhibit while watching the set up process over the last few weeks.

“I heard about the show through my ceramics class,” Shrader said. “I came to check out the music and I wanted to see [the exhibit] up. There are so many ways to put clay together.”

Even though the returning artists had done this before, ceramic artists, like Randy Au, said they had changed their styles since the initial exhibit.

“My work is similar to the old show, but the pieces are more complex. I have added shapes together in order to trend away from the structural and functional,” Au said. “I go to the market to find naturally organic forms, slip cast copies of shapes.”

According to Au, in the 1995 ceramic display, he presented simple teapots with a clear function. This year his teapots take the shapes of things like vegetables and fruits molded together, making the functional aspect less evident.

New artists to the show, like Susan Elizalde, felt honored to be included.

“I felt honored to be asked to be a part of this. I was already familiar with the other artists,” Elizalde said.

She became interested in ceramics because of a curiosity she developed her senior year of college, according to Elizalde. It was different for her to have such small scale ceramics in the show, since her usual pieces involve large scale figurative work.

Another addition to the exhibit was Marlo Bartels.

“It’s great company and great to work with other people. It’s nice not being stuck in the studio. Some of my favorite artists are in this show, like Fred Stodder and Bill Henke,” Bartels said.

According to Bartels, the theme in his work is a lot of love.

“I like when people come together. I’m lucky to have gotten into something I love doing and travel with my passion for ceramics.”

His main piece in the exhibit was a colorful ceramic love seat.

“Applied to architecture is one of the best uses of the material,” said Bartels.

Art goer, Ken Kleinberg said, “It’s a wonderful show, certainly a diverse set of work here and a variety. It reflects on the long time foundation of Orange County ceramics.”