The following three essays were written by recipients of Studio Potter’s merit award for the National Juried Student Exhibition held during the 2018 National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, March 14-17. The award includes a one-year subscription to the journal and the opportunity to write an essay on any topic for our Summer/Fall issue.

Lukas Easton. National Priorities, 2017. 5 ft. tall. Cone 10 Stoneware. Photograph by Hollis Engley.

Developing a New Visual Language for Political Ceramics

By Lukas Easton

Over the past few years, and particularly since November 8, 2016, the language of socially engaged ceramic art has changed. Emerging and established artists alike are producing art that explores issues of feminism, minority discrimination, poverty, police brutality, Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ rights, immigration, environment, climate change, and war. The passion and voice of ceramic artists addressing these issues in their work excites and inspires me, but the importance and emotional impact of the message is lost when the work lacks craftsmanship.

As I look at the work from my 2017 BFA exhibition, I struggle with how to continue to make meaningful work that addresses difficult topics. I wonder if the images I carve into my vessels seem too direct and obvious, and question their lasting emotional impact on my audience after the awe wears off. In this age of great political tension, is subtlety the answer, or do these times warrant direct and confrontational visual language? While content is important, without strong formal elements to frame that content, the work risks failing in its primary purpose as art. These concerns have led me to take a hiatus from using imagery on my vessels in order to develop more nuanced ways of communicating through form first. To that end, I am exploring the styles of imagery and form that have the highest emotional impact.

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