Clayworks' settings attract artistic palates

Exhibit to celebrate theater of the table

January 15, 2000|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

A new exhibit of ceramic table settings and servers made by 34 artists will be on display at Baltimore Clayworks in Mount Washington beginning tonight.

The whimsical collection, intended to celebrate the theater of the table, features everything from a decorative piece called "Forbidden Fruit," to "Viagra Server."

Among the more abstract and curious works is the earthenware "Encrustation 2000," a centerpiece arrangement of three green, rounded shapes, each adorned with a quill.

"The flamboyance fits in with the whole millennium hoopla," says Leigh Taylor Mickelson, program director at the ceramics center at 5706 Smith Ave. "It's an exuberant vision of the future."

The opening of the "Sublime Servers" exhibit is free to the public and begins 6 p.m. today. It includes a talk by curator Gail M. Brown of Philadelphia.

"Some of the functional [pieces] are serene," said Brown. "Others are a language of extravagance and superlatives."

The splashy and ambitious show is a signal of sorts for Clayworks, symbolic of its growing stature and prosperity as it approaches its 20th anniversary this year. The show presents works from artists from California to Massachusetts.

Lodged in a former branch of the city's Pratt Library, the group doubled its real estate holdings last year when St. Paul Insurance donated its Provincial House across the street.

Tonight's event is the first of many activities scheduled by Baltimore Clayworks this year. Beyond its classes and workshops, Clayworks will be home to an artist-in-residence project that will help young people from across Maryland create a series of six murals for a park memorializing Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad in Cambridge.

Included in the works on display through Feb. 27 is "A Goblet Garden in the Plate Patch," by Jane Pate of New Mexico.

"The goblets almost come alive," said Mickelson of the crooked goblets among colorfully painted small plates. "Painting the insides was not easy to do."

The exhibit's most expensive piece -- priced at $5,500 -- is a nostalgic and elegant teapot made of porcelain and gold leaf by Mara Superior of Williamsburg, Mass. It conjures thoughts of teatime as it might have been a century ago in New England.

In general, the show is not reminiscent of the past.

"All through history, we have seen domestic rituals through art," said Brown. This collection, the curator said, captures today's rituals.

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