20th Century American Ceramics Exhibit; Part 1: Vessels with lids

Photos and text by Robert Kokenyesi, Ceramic Artist, Beachfront Pottery, Godfrey, IL 62035, USA.

The Venue

This exhibit took place in the Bonsack Gallery of John Burroughs High School in Ladue, Missouri from August 22 to October 10, 2017.  The pieces in the exhibit showcased the ceramic art pieces that were gifted to the school from the Matthew & Jane Newman family in the honor of Andrew R. Newman.  The gallery is a relatively small space, about 15X20 feet, but well lit, and have two large wall spaces.

The Call for Entry

There was no call for entry, as this was an exhibit of art works gifted to the school.

The Ceramic Art Pieces

Because of the good number of items and artists, we will begin with the vessels that had a lid.  I chose to divide pieces by the presence of the lid, because the design and execution of the vessel is different when a lid needs to be accommodated.

“Lidded Cookie Jar” by Tim Mather


The exhibit statement says that Tim’s work current work includes making ceramic casts of everyday objects.  This cookie jar was about 18 inches tall, with nicely detailed handle structures.








“Covered jar” by Philip Cornelius


This stoneware piece is typical for Philip Cornelius later stage firing method that pushed the clay to the limits of the firing heat.  The result is a surface that seems corroded, weathered, partially decomposed.  He has been quoted to say: No one fires harder as I do. And if they did, I’d fire even harder.







“Teapot” by Mark Pharis

The most striking features of this teapot were the size (about a foot tall and long), and the rough/weathered surface.  You can read about Mark’s works on his Wikipedia page, and on pages of several galleries representing his work.   Mark makes functional pieces by operating within a framework of his rules.  He uses CAD software to work out two-dimensional patterns and assembles his pots by cutting forms and piecing them together just like a seamstress would, employing patterns to make volumes.

In addition to function he also wants his pieces to serve a decorative role.  He was quoted to say: “I want my pots to have that potential to flip or alternate, to appear to be about use at one time, but to be visually independent and clear enough to be other than functional as well.”


“Covered Jar” by Karen Karnes
“Covered Jar” by Karen Karnes

Karen also has a Wikipedia page.  Even that page mentions the “cut-lid jar”as one of her most well-know forms. She uses earth-tone surface decoration and wood-firing on this jar.

She is also credited with development of a flame-resistant casserole dish using a special formulation clay.



“Teapot, teacups, and saucers” by Beatrice Wood

The shiny greenish-yellowish glazes are the mark of Beatrice Wood’s pottery.   These “luster” glazes give her pieces a unique appearance.

She has a Wikipedia page that mostly focuses on her extensive involvement with the Dada artists and their movement. She has been called the “Mama of Dada”. There is a lot more to Beatrice Wood than ceramics.





“Ritual Vessel Tureen” by Jerry Rothman
“Ritual Vessel Tureen” by Jerry Rothman

This vessel is typical of Rothman’s large scale sculptural works.  It’s about two feet tall.  The brick-like elements are used as a support, and as a handle on the lid of the tureen. I recognize the brick-like elements as coming from the Otis Art Institute where he studied ceramics.  Peter Voulkos, the leader at Otis, used similar large scale rectangular building elements in his sculptures.  It was interesting to read how Rothman was excluded from some artistic circles because he worked in commercial art endeavors.



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