Ceramics Show Dazzles

For Julia Haft-Candell, Lincoln Visiting Artist in Ceramics and guest
curator of Scripps’ 71st Ceramic Annual, ceramics is a metaphor for

“You can take this pile of dirt and make it into whatever
you want,” Haft-Candell said. 

“I second guessed myself a lot … At the opening I was
questioning a few things, like rearranging or adding some pieces from the
Scripps collection … But now I think it’s a really good balance. It’s not too
cluttered and I really like every piece that’s in there,” Haft-Candell said.

While Haft-Candell doubted herself during the curatorial process, gallery director Mary Davis MacNaughton was confident in the curator’s abilities. 

Haft-Candell, who teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in ceramics, is “well-prepared to select this work, as she is part of a vibrant ceramic scene,” MacNaughton wrote in the preface of the show’s catalog. Haft-Candell has exhibited her work at several Southern California galleries, including ACME, iKo iKo and the Huntington Beach Art Center, as well as at galleries in Houston and New York City. 

The show, titled “The Familiar and Indefinable in Clay,” showcases ceramics from eight different artists. The artists are varied not just in their styles and approaches but also in notoriety, ranging from the up-and-coming Jessica Hans to the internationally renowned Betty Woodman. Haft-Candell does not only like all the pieces individually; she likes
the entire body of work of each of the individual artists in the show, which
was an important criterion for her.

“I wanted to have artists whose work I could really stand by,” Haft-Candell said. “I wanted be able to sell it and be passionate about it.”

Upon entrance to the gallery, viewers are greeted a few steps outside the gallery’s small lobby
by, fittingly, Kathleen Ryan’s “Double Door,” a tall, metallic silver structure
made with glazed ceramic over steel scaffold.

Moving along the walls, they encounter smaller but
nonetheless inspired pieces, such as Woodman’s asymmetrical painted vases or
Brie Ruais’s “21 Ways to Enter and Exit the Studio on December 21st
2012,” a flat, pigmented and glazed ceramic with shoe-print impressions, smeared
with pink and blue. On the floor you’ll find Anton Reijnders’s brilliant little
stacks of glazed clay and miscellany.  

Though the pieces are all distinct, there are two common
themes that run through all of them, according to Haft-Candell. First, most of the work is abstract.
Even if there are some recognizable features, Haft-Candall maintains that the
pieces are not largely representational. Second, the works invoke play between
abstraction and representation.

“You get hints at something that you know, but it’s …
muddled or altered or contrasted by something unfamiliar, so what you think you
know you start questioning, or if you think you don’t know anything, you start
questioning that,” Haft-Candall said. “There’s this ambiguous,
exciting, intriguing confusion, which is how I feel about life.” 

Haft-Candell isn’t alone in her appreciation of this ambiguity.

“Coming back often, and especially after reading the catalog, I can make the connection of how many items aren’t meant to be
conventional and I like that aspect,” Williamson Gallery receptionist Karla Guerra SC ’18 said.

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