The American Museum of Ceramic Art in Pomona is featuring Elaine Henry’s exhibition “50 Bowls, 50 States, 50 Woodfires,” of wood fire pottery – the oldest method of firing clay.
About 50 people were there for the opening last week, which was followed by an artist’s talk.
Henry created 50 bowls in the same mold using the same ingredients to represent each state, to which each bowl was then shipped and handled by 50 different wood firing ceramist in the United States.
“The clay, the form, and the glaze are all that I wanted to control, leaving the rest to the kiln masters and their teams,” she said.
Each bowl was hardened for over 50 hours depending on the wood material used, location of the bowl within the firing chamber, and the type of kiln throughout the states. The technique resulted in various unique ash-filled designs within the bowls.
A bowl wood fired in Tennessee was beautifully glazed on the outside while on the inside the ash appeared to resemble obsidian, a black glass from volcanic ash.
Henry said she created this project because her curiosity had her wondering how the clay would correspond with woodfire.
To get the exhibition ready in time for the reception, Pam Aliaga, exhibition manager, said they had to work hard for two weeks with their prep team to build the installations and retrieve the bowls.
“Most exhibitions are planned out three years in advance,” Aliaga said.
With Aliaga coming into their current occupation six months ago, getting Henry’s show into the museum was already in the works with a previous curator Jo Lauria.
Ben Roti, Arizona ceramic artist who attended the event, took an interest in Henry’s show being a wood fire potter himself.
“It’s pretty spectacular to see all 50 bowls put together using the same clay and glaze and seeing how each kiln produces a different result, kind of showing all the variation that’s possible in various wood kilns across the country,” Roti said.
Henry wanted the bowls to represent the diversity in raw materials that were collected.
“I think the diversity of what is possible with wood firing is what stands out the most, even though they’re all the same clay and glaze the different woods and the ash that’s landing on them has created a lot of variations,” Roti said.
What stood out as well, was the time each bowl took to be created up to 130 hours or more while others took under 60 hours.
“You get to see how all the individual pieces look,” Roti said.
Jasmine Enriquez of Santa Ana attended the event with a family member.
“I found this project very intriguing as I haven’t seen art represented in such a way,” Enriquez said.
“Every single one is beautifully made in their own way of the same components,” Enriquez said. “I see it in the way of how we are as people, created in the same way, but still remotely different.”
Max Jimenez, freshman business administration major at the University of La Verne, said he felt that the bowls were a unique way to incorporate a little bit of every state in this exhibit.
“To someone that has no context, it would seem like she just created a bowl, nothing too special,” he said. “But to me it shows that we’re all unified in a way because there’s a little bit of each state incorporated into the pieces,” he said.
Henry’s exhibition will be on view at the American Museum of Ceramic Art in Pomona until July 24.
The museum is located in Downtown Pomona on West Center Street. It is open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Admission is $14 for general admission and $7 for students and Pomona residents.
For more information visit amoca.org.
Robyn Jones can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.