woods

Ceramics

Feature: Tom Marsh Legacy


“By practicing a potentially usable art and by insisting on its usability, and the commonness and local peculiarity of his materials, he points it toward the older, finer, healthier sort of artistic success: that such excellent workmanship, such beauty and distinction, might again become ordinary.“ — Wendell Berry on Tom Marsh*


Artists, Ginny & Tom Marsh.

Artists, Ginny & Tom Marsh.

If past is indeed prologue, then perhaps we live in the present only by the leave of our ancestors; formative influences, and most especially our teachers. Tom Marsh was a teaching artist in the Greater Louisville area for more than 25 years, first at Silver Creek High School in his native Indiana during the 1960’s, and then as the founder of the Ceramics program at the University of Louisville’s Hite Institute for Art, where he taught until his death, in 1991.

It is also said, by those who loved and admired him the most, that he was demanding. Surely this is a requisite quality for any worthwhile mentor, and, from all accounts, Marsh set expectations as high for his own work as he did for anyone else, and the program he developed for U of L was unorthodox, moving beyond traditional studio parameters. Certainly experience has taught us that innovation often translates for some as ‘difficult’.

Marsh was raised by missionaries, and studied painting with Mary Spencer Nay at the University of Louisville. A missionary trip took him to Mashiko, Japan, where he ended up staying for several years, studying pottery with Sakuma Totaro (1900-1976), and learning various strands of Buddhism, most notably Rinzai. Once he returned to the U.S. he eventually resettled in Borden, Indiana, living his later years in adherence to ethical and spiritual practices born of his time in Japan, building an aesthetically spare house in the secluded woods that featured multi-functional space - the bed was raised on pulleys to make room for working.

Works by Marsh Pottery,   Install Image from UofL Faculty show (1984) . Photograph courtesy of the Hite Art Institute.

Works by Marsh Pottery, Install Image from UofL Faculty show (1984) . Photograph courtesy of the Hite Art Institute.

This holistic approach was indicative of what University of Louisville colleague and current faculty Jim Grubola calls the, “potter-philosopher” ideal that Marsh strived to embody. He brought it into his teaching, breaking out of the confines of the studio to instruct students in building outdoor kilns as a part of curriculum, a practice that brought many conflicts with both the Louisville Fire Department and University officials.

"  Approaching" by Marsh Pottery,   conjunction in situ (1992). Photograph courtesy of the Hite Art Institute.

"Approaching" by Marsh Pottery, conjunction in situ (1992). Photograph courtesy of the Hite Art Institute.

As for the work, Marsh’s ceramic pottery follows the Japanese aesthetic that finds beauty – “art,” in the strictly functional: large scale vessels for storage (because smaller pieces for daily use were commonly made from lacquer or wood), and tea pots. The full, earthen physicality might seem to contradict the western (mis) perception of delicacy as a defining characteristic of Japanese art; these are full, solid forms of visual and tactile weight. Their functionality never feels in question.

Another U of L associate, retired Print Faculty John Whitesell, describes how Marsh developed his techniques for the “expanded form jar,” in which the walls of the vessel are pushed to their limits and the outer surface begins to “crack”: “He would go beyond what you would imagine was possible… he would just keep working it, and working it.” The resulting complex, “fractured” surface texture became a trademark of Marsh’s work, a careful balance between structural integrity and creative aesthetic. However much the artist valued function, the rustic, earthy beauty of the work was always astonishing.

Whitesell also talks of “the anonymous potter,” which is a term that evolved when Marsh worked alongside his wife, Ginny Marsh. In the images of work shown here, from a 1984 sabbatical exhibit at U of L’s Schneider Galleries, all of the work is identified as simply Marsh Pottery, with no distinction given as to which Marsh created which piece. While there may be some who felt they could detect differences, Grubola, for one, could not be certain, because the nature of the vessels had gone in such an elemental direction: “Particularly towards the end,” says Grubola, “the work became more intuitive and less refined.”

"Mark" by Tom Marsh. Photo Courtesy of Hite Art Institute.

"Mark" by Tom Marsh. Photo Courtesy of Hite Art Institute.

Students came to U of L to study with Marsh specifically tolearn the Japanese-based techniques and life philosophy he expounded. Laura Ross, Wayne Ferguson, Sarah Frederick, Fong Choo, Pam Korte, Bran Hazelet, and Gwen Heffner are but a few notable potters for whom Marsh was a mentor, and many of them still live, work and teach in the area.

"Teapot" by Ginny and Tom Marsh

"Teapot" by Ginny and Tom Marsh

All of the concentration suggests that Marsh never did anything halfway. One of his teaching tools were sophisticated, multi-media presentations that he also took all around the U.S. at a time when such things were not common. “For someone so dedicated to a simple agrarian lifestyle,” remembers Whitesell, ”Tom was well-versed in technology, and had multiple projections fading in and out… synched to a pre-recorded soundtrack. It was very impressive.”

"These pots and cups and bowls are not busy calling attention to themselves as 'art objects.' Their preferred habitat is a kitchen, not a museum. They invite use. They are not just viewed. Viewing, by itself, will misunderstand them--just as, by itself, it
will misunderstand the food." — Wendell Berry

Examples of Marsh pottery are in permanent collections of museums worldwide, including the Museum of Modern Art in Kamajura, Japan.

Name: Tom Marsh (1934 -1991)
Hometown: Sellersburg, Indiana

The Marsh's 30 cubic foot cross draft salt kiln (c.1979). Photograph courtesy of the Hite Art Institute.

The Marsh's 30 cubic foot cross draft salt kiln (c.1979). Photograph courtesy of the Hite Art Institute.

"  Approaching Conjunction"   by Marsh Pottery,   stoneware   (1984). Photograph courtesy of the Hite Art Institute.

"Approaching Conjunction" by Marsh Pottery, stoneware (1984). Photograph courtesy of the Hite Art Institute.

"Vase with Brass Rings" by Marsh Pottery, 14in H, coarse stoneware   (1973). Photograph courtesy of the Hite Art Institute.

"Vase with Brass Rings" by Marsh Pottery, 14in H, coarse stoneware (1973). Photograph courtesy of the Hite Art Institute.

Written by Keith Waits. Entire contents copyright © 2017 Louisville Visual Art. All rights reserved.

*From “Tom Marsh/Potter: Twenty Three Years of Clay”, published by University of Louisville, 1979.

Are you interested in being on Artebella?    Click here    to learn more.

Are you interested in being on Artebella? Click here to learn more.

Photography

Vignette: Ed Lawrence


“There’s something magical about creeks for me.” Ed Lawrence


Lawrence_Ed_2x2_with_gray.jpg

The cold, slate gray form of dead branch isolated against the warm green tones of trees reflected in a creek; the deceptively abstract quality we find In a close up point-of-view of minnows swimming in the shallow water of a creek bed; the organic cathedral formation of trees lining both sides of a woodland stream. These are but three Ed Lawrence images that make him the epitome of a fine nature photographer. His work captures both the grandeur and the intimacy of the Kentucky landscape in a context that borders on sacred.

Lawrence has worked in various mediums, but he returned to his early love of photography after retiring, shooting alongside his oldest son, who had discovered one of his father’s old film single lens reflex cameras. The two of them traveled together shooting, the son on film and the father digitally, and Lawrence’s passion was renewed. He considers himself less of a technician, saying: “I could care less about the world of apertures, f-stops, ISOs and metering.” Ed Lawrence just uses a camera to paint what he sees.

"Beals Run, Woodford County, KY"   by Ed Lawrence, 19 x 13 in, inkjet print on archival matte paper (2016) $200 / $300 framed (  limited edition of 10) |  BUY NOW

"Beals Run, Woodford County, KY" by Ed Lawrence, 19 x 13 in, inkjet print on archival matte paper (2016) $200 / $300 framed (limited edition of 10) | BUY NOW

“There’s something magical about creeks for me,” he explains. “When I am in a creek, I feel like I am in a world of my own with meandering paths of water and rock protected by canopies of trees. Surrounded by the beauty of wildflowers along the bank, the wonder of birds, fish and fascinating creeping crawling things and the dappling light make creeks my place of reflection both literally and figuratively.”

“All seasons appeal to me. The brilliant colors of autumn leaves falling and sinking beneath the water, the ice and snow formations of winter and the pinks and blues and greens of spring growth transform the same site on the same creek into a very different place. My favorite sensation is the coolness of the air drifting downstream when the summer heat is otherwise unbearable.”

"Benson Creek, Franklin County, KY"   by Ed Lawrence, 19 x 13 in, inkjet print on archival matte paper (2016) $200 / $300 framed (  limited edition of 10) |  BUY NOW

"Benson Creek, Franklin County, KY" by Ed Lawrence, 19 x 13 in, inkjet print on archival matte paper (2016) $200 / $300 framed (limited edition of 10) | BUY NOW

Lawrence will be one of the photographers in a group show at the City Gallery at the Downtown Arts Center, Lexington Kentucky Creeks - paintings and photographs by four Kentucky artists, which will run February 10 through April 2, 2017. He also has published book of photographs, “Kentucky 120” A county-by-county portrait of Kentucky, published by Zedz Press.

Hometown: Frankfort, Kentucky
Age: 67
Education: Studied fine art at the University of South Florida and Communications at the University of Kentucky but do not have a degree. My photography is for the most part self-taught.
Website: www.edlawrencephotography.com

"Hal Bryan's Creek, Franklin County, KY" by Ed Lawrence, 19 x 13 in, inkjet print on archival matte paper (2016) $200 / $300 framed (limited edition of 10) |  BUY NOW

"Hal Bryan's Creek, Franklin County, KY" by Ed Lawrence, 19 x 13 in, inkjet print on archival matte paper (2016) $200 / $300 framed (limited edition of 10) | BUY NOW

"Brighton Branch, Franklin County, KY" by Ed Lawrence, 19 x 13 in, inkjet print on archival matte paper (2014) $200 / $300 framed (  limited edition of 10) |  BUY NOW

"Brighton Branch, Franklin County, KY" by Ed Lawrence, 19 x 13 in, inkjet print on archival matte paper (2014) $200 / $300 framed (limited edition of 10) | BUY NOW

"Elkhorn Creek, Woodford County, KY" by Ed Lawrence, 19 x 13 in, inkjet print on archival matte paper (2016) $200 / $300 framed (limited edition of 10) |  BUY NOW

"Elkhorn Creek, Woodford County, KY" by Ed Lawrence, 19 x 13 in, inkjet print on archival matte paper (2016) $200 / $300 framed (limited edition of 10) | BUY NOW

Written by Keith Waits. Entire contents copyright © 2016 Louisville Visual Art. All rights reserved.

Are you interested in being on Artebella?    Click here    to learn more.

Are you interested in being on Artebella? Click here to learn more.

Painting, Public Art

Vignette: Sabra Crockett

"Mural at Le Moo" by  Sabra Crockett , 14x12ft, acrylic on brick, NFS

"Mural at Le Moo" by Sabra Crockett, 14x12ft, acrylic on brick, NFS

Sabra Crockett has worked extensively on public art of one kind or another: as a scenic artist, a muralist, sign design, and in her more personal art she turns to the natural world, motivated by memory and childhood nostalgia: “My focus in my art is to bring the viewer a heightened awareness and connection to nature, because I believe it is disappearing. Since I was a little girl, I have always found refuge being outside with the birds and trees. Growing up was really tough. Family life was tumultuous, and I had no true friends. I would spend hours in my back yard, or exploring the then empty lots of undeveloped fields surrounding my suburban neighborhood - observing the birds, trees, insects, and amphibians. It all fascinates me. I learn life lessons by observing the plants and animals.”

There is a discovery of recurring pattern that has perhaps informed Crockett’s work, whatever the field. She has developed her technique for decorative painting from this observation, bringing a feeling for organic rhythms of our environment into interior spaces. 

"I Stand Alone" by Sabra Crockett, 18x24in, acrylic on canvas, $490  |  BUY NOW

"I Stand Alone" by Sabra Crockett, 18x24in, acrylic on canvas, $490 | BUY NOW

Not surprisingly, we also find an undercurrent of sensitivity to the threat to that natural world that has preoccupied us for the last few generations: “I find it all beautiful, even when it is cruel and terrible. However, there is a definite threat to the magic and lessons nature provides. I am aware of the over development of the land, the oil spills, the pesticides, the bee and bird populations plummeting. It terrifies me. For now, I have a desire to capture the essence of how I view nature through my paintings, and hope it inspires the viewer to remember the intrinsic value nature provides us all.”   

Hometown: Rochester, New York
Age: 42
Education: BFA, Rochester Institute of Technology
Website: http://www.sabralynne.com

"Raven on Gold" by Sabra Crockett, 8x10in, acrylic and gold leaf on canvas, $460 |  BUY NOW

"Raven on Gold" by Sabra Crockett, 8x10in, acrylic and gold leaf on canvas, $460 | BUY NOW

"Arms Wide Open" by Sabra Crockett, 43.5x73in, acrylic and gold lead on wood, $1650 |  BUY NOW


"Arms Wide Open" by Sabra Crockett, 43.5x73in, acrylic and gold lead on wood, $1650 | BUY NOW

Are you interested in being on Artebella? Click here to learn more.

Written by Keith Waits. Entire contents copyright © 2016 Louisville Visual Art. All rights reserved.

Please contact    josh@louisvillevisualart.org    for further information on advertising through Artebella.

Please contact josh@louisvillevisualart.org for further information on advertising through Artebella.