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Canvases of Clay : An exhibit by former Glendale College students features nearly 100 works by 12 ceramists.

June 18, 1993|NANCY KAPITANOFF | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Nancy Kapitanoff writes regularly about art for The Times

Robert Kibler has been teaching ceramics at Glendale College for 16 years. He feels he's "been blessed with some really good students. There's some real talent here," he says.

A few years ago, some of Kibler's students decided to get together and organize group shows of their work. They invited their teacher to exhibit with them. Their latest show, "The Kiln Gods Must Be Crazy," on view at the Brand Library Art Galleries, features a joyous mix of content, styles and techniques in almost 100 works by 12 ceramists.

Kibler's intricately patterned, colorful plates and vases are rooted in the ancient ceramic technique known as majolica. However, he began experimenting with and learning the technique only six years ago.

"It brought me back to my earliest roots in pottery--the functional vase and plate," he said. "I like to make pots that people can use. Pottery is about using, touching, sharing with friends and family.

"The vase and plate are such great painting surfaces. I treat the ceramic surface as a painting surface. I do a lot of work in low temperature ceramics--you get a brighter color palate than with higher temperature ceramics such as porcelain."

Like Kibler, Kate Benson views the surfaces of her pieces as canvases. She began her art studies in painting, and it was not until 1987 that she started to work in earnest with clay. Her urns are contemporary takeoffs on ancient Greek urns. Her platters--which depict "unhappy women and cityscapes," she said--and the more optimistic urns reflect her personal life at the time she made them. For her, working with clay is in itself a release.

J.R. Dunster also sees ceramics as a painting medium. Her series of colorful Western plates recalls her childhood infatuation with television Westerns such as "The Big Valley" and "Wagon Train." As a teen-ager developing artistic skills, she drew cowboys and Indians while watching them on television. "Earthenware has a unique quality that I cannot duplicate in oils, acrylics or any other painting medium," she said.

Mark X. Poore is represented by his raku and majolica vessels. The two techniques are "at opposite ends of the spectrum to me," he said. "One is really earthy, the other highly decorative." Poore, a mountain cyclist, also said his designs come from the geologic forms and colors of the mountains where he rides.

Randall R. Bruce creates lusterware glazes for his unusual vessels. The process to make these iridescent glazes dates to the Middle Ages and carries an enormous amount of happenstance. "You never know what a lusterware glaze will look like until you take it out of the kiln," he said.

David Roesler uses the ancient Korean technique known as mishima --the inlaying of a contrasting color clay to create patterns under a transparent glaze--to make reliquary pieces and other intriguing vessels.

Influenced by nature and American Indian culture, Kathy Grabenstatter has fashioned several kachina figures out of clay, including the whimsical black-and-white striped member of the "Spirit Dancers" series.

Boats seem to be aground, and birds are unable to fly in Elaine Fuess' earthenware pieces. A red heart with wings is imprisoned in a cage. From the cage hangs a snake. Her work conveys "the feeling I get from these times," she said. In contrast to all this gloom, though, is the delicate charm of her work.

Cynthia Sellars' colorful coffee cups, tributes to her deceased dog, and womanly figures topped with "leafheads" all reflect her interest in folk art. David Baca's "Robo Christ" series of wall pieces re-create Greek and biblical mythology into contemporary images.

The inspiration for Debra Kaplan's colorful vessels ranges from classical Greek vessels to cartoon characters. Clare O'Callaghan's series of heads and other works on view illustrate her curiosity in the juxtaposition of boxers and angels.

Since 1984, "we've all shown in several exhibitions together," Randall Bruce said. "Each of us takes turns approaching galleries. We know how to do press releases; we have pedestals. Galleries like that it's all ready-made."


What: "The Kiln Gods Must Be Crazy."

Location: Brand Library Art Galleries, 1601 W. Mountain St., Glendale.

Hours: 1 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, 1 to 6 p.m. Wednesdays, and 1 to 5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, through July 6.

Call: (818) 548-2050.

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