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OC LIVE : ART : The Shape of Their Hearts : Time, Love Craft 'Clay Today' Works


An exhibit called "Paint Today," without further qualifiers, might seem ludicrously ambitious, conceived in overly broad strokes. It's easier to get a handle on "Clay Today," which opened last week at the Saddleback College Art Gallery in Mission Viejo. That's because, first, the show is limited to work produced in Orange County. And second, clay is hardly the most popular medium among artists today.

"Ceramics still aren't really accepted as an art form," said Scott Schoenherr of Laguna Beach, whose "Golden Frog" serves as the show's calling card. "A lot of people, even people I took courses from, are basically giving up on it.

"The big disadvantage is, it's so process oriented," Schoenherr said. "Because it takes so long to produce a series of work, you've got to be doing it all the time. It's very hard to make a living at it."

Some persevere. The show, which runs through Dec. 6, includes almost 50 pieces by more than a dozen local artists; It was assembled by Scott Young, a member of Saddleback College's associate art faculty.

Martha Judd of Fullerton, who specializes in burnished ceramics--"smooth as standing water," her bio says--and Schoenherr present a slide lecture tonight from 7 to 9; Shanghai-born Patrick Crabb, on staff at Rancho Santiago College in Santa Ana, conducts a workshop Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Both events, in Fine Arts Room 209, are open to the public. Most of the artists are educators.

Schoenherr, 32, is one of the few who makes a living purely as a studio artist. His small works start at $900; large works, such as the 5-foot-tall "Golden Rhino" also on display, can go for up to $15,000. ("Golden Rhino" sold just before the show opened.)

"Nowadays, things are made with Xerox, quick imagery, everything's going computer," Schoenherr said. "That's a real contrast from ceramics--you can see the work involved. Instead of trying to make things faster, I'm going the other way--putting my heart, and time, into this 100%."


"Clay Today" is not about pottery.

Crabb's "Fetish Plate Series" and "Temple--Offering," for instance, address ideas of ritual and nostalgia. Fred Stodder's work is inspired by architecture. Jon Stokesbary makes social commentary in "Date Rape," as does the elder statesman of the bunch, Jerry Rothman, whose "One of the Boys" depicts the citizenry, in a dunce cap, supporting a donkey-faced, elephant-eared government.

Two teapot series couldn't be more different. Randy Au uses gold luster, Walter Reiss employs dry matte glazes. None of the vessels in the show are functional; Au's are inspired by vegetables, the Reiss series is actually called "Dysfunctional Teapots."

"[Ceramic art is] pretty kind of all over right now, isn't it?" Schoenherr reflected.

"For a while it was moving with the Expressionist painters, then there was a whole funk movement with pop imagery, but now it's a little lost. Everything is so individual. There is a strong ceramic community. . . . Maybe the larger community is breaking down?"


* What: "Clay Today."

* When: Open Monday, noon to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m.; Tuesday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Slide lecture tonight, 7 to 9 in Fine Arts Room 209.) Through Dec. 6.

* Where: Saddleback College Art Gallery, 28000 Marguerite Parkway, Mission Viejo.

* Whereabouts: Interstate 5 to the Avery Parkway exit; head east. Turn left onto Marguerite Parkway. Metered parking in Lot 12.

* Wherewithal: FREE.

* Where to call: (714) 582-4924.

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