From the Historic to the Contemporary
The sophistication of ceramics in the New Bedford area owes much to Chris Gustin’s active career as a catalyst of pottery enterprise and the influence of fellow ceramicist James Lawton. Both men have long affiliations with the New Bedford campus of UMass Dartmouth. Its University Art Gallery and Performing Arts Center are located in the UMass Star Store, a large refurbished former department store in New Bedford’s historic downtown. Gustin is a professor emeritus of UMass and Lawton is a professor who heads its ceramics program. Both are involved in South-Coast exhibitions that coincide with this year’s National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) conference in Providence.
Six South Coast Massachusetts sites are presenting exhibitions of importance during the NCECA timeframe. New Bedford offers “The Uncommon Object” at University Art Gallery at UMass Dartmouth (through March 28). “Of Earth and Sea: Contemporary Artists Respond to the New Bedford Whaling Museum and Collection” runs March 12 – August at the New Bedford Whaling Museum. New Bedford Art Museum/ArtWorks! offers “Watershed Center for Ceramic Arts: Celebrating Craftsmanship, Creativity and Community” through April 2. All three venues are within several blocks of one another and extremely accessible. It is important to recognize that the eclectic urban vibe of their immediate neighborhood informs the regional hosting dynamic.
Outside New Bedford city limits, yet connected to this core group of shows, are three more offerings of note: “Pouring Arts Invitational 2015” at The Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River (through March 27); “Slow Breath: Recent Works by Chris Gustin” at DeDee Shattuck Gallery in Westport, Mass. (March 25–April 26); and ”Friends of Fire: Contemporary Wood Fired Ceramics” at Gustin Ceramics/Gustin Gallery in South Dartmouth (March 25-April 25).
For those interested in process, Gustin Ceramics has an Anagama kiln opening and sale scheduled for March 24. This type of kiln is basically a long cave in which many wares are carefully stacked and fired together. Due to the labor- intensive aspect, this massive wood firing occurs only twice a year and the unloading can offer some surprises. Gustin plans his show at DeDee Shattuck Gallery to be a retrospective, describing it as featuring vessels related to the figure, specifically the torso.
Nearby at The Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River, Lawton has curated “Pouring Arts Invitational 2015,” relating to his book “500 Teapots- Volume 2.” He admits the book gave him a reservoir of references for contouring an exciting exhibition.