Visual Arts Series presents 'Stoked – Five Artists of Fire and Clay' exhibition

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September 3, 2010

'Stoked' about Saint John's Pottery: Book Celebrates 30 Years

The College of Saint Benedict/Saint John's University Visual Arts Series presents Stoked - Five Artists of Fire and Clay, a pottery exhibition featuring work by Richard Bresnahan, Kevin Flicker, Stephen Earp, Sam Johnson and Anne Meyer.

This exhibit is open through Oct. 15 in the Alice R. Rogers and Target Galleries in the Saint John's Art Center, Saint John's University. A reception will be held from 4-6:45 p.m. Friday, Sept. 24 in the Saint John's Art Center, with a lecture by Matthew Welch beginning at 7 p.m. Welch is the assistant director and curator of Japanese and Korean art at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

The public is also invited to the Saint John's Pottery Studio for the 11th wood-firing ceremony of the Johanna Kiln at 6 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 10. It is the largest wood-fired kiln of its kind in North America.

This nationally touring exhibition celebrates 30 years of the Saint John's Pottery Studio and features the work of Bresnahan, SJU's Artist-in-Residence, and four former apprentices.

Bresnahan has operated the Saint John's Pottery Studio since 1980. He graduated from Saint John's University in 1976, having studied under potter Bill Smith and the renowned scholar of Japanese ceramics, S. Johanna Becker, OSB. He spent his final year of college, and three years after that, in Japan as an apprentice to Nakazato Takashi, a 13th generation scion of a pottery making family whose father was a "living national treasure." The knowledge gained from this experience earned Bresnahan the title of "master potter." In the Japanese tradition, he produces wood-fired pottery from locally excavated clay, some of which bears glazes also formulated from local materials.

Deeply influenced by the intergeneration teaching traditions of Pacific Rim countries, Bresnahan has trained scores of apprentices in the last 30 years. The four other artists represented in Stoked: Five Artists of Clay and Fire apprenticed under him at different times.

Flicker sought out an apprenticeship with Bresnahan in 1985 and in 1987 he returned to the University of Minnesota, Morris, as a ceramic instructor. Flicker creates high-quality, functional ceramics from local materials. His surfaces are often adorned with glassy green-gold rivulets of glaze that he creates from local clays and wood ash. Glaze and iron-rich slip also accentuate Flicker's carving of natural motifs on some of his pieces, reflecting his love of his native Minnesota and the Midwest prairie.

Earp apprenticed under Bresnahan for two-and-a-half years beginning in 1987. He learned the importance of understanding ceramic history and how locating and using local materials could inform his own work with a sense of place and tradition. These experiences caused Earp to reflect on his own cultural heritage and he began researching early American redware. Earp uses clay that he digs locally and formulates his glazes with ash from burned hay and clay he excavates.

Johnson apprenticed under Bresnahan from 1996-1999, the longest apprenticeship in the studio's history. He studied Scandinavian ceramic design at Denmark's Design School in Copenhagen and traveled to Japan to work in the studio of the renowned potter Koie Ryoji.  He now teaches ceramics as an assistant professor of art at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University. Johnson produces finely finished robust forms whose somber palette results from natural wood firing of unglazed iron-rich clay.

Meyer apprenticed at the Saint John's Pottery Studio from 2004-06, and later worked as the Pottery Studio's manager. Later, she traveled to Tokoname, Japan, where she worked in the studio of Ryoji and participated in several wood-firings. Meyer's passion lies in ceramic sculpture. Her latest work features three-dimensional portraits embellished with carved and impressed designs inlaid with a contrasting light clay slip. The effect is reminiscent of the popular craze for full-body tattoos, but is actually drawn from the much older tradition in Korea and Japan of scratching or impressing designs in clay and inlaying them with porcelain.

Gallery hours are from noon to 6 p.m. Friday through Wednesday and from noon to 9 p.m. Thursday.  For more information on Stoked, please contact the Box Office at 320-363-5777 or the director of exhibitions at 320-363-5792.