From a Curatorial Perspective

May 5, 2015

by Madelaine Shellaby

It has been a pleasure to curate the ceramics exhibition, Beyond Functioncurrently on display in the Taplin Gallery.  Six artists, Ann Agee, Jill Allen, Rebecca Chappell, Jim Jansma, Shellie Jacobson, and Adam Welch, take functional precedents such as domestic chinaware, vessels, and masonry and turn them towards the conceptual, the whimsical, and a reflective reconsideration of history and culture. Their work challenges established definitions of art mediums, and invigorates our ideas about clay, installation, and sculpture while highlighting the complex interaction of contemporary disciplines.

Curating Beyond Function for the Arts Council of Princeton has meant joining an energetic cadre of people who work together brilliantly to bring multiple interests to fruition. It has been a privilege to be a part of the Arts Council’s long-standing and excellent tradition of Building Community Through the Arts.

I am interested in the evolution of an idea in an artist’s work and in the evolution of an idea as it moves through time and through the work of many artists. I welcomed the opportunity offered to me by the Arts Council to explore an idea of my own and to bring artists with widely varying styles together to illustrate that underlying idea

Ann Agee appropriates design motifs from traditional dinnerware for her wall installations of plates. Agee’s work typically references historical periods in multimedia room installations which serve as commentaries on domestic life. Jill Allen playfully imagines objects that, in her words, “groggle, vrt, and orlec” as they mimic tools we might use every day.

Employing the vernacular of woven baskets, Rebecca Chappell imagines new bowl forms which connect the practical with the formal. Shellie Jacobsons vessel-like sculptures incorporate the sense of wonder she experienced in viewing ancient Petra, and what had been built out of the desert.

Rough and ragged and compelling, the volcanic surfaces of Jim Jansmas work are testimony to the nature and process of fired clay; his organic forms frequently refer to the gourds used throughout time for carrying and storing. Adam Welch uses the conventional brick form to address questions on a wide range of topics – labor, color, irony – but primarily our understanding of objectivity.

I hope you will come to experience this energizing and compelling display of three-dimensional artistry before it closes on June 6. All are invited to attend the Artists’ Reception on Saturday, May 9 from 3-5pm.


The Dishes Ann Agee

Ann Agee, The Dishes, 2012













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