Welcome to NewsFile, our roundup of recent happenings in the ceramics world. With sadness, we must report on the passing of Karen Karnes. The following was written by cfile.daily’s Chief Editor Garth Clark.
The passing of Karen Karnes, 91, on July 12, 2016 brought closure to the work of a remarkable woman, a heroic life and a multifaceted career. As a potter she stood apart from most functionalists, drawing from Modernism and design more than the traditional sources for ceramic makers of her generation such as Bernard Leach and Shōji Hamada. She was a part of one of the most important post war art laboratories, Black Mountain College. For many years Karnes was the only other artist on view at the Isamu Noguchi Museum, where she was represented by a large thrown stool, a remarkable compliment from a sculptor who revered ceramics as art.
Above image: Karen Karnes with Mikhail Zaikin.
I met her in 1974 and was immediately taken by her toughness and honesty. Later, I would represent her at my gallery in New York. Of her many opening receptions at our gallery, the one that sticks out the most in my memory was one that did not take place. It was on 9/11 and our building staff decided to close at 4 p.m. (We had voted to remain open, but we were overruled by building management). Even on that day a surprising number of her fans turned up, disappointed by the locked doors.
She was never one to suffer fools lightly, as many fools can attest. One did not enter into a debate with her lightly. She could be formidable.
This is the passing of a great, independent, self-sufficient woman who was the primary breadwinner for her family for most of her adult life, paying her way for seven decades by selling her pots. And it’s more than the passing of one life; it’s also a farewell to an era of American pottery.
We draw your attention to two excellent obituaries, one in the NCECA blog by Mark Shapiro and the other by Elenor Wilson of Studio Potter Magazine. In addition, we recommend viewing the tribute to Karnes given by Mark Shapiro at the American Craft Council gathering in Baltimore (see video above). Our heart goes out to Karnes’ gracious and supportive partner, Ann Stannard.
According to Studio Potter, a celebration of Karnes’s life will be held at The Art School at Old Church, 561 Piermont Road, Demarest, New Jersey, Saturday, September 17th at 4:30 p.m. For more information, please contact Maria Danzinger.
— Garth Clark
JJ PEET Receives Rose Art Museum Award
You may remember JJ PEET from our articles about his exhibition at The Contemporary Austin and his work with the supremely-named Satan Ceramics. We wanted to note here that PEET received the Perlmutter Artist-in-Residence Award from the Rose Art Museum this spring. From Art News:
Brandeis University’s Rose Art Museum announced today that JJ PEET has been named the recipient of the 2016 Ruth Ann and Nathan Perlmutter Artist-in-Residence Award.
PEET’s residency will occur at various locations across the Brandeis campus, including the Rose Art Museum’s new satellite gallery in downtown Waltham, Rosebud, this April and May. PEET, who is represented by On Stellar Rays in New York, is primarily known for his ceramics, but also works in a range of mediums, including installation, video, painting, and sculpture.
You can read more about the award here.
Grayson Perry: Typical Man in a Dress
When he’s not irritating provincials with his experimental architecture, CBE Grayson Perry critiques the issues concerning masculinity in contemporary culture. The following is a brief note from Culture Whisper about his upcoming speaking engagement in London’s Palladium, Grayson Perry: Typical Man in a Dress (November 3).
Grayson Perry is one of Britain’s most celebrated artists. The Turner Prize winner is known for his sculpture, ceramics and quilt-work, as well as his feminine alter-ego Claire. His practice has long been concerned with what you might call the fabric of society. While variously medieval and classical in form, his tapestries and urns are reflections on the contemporary landscape: a place dotted with billboards, runway models and family dinner tables.
Masculinity is among Perry’s enduring preoccupations. As a husband, a father, a straight male and a transvestite, he is well-placed to discuss the boundaries and intricacies of the male role. He argues that the expectations of men and boys exacted by society and the media is as much of a performance act as the traditional demands of femininity. In his recent documentary series All Man, Perry immersed himself in the über-macho worlds of banking, cage-fighting and drug-dealing.
This autumn, Perry comes to the London Palladium with his tour Typical Man in a Dress, where he’ll touch on this subject, as well as his forthcoming book The Descent of Man.
RIBA Awards Centre of Ceramic Art
Above image: Clare Twomey, Manifest: 10,000 Hours, 2015. Photograph by Peter Heaton.
In other news, the York Art Gallery’s Centre of Ceramic Art in the United Kingdom was recognized handsomely with an award from the Royal Institute of British Architects.
Reporting on the award, York Press states that the renovation was designed by Ushida Findlay and Simpson and Brown Architects. RIBA tapped the building along with six others for the award. The project was further recognized in a special category for conservation. Further still, Tom Van Hoffelen of Simpson and Brown was named Architect of the Year for his work on the project.
We profiled the project on cfile.daily when it opened about one year ago. The £8m renovation is home to thousands of works of contemporary ceramic art and craft.
The collection draws on everything from Neolithic relics to titans in the contemporary ceramic art field such as Grayson Perry and Lucie Rie. According to the New York Times, the collection is presided over by a ceramic figure of William Ismay, created by ceramist Peter Meanley. Ismay collected thousands of works by British potters throughout his life and donated his collection to the York Museums Trust. Eight hundred of these works are displayed in the Centre.
The photograph that accompanies this brief is from a work by Clare Twomey, which you can read more about in our original post.
What do you think about this news? Let us know in the comments.
7 thoughts on "NewsFile | Garth Clark Remembers Karen Karnes, 1925 – 2016"
The woman in the photo with Karen Karnes is Mikhail Zaikin, not Ann Stannard. Zaikin died in 2012. For a photo of Ann Stannard with Karen, go to oldchurchpotteryshow.org
Hi Garth and all,
Remembering Karen Karnes:
when I was researching and writing “Sexpots: Eroticism in Ceramics” I contacted Karen Karnes to get her approval to include an example of her work in the book and analyze it in the light of lesbianism. I was hoping for a reply but wasn’t too hopeful, having received rather harsh denials from others… Karen Karnes sent me original slides of the work I was considering as well as one of the most intelligent letter I received. She was happy I was asking, happy to support my project, and although she didn’t specifically see her work in the manner I intended to address it, she was supportive of my intention. I have always been a big fan of her work, since the days I first became familiar with it at the very beginning of my own practice, but when I received her charming, unaffected and generous letter, I was not only impressed but deeply touched. I hope I did her work justice. I have not met her in person but through this letter I got to connect with a very special person indeed.
A great reminisence, Paul. My thanks for getting her input and positioning the work in what became a groundbreaking book in our field.
As always I really enjoyed this issue of C-FIle. I had one thought that I’d like to share: the photo of Karen Karns has two women in it. I assume the other is Ann Stannard, her companion, but am uncertain. It would have been nice it the second person would have been identified, and a brief note added that Karen either left behind her companion or that she predeceased her. Just a though. Keep up the great work and give Garth and Mark a BIG “hello” from me.
I believe the other woman is Mikhail Zakin, ceramic artist, founder of the Art School at Old Church and long-time friend of Karen Karnes.
I did a little internet “digging” and found the same photo that is shown here, in a tribute to Karen in “Studio Potter” (https://www.studiopotter.org/news/karen-karnes-1925-2016). There it is mentioned, “We lovingly send our condolences to her partner, Ann Stannard, and her dearest friends, family, students, fellow potters, and admirers.”
But the identity of who is with Karen isn’t clearly stated.
Good morning, Bob.
I’ll do a little more digging today and I’ll see what I can find. Garth does mention Ann at the end of the piece. Thank you for your feedback!