At least four artists out of the 37 inducted as United States Artists Fellows this year work in the medium of ceramics. As USA Fellows the artists each receive a grant of $50,000 to support their work and professional development. This year’s inductees were chosen from a pool of more than 400 applicants in fields such as crafts, architecture, dance, literature, music, and visual arts. The organization states that it has awarded more than $20 million over the lifetime of the program, the idea being to help artists realize new creative opportunities through financial support.
USA Fellowships are awarded to innovative artists of all ages and at all stages of their careers, who are nominated for their commitment to excellence and the enduring potential of their work,” said United States Artists CEO Carolina García Jayaram. “We are honored to present this year’s Fellows, a group of artists who were selected through a rigorous, highly competitive process. What continues to set the USA Fellowship apart is the unrestricted nature of our award. USA’s mission is to put artists first as they are the core of our organization. This is shown by the inherent trust we place in them to know how to use the money to further their practice and pursue unrealized opportunities.”
We recognized a few familiar names out of the inductees. Here’s what USA has to say about them.
Ayumi Horie in Crafts
Ayumi Horie is a full-time studio potter in Portland, Maine who makes functional pottery with drawings of animals and typography, inspired by American and Japanese folk traditions and comics. She often works collaboratively on projects and regards working online as a second studio practice. She runs Pots In Action, a curatorial project on Instagram that features international ceramics and guest hosts from all over the world. She is currently working on a public art project, Portland Brick, that repairs city sidewalks with bricks made from local clay stamped with past, contemporary, and future memories of Portland. In 2009, she collaborated on a tile mapping project of Greenwich Village, which included the ecology of Manhattan in 1609. In 2011, she was the first recipient of Ceramics Monthly’s Ceramic Artist of the Year award. Ayumi travels nationally and internationally to give lectures and workshops on social media and ceramics and has organized multiple online fundraisers including Obamaware in 2008 and Handmade For Japan in 2011, which has raised over $100,000 for disaster relief. She has served on multiple boards including that of the Archie Bray Foundation and currently the American Craft Council and accessCeramics.org.
Cristina Córdova in Crafts
Cristina Córdova received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Puerto Rico in Mayagüez and continued to earn a Master of Fine Arts in Ceramics from the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University. Upon graduation in 2002 she entered a three year artists residency program at Penland School of Crafts where she later served in the board of trustees from 2006 to 2010. Some recognitions include an American Crafts Council Emerging Artist Grant, a North Carolina Arts Council Fellowship, a Virginia Groot Foundation Recognition Grant and several International Association of Art Critics Awards. Cristina has taught at Penland School of Crafts (NC), Haystack Mountain School (ME), Santa Fe Clay (NM), Mudfire (GA), Odyssey Center for Ceramics (NC) and Anderson Ranch (CO), among others. In 2011 she founded TravelArte (travel-arte.com), an ongoing platform that provides educational experiences within the ceramics medium while immersing students in the creative culture of a particular geographical setting. Her work is part of the permanent collections of the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum (Washington, D.C.), the Fuller Craft Museum, (MA), the Mint Museum of Craft and Design (NC), the Museum of Contemporary Art of Puerto Rico (PR), the Museum of Art of Puerto Rico (PR), and the Joseph-Schein Museum in NY. She currently lives and works in Penland, NC.
Diego Romero in Traditional Arts
Firmly positioning his work within an Indigenous visuality, Diego Romero has built a career constructing ceramic vessels that elevate Pueblo life to Olympian stature. A third generation professional artist, Romero was born and raised in Berkeley, California to a Cochiti father and a non-Native mother. Upon completing high school, he returned to ancestral Pueblo lands and attended the Institute of American Indian Arts, before subsequently attaining degrees from Otis College of Art and Design (BFA) and University of California, Los Angeles (MFA).
Working in a narrative style that evokes pre-contact Mimbres pottery, as well as Greek amphorae (two-handled vases) and Anasazi ceramics, Romero’s earthenware bowls and handled-vessels investigate the marginalized status of Indigenous history and society. Evoking the anti-colonial writing of Frantz Fanon, who believes that “the native intellectual who wishes to create an authentic work of art realize[s] that the truths of a nation are in the first place its realities,” Romero states that instead of using Indigenous “tradition” as insulated from historical change, he consciously evokes “the historic as a point of departure to reinterpret the contemporary.” By using historically situated oral traditions as source material, Romero departs visually from the canonical work of Pueblo pottery and instead relies heavily on a narrative style gleaned from comic books and popular culture, specters of a childhood spent mingling in comic book stores. The resulting composition transcends the materiality of the object and engages the viewer in humorous interplay in which the author’s overt anti-colonial content is seen as non-threatening to audiences and collectors. The confrontational and subversive nature of the work is commonly overlooked in lieu of Romero’s excellent craftsmanship and artistry.
Merging autobiography with narratives of contemporary Indian life and stories of Pueblo resistance to colonial violence, Romero elevates Pueblo and contemporary Indian narratives to the level of the superhero, devices he draws from Greek pottery and comics. When placed into an autobiographical context, his ceramic practice develops further layers of nuance and complexity. This investigatory nature of simultaneously inserting biographical material while interrogating the cross-sections of Indian life enables Romero to transcend the commonly provincial status of contemporary Indian art.
Mark Hewitt in Crafts
Mark Hewitt has been making distinctive functional pottery in North Carolina since 1983. He spliced what he learned in his native England as an apprentice to pioneering potter, Michael Cardew, onto the pottery traditions of North Carolina and the South, bending those traditions into an elegant contemporary style. He uses local clays and glaze materials, and fires his pots in a large wood-burning kiln.
Mark works with apprentices, conveying production skills and aesthetic qualities to a new generation. Several of his former apprentices have gone on to establish their own successful independent careers.
In addition, his recent work reassesses aspects of the industrial ceramic world into which he was born – his father and grandfather were Directors of Spode, the fine china manufacturer.
He was the 2014 Voulkos Fellow at the Archie Bray Institute in Helena, MT, a finalist for the 2015 American Craft Council/Balvenie Rare Craft Award, and is current President of the North Carolina Pottery Center, in Seagrove, NC.
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