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Ceramic exhibition showcases major shift in artist’s work

August 02, 2002

TEMPE, Ariz. - In its first solo exhibition, the ASU Art Museum's new Ceramics Research Center showcases the dramatic shift in the creative output of Valley ceramist Farraday Newsome Sredl. Embracing Night: New Ceramics by Farraday Newsome Sredl, opens Aug. 28 and runs through Dec. 14, presenting a combination of ceramics in the traditional majolica technique that Sredl is known for, as well as works in her new black and white palette. Majolica is a technique where color glazes or washes are applied to a white glaze ground.

Sredl, a Valley resident, is well known nationally for her vessels covered in bold, colorful and abundant patterns of fruit, plants and animals, with infusions of desert plant life from her experience in Phoenix. The strong desert component of her work has often included cacti, oranges and animals native to the Sonoran desert. Her new work shows a surprising shift to a black and white palette that allows for more detailed and personally expressive imagery. 

Heather Lineberry, senior curator at the ASU Art Museum, said that the opportunity to exhibit this new body of work by one of the best-known Valley ceramists was an important and exciting one. "This is a fascinating chance to view an artist's transition," Lineberry said. "This is a very brave move by a successful artist."

Sredl's new work features white on black images of lush, profusely beautiful vegetation inhabited by various insects, reptiles and other animals. She says that the white on black carries implications of night and dreams - as reflected in her choice of title for the exhibition: Embracing Night. 

Sredl's shift in style reflects major life changes. She talks of the cycles of light and dark necessary to complete our world and our lives. "The light of day is more geared to the reality outside of ourselves, while the light of night is more conducive to emotional thinking and the introspective reality," Sredl said. "This radical switch from the colors of day to the black and white tonality of night allows my work to contain more complex metaphors and darker emotional content."

Sredl's new work also explores issues of fertility and motherhood. The complexities of motherhood and fertility pervade her work. Also, numerous predators including snakes, spiders and preying mantises inhabit her new works - in some cases, such as Predator Garden, they can all be found in the one piece. In two pieces, Sredl portrays predators in maternal roles, such as in My Embrace is Your Nest, which shows a snake using her coiled body as a nest to warm and shelter her eggs.

Age-old maternal traditions are honored in a piece created specifically for this exhibition. Sredl has drawn on the Italian custom of presenting a ceramic "parturition set" to new mothers. Working collaboratively with potter Jeff Reich, she has created a stacked dish sculpture composed of various ceramic cups and plates. The tradition, dating from the 16th century, celebrates women and motherhood.

Sredl said that she likes the mystery and density of creating white on black images, and that the new form her work is taking is "encourages increasingly personal and emotional imagery." Even the titles of Sredl's pieces have undergone a shift from descriptive to emotive. No longer are her works given titles such as Large, Dark Blue Bowl with Fruit. Instead, recent creations include The Mortal Promise of Moonlight and The Sharp Scent of Night.

The amazing detail in Sredl's works - of both genres - is partly attributable to her unusual way of working. She describes herself as "painterly by nature," finding surface as important as form. After a form is created, a great deal of time is spent drawing and glazing imagery to fit the piece.

The ASU Art Museum is a division of The Katherine K. Herberger College of Fine Arts at Arizona State University. It is located on the southeast corner of Mill Avenue and 10th Street, Tempe. Entry to all exhibitions and events is free. For more information, please call (480) 965-2787 or visit the museum online at

Media Contact:
Jennifer Pringle