Ceramics exhibits explore the beauty of form

<p>Earlier this month, the Arizona State University Museum of Anthropology broke an attendance record as more than 1,000 visitors from around the globe passed through its gallery in a single week.</p><separator></separator><p>The lure? Dual ceramics exhibits – Simply Formal and Past Forms – which are continuing to draw crowds.</p><separator></separator><p>Complementing one another, Simply Formal, curated by noted studio potter Susan Filley, presents contemporary work by some of the nation’s top ceramic artists, while Past Forms offers student-curated pieces, like Ancient Puebloan vessels and Mesoamerican effigy jars, from the holdings of the School of Human Evolution and Social Change in ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.</p><separator></separator><p>The school offers a unique interdisciplinary program in museum anthropology and a certificate in museum studies. The program’s exhibit design and development graduate seminar is taught by museum exhibit developer <st1:personname w:st="on">Judy Newland</st1:personname>, who guided her students in the creation of Past Forms.</p><separator></separator><p>She saw the concurrency of a student-produced exhibit of collections pieces and a show by distinguished contemporary artists as a dynamic pairing. That thinking seems to have paid off.</p><separator></separator><p>The exhibits’ opening coincided with the annual conference of the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts, held in <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:city w:st="on">Phoenix</st1:city></st1:place>, which may account for the initial throngs. But enthusiastic word of mouth has fueled the continued influx of museum visitors.</p><separator></separator><p>Newland says that guests are “quite thrilled to see contemporary ceramics in an anthropology museum but also excited to see whole pots—and pieces—from the school’s archaeological and ethnographic collections.”</p><separator></separator><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0pt">Several big names in the world of ceramics have lent their work to Simply Formal. Tom Coleman, David Crane, Donna Craven, Bill Griffith, Chris Gustin, Mark Hewitt, Kerry Moosman, Ellen Shankin, Michael Simon and Tom Turner are among the featured artists.</p><separator></separator><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0pt">&nbsp;</p><separator></separator><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0pt">The exhibits aren’t just for aesthetic exploration. They directly engage visitors by asking them to consider questions posted near displays, to contemplate the concepts of form and function and, in some cases, to touch the ceramics.</p><separator></separator><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0pt">&nbsp;</p><separator></separator><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0pt">Jeff Oestrich invites guests to handle his series of six stoneware pieces, which includes a soy bottle and tea bowl. Upon approaching the Past Forms portion of the gallery, visitors are given another tactile opportunity: this time delving into a box of sherds and coil and pinch pots.</p><separator></separator><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0pt">&nbsp;</p><separator></separator><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0pt">The exhibits appear to have something for anyone interested in culture, history or the arts. One guest likened the transformed museum space to a “high-end <st1:state w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">New York</st1:place></st1:state> gallery.” Another raved that the show was “Absolutely stunning” and “Gave me goosebumps!” Those are just a sampling of the positive remarks already on the guest comment sheets, which seem destined to be filled with many more in the weeks ahead.</p><separator></separator><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0pt">&nbsp;</p><separator></separator><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0pt">Simply Formal and Past Forms will run through May 31, 2009. The ASU Museum of Anthropology is open 11 a.m.-3 p.m., Monday-Friday, when school is in session and is located in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, room 240, on the ASU Tempe campus. For more information on the museum or its exhibits, call 480-965-6224 or visit asuma.asu.edu.</p>