Dirt on Delight Clay Exhibition at the Walker

Kathleen Ambre

Glazed with speckled porcelain, chaotic paper-mache, or a metallic luster glaze, a wide variety of handcrafted ceramics can be found at the Dirt on Delight gallery at the Walker Art Center.

The main focus of Dirt on Delight is to examine the lasting qualities of clay, dependent on human impulse, and express the importance of a craft that connects viewers to ancient ties as well as modern progression.

Clay, of all mediums, is meant to connect reflective artists viewers to some of the most basic impulses of humanity. Patting, pinching, squishing, rolling–clay withholds the ability to transcend its basic, earthen form to an inspiring work of artistic expression.

From the rudimentary to more refined pieces, over 20 artists have contributed to this unique exhibit. Including scenes of war, poverty, and artistic acts of resistance, artist Jane Irish contributed a collection of five porcelain vases with gilded cartrouches and radical vignettes.

Three of the five are her most recent ceramic works, completed in late 2008. Consisting of a more traditional, earthenware style compared to Irish, the Walker has also included a line of iridescent-finished chalices, goblets and teapots crafted by the late Beatrice Wood in 1998.

However, the collection every visitor must see is Ann Agee’s “Winter Catalogue” inspired from 18th century German ceramic porcelain. Although the 26-piece collection stems from traditional allegorical scenes, Agee incorporates a modern twist. Each figurine is made from white glazed porcelain and is ridiculously intricate and detailed. From floral designs to everyday family scenes, her collection is a must-see.

Thanks to the Walker Art Center’s coordinating curator Andria Hickey and senior curator Jenelle Porter, institutions such as the renowned Northern Clay Center and the University of Minnesota’s Department of Ceramics have yielded invaluable resources and provided important insights to Dirt on Delight.

These institutions have prompted a critical dialogue discussing the role of clay as an art medium: the overlap of contemporary and authentic art traditions, and the history of ceramics itself.

Of all contributing artists, Ann Agee, Kathy Butterly, and Beverly Semmes will be brought to the exhibition this October to host a variety of talks, workshops, studio visits, and panel discussions. Beginning the second week of October, these selected artists will discuss their unique approach to ceramics.

Until that time, designated tours of the gallery will take place weekly and self-guided tours daily. For those interested in hearing an elaborate explanation of the gallery as a whole and a brief explanation of the artists’ varied perspectives, the next designated tour for Dirt on Delight takes place September 20th at 2:00p.m.