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The Sweet Life_Ceramics: Art & Perception

The Sweet Life_Ceramics: Art & Perception

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Published by Blair Schulman
Commentary of The Sweet Life,a 4-person show held at the Belger Art Center, Kansas City, Missouri.
Commentary of The Sweet Life,a 4-person show held at the Belger Art Center, Kansas City, Missouri.

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Published by: Blair Schulman on Feb 25, 2013
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Ceramics: Art and Perception No. 91 2012
A Review by Blair Schulman
Chandra DeBuse, Jana Evans Jenny Gawronski and Courtney Murphy
The Sweet Life
Ceramics: Art and Perception No. 91 2012
The livelihood of an apprentice and craftsmanshipthrough years of study was threatened. And theywere right. Over the decades, however, as moderndesign became the norm and industrialisation madeeveryday items readily available and more afford-able to a greater number of people, a return to one-of-a-kind objects became the zeitgeist.The attitudes associated with mass production,coupled with more leisure time stemming from theease of industrialisation, became an unforeseen prob-lem and were somewhat linked together. Dovetailedperfectly with the ease of food preparation over thedecades, these attitudes presented a tertiary conun-drum that fed directly into this culture. There aremultiple medical and psychological studies thatreconcile the balance between obesity and the itemsused to serve food.A 2008 article in
Preventing Chronic Disease
 , a peri-odical published by the CDC (Centers for DiseaseControl and Prevention), “Eating as an AutomaticBehavior” by Deborah A Cohen, MD, MPH andThomas Farley, MD, MPH, cite this concept as con-tributing to the growth of an obesity epidemic inWestern culture. Automatic behaviours are thosethat “occur without awareness, are initiated with-out intention, tend to continue without control andoperate efciently or with little effort”. The response
Facing page: Chandra Debuse.
Green Treat Server with GoldSpoon.
2011. White stoneware. 6.5 x 9 x 7 in.Image courtesy of the artist.Above: Courtney Murphy.
Sugar and Creamer 
. 2011. Earthenware.6 x 4.5 x 4.5 in. Image courtesy of the artist.
confectionary treats are all that is needed tocomplete the tableau found in
The Sweet Life
 ,an exhibition at Red Star Gallery in the Belger ArtCenter, Kansas City, Missouri, US. Featuring ChandraDeBuse, Jana Evans, Jenny Gawronski and CourtneyMurphy; their elegant and simple designs present asurface imagery that is reminiscent of a polite soci-ety seemingly long gone. Aesthetic accomplishmentsachieved, these delicate objects also construe deepersocial mores that are both subliminal and textural.To get a further understanding of the meanings behind their works it is important to take a look  back. One of the more notable transitional periodsof design is the
1851 Great Exhibition of London
whenBritain was at peace and Queen Victoria’s husband,Prince Albert, wanted to put on display the won-ders of industry and manufacturing from aroundthe modern world. The Crystal Palace was erected,a vast multi-story building of cast iron and glass thatepitomised the Industrial Revolution; the Exhibitionpresented more than 100,000 objects by more than10,000 contributors that covered more than 10 milesof exhibition space and was viewed by more than sixmillion visitors.It was this moment in history that marked a depar-ture from the handmade object to the mass-produced.In opposition to this tidal wave of modernisation,a small unnamed, but vocal group opposed theeffects of industry on design and artistry. This group believed that mass production would eliminate theneed and desire for hand-crafted items in daily life.
Ceramics: Art and Perception No. 91 2012
to this suggests the focus should revolve around re-shaping the food environment. Hence, the impor-tance of presentation is imperative in the behavioursof adults and the way that they consume. Factors suchas visibility, salience and the ease of obtaining food,combined with a small, but impeccable diversity,tend to extract better behaviours than being handedfood items in a paper sack or a Styrofoam container.By creating an ambience, one is reassured that every bite or sip counts. Artisans such as DeBuse, Evans,Gawronski and Murphy forge an understanding of this theory. An intimacy is created for the user.A handling of their works adds to our under-standing of the questions that each piece infers. Asensual physical pleasure is awakened within us,highlighting an awareness of proper etiquette thatmight be lost, but introduced to us again. We bringourselves closer to its maker when utilising theseobjects. Desserts, teas, fruits and the like, along withthe amounts we serve ourselves and the way theyare consumed from these vessels are dictated by anelevation of experience.
Gawronski’s pieces focus on the ritualistic actsof eating desserts that speak to this heightenedexperience in consumption. Her ligree-styleserving tray references some of Sevres’ simplerporcelain creations from an era that speaks tomore elaborate adornments. Its orid shape andclean design could easily be used as the basis foran inlay of an insanely elaborate 18th century icecream cooler or some other beautiful, but useless,accoutrement. In another era, the lichen greencolour and delicate presence would cry out forelaborate gold leang. But in its present form,the pattern is derived from the shape itself and todecorate it further would remove the understatedelegance and distract users from its composure.To quote an unknown artist from the Le Corbusierera “Modern decorative art is not decorated.”As mentioned earlier, this primal connectivity between user and object imparts a behaviouralcompass on the amount of food one takes and theway it is eaten.
In the series that Murphy creates she also examinesrituals involving collaborative cooking and sharingof food that posits collective memories. Murphyscratches into her clay to draw the images that have afeel of the 1930s when home life, by design and oftencircumstance, was more streamlined. Any hangoverof Art Deco or Art Moderne is not observed here but,
 Jana Evans.
. 2011. Porcelain. 10 x 7 x 6 in.Image courtesy of the artist.

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