By Judy Nelson-Moore
A review of the Santa Fe Community College Exhibition, Immortal, A Memorial Show of Ceramic Artists, showing in the college Visual Arts Gallery, January 26 to March 9, 2023.
This exhibit honors eight ceramic artists who worked in clay at the Community College and died within the last three years. It will be taken down on March 10, 2023.
The artists who are memorialized are Frank Willett, Eddie Hironaka, Juliet Calabi, Maia Simpson Michael, Michelle Ann Goodman, Carolyn Stupin, Donna Thompson, and Kevin Hart. The main organizer of the exhibit is Suzanne Vilmain, with assistance from others, including Linda Cassel and Luisa Baldinger. Three of the memorialized artists were members of the NMPCA and I was privileged to know them, as I know Suzanne and Luisa, who are also members.
This is an exhibit of great humanity. There is a short bio about each artist and a good representation of their work, spanning several years of their careers. Little is said about how the artists died, so the focus is on their lives and their creativity. Little is said about the techniques, materials, or firing methods, and some of the works would not have attracted my attention in another setting. But, I found myself going around the exhibit repeatedly studying the bios and the works intently because it made me feel a connection with these people, more poignant because I could never see them again.
After seeing this exhibit, I feel I know all the artists personally, even better than I did before. The overall effect of the exhibition is an honoring of creativity and humanity that leaves a lasting impression. Looking at individual works of art allows the artist’s creative expression to seep into your mind and bring peace and joy. The written words about the exhibit by John Boyce speak volumes about the exhibition and its lasting impression on the viewers.
Immortal by John Boyce
Life is short, but art is long, not forever, but long enough. Art becomes a part of that which endures beyond our last breath. Art carries us on beyond our singular selves and connects us to the greater self. Art gives meaning to our brief lives and gives that meaning to all who touch what we have made, who experience us through what we have left behind.
When speaking of an artist’s work we say “I own an Andy Warhol” This odd use of language which seems to confuse the artist with their art is not an error, far from it; it signifies a deep truth, that these inanimate objects are a living part of the artist who made them.
This show looks at the work of seven artists who for a time made their art at the Santa Fe Community College, and who all passed away over the last three years. These years have seen us pay a great deal more attention to our mortality than we have been accustomed to in recent times, and yet death was never far from any of us, we had just gotten good at ignoring her.
An odd point that should not be ignored in this age of COVID is that none of these artists passed away from that great plague, but rather from the normal variety of ailments and maladies that end our lives.
I live with and use the work of several of the artists we show today. I use their art every day along with the work of artists who lived hundreds of years ago, artists whose names I will never know, but whom I know through my experience of the art they made.
Art is said to be either high or low, ceramics often being thought of as a low form of art, a craft, utilitarian. This class differentiation has its uses, but I ask you today to look at art another way, that art is either shallow or deep. Some art though touching millions will last only a moment and be forgotten, it is shallow art. Another piece of art will touch only a few yet it will resonate through a thousand years, it is deep art.
I believe the art we see here today is deep art, it contributes to a conversation that has been going on for at least 8,000 years and will continue for as long as there are people to see and touch the works of artists.
Here is a selection of images showing a portrait, bio, and one or two works by each artist. Click the images to view larger size.
Click the images to view larger size.
Maia Sampson Michael
Click the images to view larger size.
Thank you Suzanne Vilmain and John Boyce!