Topic: Women in Twentieth Century Ceramics
Speaker: Dr. Ezra Shales, Associate Professor of Art, Massachusetts College of Art and Design.
American ceramics built a solid foundation as an artistic field by World War II, and yet the story of connections between that early history and the second half of the twentieth century is rarely synthesized. Work by women was patronizingly described as conventional, a predictable calm before the storm of Abstract Expressionist and Pop work in the 1960s. European émigrés, including Maija Grotell, Marguerite Wildenhain, and Eva Zeisel, brought with them a conviction that craft could serve as a pathway to modernist innovation, and Americans such as Mary Scheier, Marion Fosdick, and Maria Martinez deserve to be resituated with these fellow artists with whom they exhibited in the 1940s. Although there is a popular misconception that the feminist movement in the late twentieth century transformed opportunities and redressed gender inequity, the number of prominent women exhibiting as artists and employed as ceramic educators in the United States in the twenty-first century is only recapturing stature once held. Women working in clay have had and continue to have great impact in art and design.
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Above image: Maija Grotell (1899-1973) Vase, stoneware. Gift of Winslow Anderson, Alfred Museum of Ceramic Art 1993.57. Photo by Brian Oglesbee.