The Raw and the cooked 

By Karen Herland

The transformation of clay, from yielding to brittle, from found to processed and from field to table is the underlying theme of Raw/Medium Rare/Well Done.

<em>Vanitas (vanité, tout n’est que vanité)</em> by Thérèse Chabot Magnifying glass

Vanitas (vanité, tout n’est que vanité) by Thérèse Chabot

The show, on at the FOFA Gallery until April 17, explores the medium in a variety of traditional and alternative forms. Besides the show, the event also included a well-attended symposium on March 27, the day after the vernissage.

“When I was on sabbatical two years ago, I got the idea to have a show that covers the last thirty years of ceramic art at Concordia,” explains Studio Arts Professer Thérèse Chabot of the decision that had her tracking down students, faculty members and technicians who have contributed to the program.

Chabot, who has been here for 25 years, says finding those who played a role before the age of email was not easy.

“We reached at least 200 who had been here since 2000,” she says. Those who answered the call submitted their work to a jury. Ultimately, 17 ceramicists representing the past and future of the program have work in Raw/Medium Rare/Well Done.

“Once I had the work, I brainstormed a title,” says Chabot. “I wanted something covering all the ways we can look at clay, from mud, that is not permanent, through bisque firing and then finished pieces. I wanted to capture different manifestations of the material.”

<em>Hieroglyphs</em> by Twyla Exner Magnifying glass

Hieroglyphs by Twyla Exner

The show does just that. At one extreme are the tiny, handmade, delicately decorated tea pots of Céline Lepage. Lepage, now in her 70s, studied with Chabot in the ’80s. At the other extreme are photographic images transferred onto tiles in the work of technician Kit Griffin, representing the gap between the haves and have-nots in Africa.

Somewhere in between is the work of graduate student Twyla Exner. Over a year, Exner threw 300 earthenware urns, glazed their interiors and filled them with vinegar. Linking them together with copper wire, she was able to generate enough power to run an iPod Shuffle. The installation occupies the front of the gallery facing Ste. Catherine St. “It’s a nice combination of the ancient and the modern,” says Chabot.

Similarly, Karen Warshaw Lampcov knitted small sacks, then dipped them in porcelain slip and fired them at high temperature. The pieces look both contemporary and crafty. “The work reflects textiles, domesticity, vessels and the materiality of clay itself.”

In the black box section at the back of the gallery, an intimate space has been created to display a piece by Chabot. Ephemera from around her South Shore home and garden— flowers, seed pods, grasses, even bones and baby birds — have been dipped in translucent porcelain, fired and delicately arranged in frozen tableaux (referencing Vanitas) on pierced platters lit from below.

“I wanted to portray the cycle of life, both dying and renewal, to capture both beauty and tragedy,” she says of the work partly inspired by the ice storm. “I also wanted to recall a feast, which relates to ceramics.”


Concordia University