“The art must be strong enough to carry the message-the message alone will never carry the art.”

-Richard Notkin.

When I was in college, my father and I took a road trip to Syracuse to the Everson Museum to see their latest exhibition. It was there where I got to see in person, not just in a flat photograph, the work of Richard Notkin. I was astonished by his meticulous yet, precarious stacks of boxes and dice, his powerful thorny hearts to serve tea. I was drawn into his world, rendered so perfect, so small but incredibly vast.

NCECA is excited to have Richard Notkin as a demonstrating artist. Known for his potent teapots, his work would fit comfortably in your hands. Even his larger installations are composed of small tiles, illustrating the power of the many, individual voices coming together.

Notkin borrows from the Yixing tradition, both in scale and material. His work is unglazed, glorifying the natural clay and allowing for all the details to be present and investigated. His deft focus on those details results in a trompe l’oeil narrative of political or environmental impact.

Political art plays an essential role in art history as a whole, giving voice to important issues of the time, artists from Goya to Picasso (whom he ‘quotes’ in his work) to Ai Wei Wei, and others all employed art as a light to illuminate dark times. They created to call into question, questionable acts. Notkin has been pouring his outrage and concerns into his art with eloquence his entire career.

Sharing the stage with Notkin will be Trey Hill, an Associate Professor at University of Montana in Missoula in ceramics and sculpture.  He brings balance to the miniature side, working in the realm of the huge. He will trouble-shoot the making large-scale ceramic sculptures and incorporating mixed media.

Referencing the human form or tree trunks, his abstracted works include metal rod scaffolding or cages. Stacked or leaning forms, dependent upon each other with architectural or domestic objects adding edge to the organic elements. Surfaces are enhanced with texture and gold leaf as well as other non-traditional ceramic solutions. Hill’s art aims “to seduce the senses while exploring the fragile boundaries that weave human sexuality, strength, power, emotion, and vulnerability into one cohesive identity.”

Hill was the Archie Bray Taunt Fellow for 2004-05 and has done numerous residencies in China.  He earned his M.F.A. in ceramics from San Jose State University, prior to that he received a B.F.A. from Bowling Green State University, OH, 1999.

Both Notkin and Hill, hope to inspire us to find our personal voice in clay, something artists are always on a quest to find, retain and evolve. So with in mind, here’s another gem from Notkin: “I feel that to remain viable, an artist must remain forever inquisitive, eternally a student- technically, aesthetically and conceptually.”