June 25, 2011 - September 18, 2011, Everson Museum of Art
Review by Jane Librizzi
When he is being serious, the artist David MacDonald describes ceramics as “a low meditative process.” When he recalls the restless searching of his student days, he says, “Ceramics just seemed a bit more fun than standing in front of an easel dabbing little bits of color, trying to create the illusion of space when I could make that volume in real life.”
The ceramics that MacDonald created specifically for The Power of Pattern at the Everson Museum are visually and tactilely rich works that have the integrity of objects intended to be used. From the beginning, MacDonald determined that his works would combine aesthetic pleasure with touchability. “For me it’s very important that people use the things that I make because it’s like having a collection of bells and never ringing them.”
Early on, in the 1970s, MacDonald began working with designs from his African forebears. From Nigerian art, MacDonald learned the technique of combing the wet clay to create parallel lines. From architecture of the sub-Sahara, he took inspiration in combining conical shapes and overlapping curvilinear and geometric patterns. In Calabash Vase MacDonald has used the shape of the gourd to create a sophisticated object that has historical roots. In Africa and elsewhere the calabash gourd is dried and hollowed out for use as a vessel to store liquids and spices.
Growing up in Hackensack, N.J., MacDonald intended to study painting in college. But after experiencing just one ceramics course he was taken with the physical experience of working in clay. MacDonald received a master’s degree in ceramics from the University of Michigan.
The Everson Museum in Syracuse, New York possesses an internationally recognized ceramics collection and it was during a visit to David MacDonald’s studio in 2008 that curator Deborah Ryan changed her plans from making a purchase for the museum collection to suggesting that the artist create a group of works for a solo exhibition at the Everson.
Three years later, in the middle of a successful show, MacDonald says with a smile that “If I knew I was this important, I would have charged more for my work.”
David MacDonald is Professor Emeritus in the Ceramics Program at Syracuse University's School of Art and Design where he taught for thirty-seven years.
For more information please visit: The Emerson Museum of Art