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The Birmingham Museum of Art announces the debut of its international ceramics symposium, The Bunting Biennial Ceramics Symposium, to be held every other year beginning in 2013. The Museum will host the inaugural Symposium during the weekend of February 22-23, 2013, with the theme Clay Embodied: Ceramics and the Human Form.
“We are proud to be the first institution to provide a comprehensive forum for scholar and artist presentations which address the universal importance of ceramics both historically and today,” says Anne Forschler-Tarrasch, The Marguerite Jones Harbert and John M. Harbert III Curator of Decorative Artsat the Birmingham Museum of Art. “Our efforts were inspired by the depth and breadth of our own global ceramics collection, and we are honored that Derry and Peter Bunting, kind stewards of the Birmingham Museum of Art, afforded us the opportunity to connect these artists, scholars, and collectors on a more engaged and truly unprecedented level.”
The 2013 theme, Clay Embodied, will explore the relationship between ceramics and the human body by considering the subject in a broad array of historical and geographical contexts. Ceramics of all periods and cultures share a relationship with the human body. Whether utilitarian, ritualistic, decorative, or artistic in function, all ceramics interface with the human body in their design, manufacture, decoration, or use. Indeed, the very nomenclature used to describe a ceramic pot – the lip, mouth, neck, shoulder, belly, and foot – is derived from the human form.
The Symposium weekend will offer a slate of guest speakers representing the global ceramics community. Magdalene Odundo, an internationally acclaimed ceramic artist known for her hand-built, reduction-fired ceramics will serve as the keynote speaker on Friday evening. Odundo will talk about her own work and experience with creating some of the most recognized ceramics produced today. Saturday’s program will begin with Garth Clark, writer, critic, and collector. Clarks’ presentation will focus on the vessel form – its past, present and future. Other speakers include Bonnie Kemske, Ph.D., ceramic artist and editor of Ceramic Review; Jeannine O’Grody, Ph.D., Deputy Director and Chief Curator at the Birmingham Museum of Art; Julie Pierotti, Associate Curator at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens in Memphis, TN; Meghan Tierney, a Ph.D. candidate at Emory University in Atlanta; and Emily Hanna, Ph.D., Curator of the Arts of Africa and the Americas at the Birmingham Museum of Art. Hanna will talk about the Museum’s recent acquisition of the Dick Jemison Collection of African Ceramics, a 400+ collection of clay vessels and figures from all parts of Africa.
African Ceramics Permanent Exhibition Space
Coinciding with the inaugural Bunting Biennial Ceramics Symposium, the Museum will open a permanent collection gallery dedicated solely to African ceramics. The new space will feature 50 works from the Dick Jemison Collection of African Ceramics, recently acquired by the Museum.
The Museum’s Curator of the Arts of Africa and the Americas, Dr. Emily Hanna, says, “While there have been temporary exhibitions of African ceramics at several museums, it is almost impossible to find a large, permanent gallery space dedicated to this art form, primarily because many of the pots are so large. Exhibiting 50 different pots in a single gallery reveals the rich variety of shape, pattern, and surface texture on these marvelous objects.”
The Birmingham Museum of Art features the country’s largest museum collection of African ceramics with over 400 clay vessels and figures from across the continent of Africa. In this permanent exhibition space, visitors will experience African life and stories in these works of art, which include jars for storing and serving beverages and food, pots used in ritual, funerary and memorial vessels, cooking and brewing pots, containers for medicine and other valuables, and human and animal figures. To supplement the pieces, the gallery will feature flat screen television showing documentary footage of ceramics being formed, fired, and used.
Alabama Clay Conference Partnership
The Bunting Biennial Ceramics Symposium is organized in conjunction with the 28th Annual Alabama Clay Conference (www.alclayconference.org). The Alabama Clay Conference brings together hundreds of working ceramic artists for live demonstrations, tours of artists’ works, a trade show, and a marketplace featuring Alabama ceramic artists. This year the ALCC will showcase three prominent working ceramic artists: Kurt Weiser, Dirk Staschke, and Gerit Grimm. Recent works by each of the three artists will be shown at the Birmingham Museum of Art.
Ceramics at the Birmingham Museum of Art: The Birmingham Museum of Art is home to one of the largest collections of ceramics in the Southeast. Comprised of more than 15,000 total objects, the ceramics collection includes pottery and porcelain from almost all regions and periods. From Chinese blue and white porcelain to Japanese stoneware to Korean works from the Joseon period (1392-1910) and Vietnamese porcelain vessels – the BMA collection of Asian ceramics is one of the finest in the country. The department of the Arts of Africa and the Americas includes Native American and Pre-Columbian pottery and an extensive collection of clay objects from the African continent from the recently acquired Dick Jemison Collection of African Ceramics. The Museum also houses an extensive collection of eighteenth-and-nineteenth-century English and continental European pottery and porcelain, and one of the largest collections of Wedgwood ceramics in the world. Other holdings include American ceramics from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and works of contemporary American and European ceramics.
About the Birmingham Museum of Art: Founded in 1951, the Birmingham Museum of Art has one of the finest collections in the Southeast. More than 24,000 objects displayed and housed within the Museum represent a rich panorama of cultures, including Asian, European, American, African, Pre-Columbian, and Native American. Highlights include the Museum’s collection of Asian art, Vietnamese ceramics, the Kress collection of Renaissance and Baroque paintings, sculpture, and decorative arts from the late 13th century to the 1750s, and the Museum’s world-renowned collection of Wedgwood, the largest outside of England.