CONTACT: WINSTON BARCLAY
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Release: June 26, 2002
UI Museum of Art features ceramics by Gerry Eskin through July 28
Photos: left - Spirit House 1999, right - Wall Platter 1998
Eskin: Recent Ceramics, featuring 27 new works by the well known Iowa
City potter and former University of Iowa faculty member, is on display in
the UI Museum of Art through July 28.
Eskin holds a doctorate in economics, and he taught marketing at the UI 1972-82,
but his development as an artist pre-dated his academic and business career.
Growing up in Washington, D.C., he was drawn to photography, and he studied
photojournalism in college.
He encountered clay, by chance, in the 1960s, at a Minneapolis Love-In
that included hands-on workshops with a variety of artists. Eskin set up a
booth to teach basic photography, and the next booth over specialized in clay.
I took his course and he took mine, Eskin explains. Ever
since, Ive done clay and hes done photography.
For the last two decades Eskin and his wife, Sandie, have also been ceramics
collectors, building a collection of works from Asian, African and Native
American traditions. My original interest was in finding the origins
of pieces I was already making, Eskin says. Today the historical
references in my work are more direct. I am struck by the artistic skills
and technical innovations of ancient ceramists; I attempt to pay homage to
them and, at the same time, to integrate what I have learned from the past
in my new work.
One of these historical inspirations is the tradition of ossuaries found
in the Jordanian desert and dating to the Chalcolithic period. These ancient
works are echoed in Eskins spirit houses and shaman
David Revere McFadden, chief curator of the American Craft Museum, wrote
of the spirit houses, Eskins modern interpretation
of the form includes the transformation of the front facade of the building
into a humanoid face. Daubs of clay create the eyes, and an angled slab stands
for the nose. Drama is created, however, by the large gaping mouths at the
front -- some open, others closed with clay slabs held by wooden dowels --
into which the skeletal remains of the departed would be inserted. With their
fierce, and yet childlike faces, these houses of time and memory are defensive
and protective while being dignified and aloof.
McFadden describes how Eskins series of shaman urns, is
related: Like their spirit house brothers and sisters, these
urns are anthropomorphized to an even greater degree. These funerary urns
constructed as three-dimensional full figures, seated on a bench or stool,
with solidly planted feet and buttressed arms, are almost Madonna-like --
regal, imposing, and self-assured. The development of these forms is yet another
indication of Eskins ongoing investigation into ancient ceremonial ceramics.
The UI Museum of Art exhibition also includes massive wall and floor platters,
which are often decorated with calligraphic imagery or geometric patterns.
In some cases, several platters share imagery to become a multi-part installation.
For information on the UI Museum of Art, visit < http://www.uiowa.edu/uima
> on the World Wide Web. Information is available on UI arts events at
The UI Museum of Art, located on North Riverside Drive in Iowa City, is open
noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, and noon to 10 p.m. Thursday
and Friday. Admission is free. Public metered parking is available in UI parking
lots west and north of the museum.