Friday, June 17, 2011

Bay Arts First-Timer

I finally made the time to go out to Bay Arts for a figure painting session. The organization is found in Bay Village, Ohio, right across from Huntington Beach. Most of the group I painted with worked at American Greetings for awhile, but unfortunately no longer do. They joked a lot about how Bay Arts is the place where artistic professionals "come to die." Although a bit on the cynical side, I think everyone can understand their sentiments in the current economic situation. I'm glad to get to be around such an extremely talented group of people and will be using the sessions to help me keep my art alive. Look for future posts with my paintings and drawings from Bay Arts sessions.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Cowan Pottery in Rocky River, OH

Not only am I currently employed as a librarian, but I often find myself in libraries outside of work. Right now I have five different library cards in my wallet. The card I most recently acquired is for the Rocky River Public Library. The Rocky River Library is unique in that it doubles as an art museum which showcases the ceramics of Reginald Guy Cowan and other Cleveland artists associated with his pottery company. The museum was established in 1978 when John Brodbeck bestowed over 800 pieces of Cowan pottery to the library. Visiting the museum and seeing some of this collection made me want to learn more about this artist who lived just a few miles east of my current home. Cowan also grew up in Syracuse, NY and went to college at Alfred University, which additionally made me identify with him since I attended school at Syracuse and know Upstate New York well.

As an artist, Cowan's work ranged in style from Arts and Crafts to Art Deco. Aligning with William Morris's call for simplicity in art, Cowan felt that ceramics should rely only upon purity in form and colored glazes for their decorative elements instead of complicated embellishments. Cowan was known for his development of many new glazes such as his Egyptian Blue, Oriental Red, and Clair de Lune. In the beginning of his career, Cowan was recognized for his Italian-style ceramic tiles. Today some of these tiles can still be found in the Cleveland Museum of Art. He also spent years working on ceramics which combined an iridescent glaze with a drip technique which he called "Lakewood Ware" after the town he lived in worked in. Other work that Cowan is especially acknowledged for are his flower and dancing figures.

In addition to his own work, Cowan spent a great deal of his life teaching pupils and developing the professional talents of other artists. One of Cowan's first jobs was to set up Cleveland East Technical School's pottery department. He also was a faculty member at Ohio State University. In addition to his students, some of the most notable artists he worked with professionally include Waylande Gregory and Alexander Blazys.

Cowan's pottery in Rocky River reminded me once again that good art is all around you if you look for it.

Bookend ceramics in the Rocky River Library

For more information go to the Cowan Pottery Museum website.