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VIDEOS: UC Artists Exhibit Ceramics Inspired by Taft Museum of Art

UC artists Katie Parker and Guy Michael Davis are exhibiting porcelain ceramics inspired by the décor and collection of Cincinnati’s Taft Museum of Art.

Date: 8/6/2011 12:00:00 AM
By: M.B. Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824

UC ingot   University of Cincinnati College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP) ceramicists Katie Parker and Guy Michael Davis are exhibiting nearly 20 porcelain still lifes overflowing with exotic fruit, flowers, animals, and other curiosities – works that reflect both the décor and collection within Cincinnati’s Taft Museum of Art.

They will exhibit the works in the Sinton Gallery of the Taft Museum, 316 Pike St., downtown, from Aug. 5-Oct. 16 in an exhibit titled “Still[ed] Life.”

Parker, assistant professor of fine arts, and Davis, adjunct instructor of fine arts, were invited to exhibit at the Taft as a result of previous, well-received shows.

Explained Davis, “The curator of the Taft attended a show we had last year at Prairie Gallery and invited us to exhibit at the Taft as part of the Taft Contemporary Series.”

The two have worked for the past 11 months to prepare works for this exhibit, creating complex, large pieces that required a great deal of trial and error. “Creating exhibit pieces that reflect the over-the-top ornamentation, patterns and décor of the Taft as well as its rich colors was a challenge,” said Parker, adding, “Porcelain is a fine and delicate material. There were many pieces that when in the kiln or fired, end up slumping, turning to mush or ultimately cracking. Especially because we were creating so many complex pieces and some at such large scales.”

Some of their works for this exhibit reflect upon the Taft’s still-life paintings of 17th-century Dutch artist Balthasar van der Ast – reinterpreting the artist’s fascination with taxidermy and the natural order. Thus, Davis and Parker created large, elaborate porcelain representations of fruit bowls, creating molds for each piece of fruit, each bird and animal. They had to cast many, many pieces before ending up with successful results, including a 20-pound, three-tiered bowls of fruit in porcelain.

Admitted Davis, “We were doing so much work, creating so many pieces in order to complete final works that were technically and artistically sound that I actually had a dream one night that a storm broke the studio window and created a vacuum that sucked all of the completed works away. I guess it’s safe to say we were really spending long hours and effort on this project.”

Despite the challenge inherent in this collection, the UC artists would never trade the opportunity it presented. For them, the best part of the effort was the permission they received to go into the museum and interact with pieces there in order to create new works. For instance, the Taft collection includes a bust of Alphonso Taft, father of U.S. President William Howard Taft, and Parker and Davis were permitted to work with the bust originally created by American neoclassical sculptor Hiram Powers.

“We were given permission to go into the museum and take a high-powered, 3-D scan of the bust,” recalled Davis. “That helped us to respond to that work in a different way, creating ten porcelain representations of the bust, but our representations integrate colored patterns from the museum itself – from draperies, rugs, other works – painted onto some of porcelain representations we created. Thus, our works further evoke the decorative arts made throughout Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries.”

Assisting Parker and Davis with the works for “Still[ed] Life” were UC fine arts students Audrey Angeloni, Dustin Boise, Lauren Dafler and Jamie Muenzer.

“Stilled[ed] Life” can be seen at The Taft Museum of Art Wednesday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Museum admissions are free on Sunday. For details related to location, directions, daily admission and more, go online to