The 2010-2011 Evelyn Shapiro Foundation Fellowship Exhibition
Rebecca Chappell is a rare talent. A potter, educated at the Cleveland Institute of art, BFA 2003, and at the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University, MFA 2008 she came to The Clay Studio when awarded the Evelyn Shapiro Foundation Fellowship arriving at The Studio in September of 2010. This one-year Fellowship afforded her a rent-free studio, a monthly living stipend, materials and firing stipends and a solo exhibition with a small publication that documents it. All of the work included in Red Carpet was made during her Fellowship year. Chappell used her Fellowship year to explore and to develop a new body of work. When selected as the Fellow, her work was wheel thrown of porcelain, the forms tight, with intricate and delicate details and rich glaze surfaces of geometric pattern. The work was intimate in scale one form oftentimes composed of precisely fitted parts displaying consummate skill as a maker, attention to detail, and meticulous craftsmanship. For Chappell the use of her wares and how one uses her wares has always been of great importance. Her use of many parts in the creation of one piece is intentional, requiring the user to pay special attention when handling. For example, her too shallow bowls that serve as water reservoirs for her vases that require refilling daily.
The work Chappell has made during her Fellowship year shares some of the qualities described above, yet are quite different. Both bodies of work share a favored way of building form through the use of multiple parts. They also display a sensitivity to and understanding of material, high skill in their making and repetitive pattern as surface decoration, but there it ends. The work in RED CARPET is made of terra cotta and is hand built using a hybrid coil slab method. The scale of her forms has increased dramatically, the surfaces enriched with the trace of Chappell’s hand and her method of building them. Her surfaces are simpler, stripes of color in combination with a favored motif. If one were to describe her older porcelain works as formal, the newer terra cotta works would be described as casual, the forms precise but less with the texture in their surface making it so, and her glaze palette brighter and color choice daring. Where her porcelain forms and surface patterns referenced history, the terra cotta works are firmly rooted in present day.
The vase is a favored form of Chappell’s. With Red Carpet, Chappell challenges conventional notions of what a vase can be. Quite sculptural, the central piece within the exhibition is a series of the large vases grouped together and sitting upon a rectangular platform. As a group, the vases take on a cityscape/landscape form with topography of varied heights. When empty the rims/lips of the vases, varied and curvilinear, allow the eye totravel up and down the perceived planes they define. When filled with flowers (over 900 flowers are needed to fill all), the topography is that of treetops on a mountain range. Placed within the center of the space, Chappell creates a series of plates installed on the long walls of the gallery in a single row, mirroring the stripes used to embellish the surface.
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