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This article by Angela Capio was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on
September 30, 1998. All rights reserved.
At Home With Toshiko
In the 1940s Toshiko Takaezu began working with clay
in a commercial studio in Hawaii, using a mold to make platters,
and other decorative things. "As I got older, I got bigger,"
she now says jokingly, referring, of course, to the scale of her
innovative clay creations.
A leader in modern ceramics with a career that spans over six decades,
Takaezu has moved into a realm far beyond teapots and platters. You
wouldn’t call her work simply pretty or decorative. And what could
you do with a large, ceramic cylinder, which stands 66 inches tall
and weighs almost 200 pounds? You wouldn’t dare do it alone.
A career-long retrospective exhibition, including some of towering,
monumental vessels, is currently on view at the Hunterdon Museum of
Art in Clinton. Titled "Toshiko Takaezu: At Home," the show
opened in August and continues through October 11. Takaezu gives a
lecture at the museum on Sunday October 4, at 3 p.m. (tickets $10).
And the show culminates with a guided tour of the artist’s Quakertown
studio, with demonstration and lunch, on Sunday, October 11, at 11:30
a.m. (tickets $40). Proceeds benefit the Hunterdon Museum.
The exhibit, which fills the three-story Hunterdon galleries, features
a diverse body of work: tiny, bird-like spouted teapots, colorful,
acorn-shaped pieces, even tapestries that date from the 1950s. But
the large-scale works on the first floor gallery, the first thing
one sees upon entering the Hunterdon, introduce the show. And they
have come to represent Takaezu’s signature as an artist.
These tall cylinders, each about five-and-a-half-feet tall and
top heavy, are carefully positioned so that, from a certain spot in
the room, just beyond the entrance, all are simultaneously visible.
A large white, glazed piece stands next to an almost completely black
vessel. Some of the cylinders look as if they bear messages in black
ink, like calligraphic writing. Many have an Asian feel. Touching
them, they all feel solid and cool, but some are glazed and smooth,
while others feel layered and rough.
Many of Takaezu’s ceramic pieces are unnamed, but these works, part
of her "Star Constellations" series, have names that come
from the astronomical lore of the Egyptians and from a little-known
West African people, the Dogon. The white piece is named
the Egyptian word for Sirius, the brightest star in the sky; the
one is "Po Tolo," its invisible companion. One of the pieces
with calligraphic markings is "Unas," named for the Egyptian
pyramid that contained the oldest known writing.
One can’t help but wonder how Takaezu (pronounced
a slim woman, barely over five feet tall, makes these huge forms.
And those outside the world of ceramics may wonder: why is a
pottery sphere such a major innovation? How does one get from simple
clay platters to awesome cylinders with names that conjure up
planets and distant suns?
Born in Hawaii in 1922, to Japanese immigrant parents, Takaezu moved
from working at a commercial studio at age 18 to study clay at the
University of Hawaii under Claude Horan. In 1951 she came to the
States to continue her studies at the Cranbrook Academy in Michigan,
where she met Maija Grotell, who became a dear friend and mentor.
"At the University of Hawaii, I learned technique. Cranbrook was
where I found myself," says Takaezu. "It was through Maija
that I learned you had to find out who you are. I think she knew more
about what I would do than I did. Things which I never at the time
realized were possible."
In her search for herself, Takaezu was led to Japan, the country of
her parents, for the first time at age 33, where she immersed herself
in Zen Buddhism and met with traditional Japanese folk potters. When
she returned from Japan, Takaezu accepted a position as head of the
ceramic department at the Cleveland Institute of Art. In 1964, a
of awards and grants led her to take a hiatus from teaching and set
up a private studio in New Jersey, where she has lived ever since.
In fact it was the waterfall outside the Hunterdon Museum that
Takaezu’s move to New Jersey, and it was love at first sight.
friends there in the early 1960s, she first spotted this landmark
on Clinton’s main street — then and there, Takaezu decided to
set up a private studio in Quakertown, where she has lived ever since.
Having fallen in love with Hunterdon County, Takaezu decided not to
return to the Cleveland Institute of Art (where two people were hired
to replace here), and instead accepted a position at Princeton
where she taught ceramics for 25 years, before her retirement in 1992.
A need to work has driven Takaezu throughout her career, and she has
never married. "I don’t understand how people can say that they
don’t have enough to do. I don’t have enough time to do all the things
that I want to do," she says. "When I’m not working I feel
that something is missing."
Since Takaezu’s retirement from Princeton, she says she has been
than ever. She keeps in touch with some of her students, and now has
the requisite time to devote to her own art. With several traveling
exhibitions over the past few years, her work has been shown abroad,
in several venues in Japan, and nationally, at sites in Oklahoma,
Florida, Arkansas, and New York.
"Toshiko Takaezu: At Home" is her latest one-artist
And as with most good titles, this one fits in a variety of different
ways: the pieces seem particularly at home in this setting; Takaezu’s
home is literally 10 minutes away; and Takaezu has worked closely
with the Hunterdon Museum of Art for over 20 years.
Outside the museum, beside the cascading waterfall,
hangs a bell that the artist completed in 1996. Cast in bronze, it
seems as ethereal as her ceramic works, and like many of her pieces,
it looks as if it is dripping with glaze. When the wind blows, it
sways. Toshiko, who has said that sometimes she hears music when she
spins clay, has always been intrigued by the relationship between
sound and form. When knocked upon, the bronze bell resonates nicely.
Museum director Marjorie Frankel Nathanson, and exhibition curator
Sandy Grotta agree that the Hunterdon site suits Takaezu’s sculpture
particularly well. "You can really judge an artist when you see
the range and scope of the work placed in a large venue like
says Nathanson, who planned the exhibition over the course of a year.
"Some artists’ work may seem strong on its own, but doesn’t hold
up in a big exhibit. You can really see how rich and strong the body
of Toshiko’s work is here."
Proceeds from the sale of the pieces (which have been brisk throughout
the span of the show) will support the exhibition and education
at the Hunterdon. Prices for the works range from $150 to $200,000
— the latter price of her amazing "Tree Man Forest," a
series of abstract, ceramic trees that stand on a carpet of little
"These works should stay here forever," says Grotta, exhibit
curator and friend to Takaezu for over 25 years. "At Home"
is actually Takaezu’s second exhibition at the museum. It was at her
first show, in 1973, that she and Grotta met. Now Grotta is relieved
to see the pieces moved from studio storage to a place where they
can be widely appreciated.
Grotta also offers a fresh perspective on her friend’s art.
is really a painter, only she paints on ceramics," she says.
The way in which the colors fall across these clay surfaces gives
each work its unique character. Takaezu, who has always regarded clay
as a sentient entity, explains that she steps back somewhat during
the coloring process, letting the work take on its own personality
in the heat of the kiln.
"The pieces shrink about 15 percent in the kiln," she says
"You don’t know exactly how it’s going to turn out. The colors
run, and I’m very often surprised at what the piece looks like."
No single part of the process is more important than any other,
Takaezu. It is perhaps her studies in Buddhism that have led her to
see life as an organic whole, and each step of her work in clay as
equally significant. A New Jersey Network video documentary,
Takaezu: Portrait of an Artist" is included in the exhibition.
"Growing my potatoes or tending to my garden isn’t any more
to me than making my pottery," we hear her say on video. Speaking
with her in person, this same philosophy comes across.
"Work is the solution to a lot of things. It gives you the answers
that you need and you want and you think you should have," says
Takaezu. "Sometimes it’s technical, you solve a technical problem.
Sometimes you figure out why you’re making the piece."
Takaezu says she started making the large vessels as a challenge,
to see if she could do it. In 1980, she had a large kiln specially
designed by Dick Hay of Indiana State University. With the help of
strong (male) assistants, Toshiko, perched high on scaffolding, shaped
the clay, while someone below operated the pedal of the wheel.
Takaezu may have been the first potter to ever successfully close
off a pot. She had never seen one before she succeeded. With this
creation, a vessel without an opening — which looks like a large
acorn — Toshiko significantly influenced the world of modern
The closed form has come to imply singular strength in a
container. It has been described as inner strength and outer quiet,
a style that Toshiko, in her search for herself through the process
of working, has created.
Now, at age 76, Takaezu says that big is not where she needs to go.
"I think it’s time to say this is enough," but this does not
mean that she has stopped working. Returning to Grotta’s description
of the artist as a painter of ceramics, Takaezu says she now wants
to paint more, and to travel. Her next stop is Reykjavik, Iceland,
where she will have a small exhibition.
— Angela Capio
908-735-8415. Toshiko Takaezu gives a lecture at the museum, Sunday
October 4, at 3 p.m. ; tickets $10. On Sunday, October 11, at
11:30 a.m., Takaezu gives a tour of her studio, with demonstration,
and lunch; tickets $40. The exhibit is on view through October 11.
in fabric by Canadian artist Patricia Carely, to October 6. Call to
view during school hours.
609-799-6706. Group show featuring oils by Izyaslav Kligman, Larry
Chestnut, and Michael Barber; acrylics by Sidney Neuwirth; prints
by Michael Teters; and sculpture by Milt Liebson. To November 20.
Hours are Tuesday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m.
to 7 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
children’s folklore and fantasy gallery features original works by
Russian-born illustrator Gennady Spirin. Gallery hours are Tuesday
to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
609-452-7800. "Lyricism," Allan Hill’s exhibition of abstract
paintings, inspired by nature-derived imagery, to October 30.
"Art occurs in the process," says Hill. "In my direct
approach to painting, this process relies upon chaos and chance to
provide many options for discoveries which leads to a greater
of a more immediate, personal statement."
Nassau, 609-921-6748. "Practical Photographers: The Rose Family
Studio," images from the collection of 10,000 glass plate
The Rose Studio was founded in Princeton in 1873 by Royal Hill Rose
whose commercial photography studio stood on Nassau Street through
three generations of family owners, until its closing in 1951. Museum
hours are Tuesday to Sunday, noon to 4 p.m. Through February.
Michael Bergman’s photographs of ancient sculptures in the collection
of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Sales benefit the Medical Center.
To November 19.
At the Merwick Unit, Bayard Lane: Oils and watercolors by Betty Offt
Dickson. For 15 years, she illustrated advertisements for Lord &
To December 10. Both exhibits open daily, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
"The Eden Series," new paintings by Gilda K. Aronovic that
aim to portray the special realm of the garden in all its splendor
and particularity. The artist’s work has been in shows at the
Gallery at Princeton University, at Bristol-Myers Squibb, and the
Trenton City Museum. To November 15.
and still-life oil paintings by Robin Gary Wood, a Paris-trained,
widely traveled artist. To October 3.
"In the art that touches me, there is a quality of spiritual
says Wood. "From the prehistoric cave paintings of Lascaux, the
African and Egyptian experience, to early Christian art, I see this
same quality. I attempt to relfect this in my work, whatever the
or subject." Gallery hours are Wednesday to Saturday, 11 a.m.
to 5 p.m., and by appointment.
Photographs Look Like," a study show, to October 18. The permanent
collection features a strong representation of Western European
old master prints, and original photographs. Collections of Chinese,
Pre-Columbian Mayan, and African art are considered among the museum’s
most impressive. Not housed in the museum but part of the collection
is the John B. Putnam Jr. Memorial Collection of 20th-century outdoor
sculpture, with works by such modern masters as Henry Moore, Alexander
Calder, Pablo Picasso, and George Segal located throughout the campus.
Open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday from
1 to 5 p.m. Tours every Saturday at 2 p.m.
"Russian Fiber Art," a traveling exhibition of work by
Russian textile artists Natasha Muradova, Ludmila Uspenskaya, and
Ludmila Aristova curated by Princeton artist Joy Saville. The artists
will also talk part in a panel discussion in the gallery on Thursday,
October 8, at 7:30 p.m. Show continues to October 25. Free.
"Big Show of Small Work," a show of art miniatures. All work
is 8×10 inches for less; sculpture less than 8 inches in any
To October 4. Gallery hours are Tuesday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.;
Wednesday to 9 p.m.; Saturday noon to 4 p.m.
Expressionist paintings by Kaaren Patterson. To October 16. Gallery
hours are Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
609-737-9313. Recent landscape paintings by Paul Mordetsky and
by Rory Mahon. Mordetsky is an instructor at Princeton Latin Academy,
Mercer County College, and Artworks. To October 3.
"Though my images depict places that I have photographed or drawn,
it is not their existence as real places which interests me,"
says Paul Mordetsky, whose atmospheric landscapes are based on sites
in the Colorado Rockies and Quebec’s Saguenay River region. "It
is rather some quality of silence that I wish to capture in an
often barren, openness where a soul might wander for a time
itself, alone and undisturbed."
609-895-7307. "Innovative Imprints and Impressions," an
of electroetch prints by Marion Behr and mesh prints by Margaret K.
Johnson. Behr is a professional printmaker and co-inventor of an
safe method of etching copper and zinc plates. Johnson studied with
Josef Albers at Black Mountain College and is co-author of
Prints Today." To October 23. Gallery hours are Monday to Friday,
9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
609-799-6706. "Images of the East," a group show by nine
artists featuring Min Chen, Shu Leu, Hiroshi Murata, Teresa Prashad,
Mayumi Sarai, Seow Chu See, Cecilia Sharma, Zhou Yong, and Sonam
Curated by DeLann Gallery, Plainsboro. To November 25. Open daily,
9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
732-524-3698. Sculptures and drawings by Estella Lackey, combining
steel and fabric to create semi-transparent, abstract sculpture. To
October 13. By appointment.
& Heritage, River Road, Piscataway, 732-745-3030. "New Jersey
Shipwreck and U.S. Lifesaving Service Artifacts," a maritime
exhibit. To December 31. Open Tuesday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:15
p.m.; Sundays 1 to 4 p.m.
33 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, 732-932-7511. "Contemporary
Scottish Artists," an exhibition organized by the Scottish Society
of Artists to exemplify leading directions in British art. Show
large floor pieces, photographic installations, innovative materials,
and video. To October 27. Free.
Also, "Colorprint USA," an invitational show of prints by
53 artists representing all 50 states. Judith K. Brodsky of Princeton
represents New Jersey with "Stella by Starlight." Ends with
a reception, November 6, 3 to 6 p.m. Gallery hours are Monday to
10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
streets, New Brunswick, 732-932-7237. "The Art of Selling,"
an exhibit of advertisements for French products from 1874 to 1905
drawn from the museum’s French and Belgian graphic arts collection.
Also "The Art of Giving," recent additions to the Japonism
Collection, to October 25; "Unrealities: Abstraction in
Printmaking," to January 24; and additions to the Children’s
Illustration collection. Museum hours are Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m.
to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, Noon to 5 p.m. Closed Mondays and
"Invention & Diversity in Textile Art," a 14-artist group
show featuring works by Pamela Becker, Nancy Moore Bess, Suellen
Kerr Grabowski, Nancy Koenigsberg, Patricia Malarcher, Chris Martens,
Joan Pao, Hollie Heller Ramsay, Joy Saville, Robin Schwalb, Betty
Vera, Carol D. Westfall, and Erma Martin Yost. To October 18.
Also, "Potteries: The Story of the Trenton Ceramics Industry,"
from bricks and stoneware to table and art china, from the 18th to
20th centuries. Museum hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3
p.m.; Sunday, 2 to 4 p.m. Closed Mondays.
609-586-0616. Fall/Winter Exhibition: "Glass: A Group
indoors, with works by Robert Dane, Stephen Knapp, Ron Mehlman, Mary
Shaffer, and Joy Wulke. Ricardo Barros’ portfolio of 36 photographs
of sculptors is featured in the Domestic Arts Building. New additions
outdoors by Fletcher Benton, James Colavita, Tim Holland, Luis
William King, Joel Perlman, Tom Phardel, and Robert Ressler. To
The 22-acre landscaped sculpture park is on the former state
site, with indoor exhibitions in the glass-walled, 10,000 square foot
museum, and the newly-renovated Domestic Arts Building. Gallery hours
are Friday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
609-292-6464. "The African-American Fine Arts Collection,"
an exhibition of painting, sculpture, printmaking, and photography
by 60 artists. Beginning with the 1802 portrait by Joshua Johnston,
the collection is distinguished by its broad range of esthetics and
styles. Emma Amos, Benny Andrews, Minnie Evans, Gladys Grauer, Jacob
Lawrence, Hughie Lee-Smith, Gordon Parks, Horace Pippin, Alison Saar,
and James Van der Zee are among the artists represented. To January
This major show includes a symposium on historical frameworks of
cultural expression, "Defining a Self, Creating a Culture,"
that takes place November 7. Call 609-394-5310 to register.
Also "Two Worlds: The Work of Bogdan Grom," a retrospective
of the Slovenian-born American whose career in painting and sculpture
in the United States was linked almost exclusively to architectural
commissions. Guest curator is John DeFazio, architect, Drexel
professor, and author of the monograph "Grom" (Fine Arts
1996). To December 27.
In the Cafe Gallery, paintings by Fay Sciarra and for sale at the
Friends’ shop through October 25. Museum hours are Tuesday to
9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.
609-599-5659. "Shuttle-Mir," photographs by Phil McAuliffe,
a New Jersey spaceflight photo-journalist who has visited two
and witnessed over 40 launches. Highlights from the U.S. Space Shuttle
program as well as America’s presence on the Russian Mir space
To November 10. Free.
Shared show featuring hand-colored photographs by Tracey Minchin and
figurative paintings by Lisa Mahan. Also pastels and figure drawings
from Mahan’s "Sketchbook Series." To October 4. Gallery hours
are Friday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
609-397-2300. Featured from the collection, Marc Chagall color
including the suite of Jerusalem Windows and signed posters. Gallery
hours are Wednesday to Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.
Solebury, 215-862-0582. Winning top honors in 1998, the $1,000 patrons
award, are Mary Dolan of Princeton, Pat Martin of New Hope, and Peg
Ridgely of Lafayette, Pennsylvania. Jurors are Virginia Connor, Susan
Crowder, Rebecca Hoenig, Stuart Shils, and Barbara J. Zucker.
$3 adults; $2 seniors; $1 students. To November 1. Gallery hours are
Sunday to Friday, 1 to 5 p.m.; and Saturday, 1 to 8 p.m.
215-340-9800. "A Legacy Preserved: The First Decade of Collecting
at the Michener Art Museum," featuring latest acquisition,
Burning of Center Bridge" by Edward Redfield. Show continues to
March 7, 1999.
"A Legacy Preserved" features some of the most important
acquired in the Michener’s first decade including Daniel Garber’s
mural "A Wooded Watershed," Thomas Hicks’ portrait of Edward
Hicks, and Joseph Pearson’s painting, "The Twins: Virginia and
Jane." Contemporary artists include Selma Bortner, Paul Keene,
and Katharine Steele Renninger.
Also "Sun and Shadow: Sculpture in Stainless Steel, Bronze, and
Aluminum," large outdoor works by New York sculptor Molly Mason,
to March 14, 1999. Also featured, "Creative Bucks County: A
of Art and Artists," an interactive exhibit honoring 12 maverick
Bucks County figures that include Oscar Hammerstein, Pearl Buck, and
Dorothy Parker. Museum hours Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.;
Saturday & Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Mondays. Adults $5;
$1.50; children free.
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