The Penland Gallery in Mitchell County presents Within the Margins: Contemporary Ceramics, curated by Steven Young Lee, through July 16, with an opening reception on Saturday, June 3, from 4:30–6:30 p.m. The exhibition includes plates, vessels and purely sculptural work by 17 ceramic artists. Though the pieces shown are diverse in style and function, they all include narrative content.
“The idea that artists use their work as a vehicle for expressing their views, frustrations, conflicts and emotions may be a revelation to some viewers,” says Kathryn Gremley, Penland Gallery and Visitors Center director. “Historically, artists used their medium as a way to record and share socio-economic conditions and political content. These contemporary artists are practicing in a similar way, and incorporating their personal experiences into their work.”
The varied cultural backgrounds and histories of the artists represented is reflected in the pieces. Examples include earthenware and porcelain sculptures by Shalene Valenzuela that explore topics such as urban mythologies, consumer culture and societal expectations, and complex ceramic pieces in the form of plants, animals and humans by Sunkoo Yuh that he says express his inner emotions and communications about life.
Diversity of heritage, lifestyle and perspective was a priority for Lee in curating the exhibit. “I was hoping to focus on the viewpoints of the artists involved, rather than on aesthetic congruity,” he says. “The title of the exhibition refers to those who reside in or between perceived boundaries and, through their work, blur the lines of ethnicity, race, gender, sexuality or cultural identity.”
Lee is the resident artist director of the Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts in Helena, Montana. He has lectured extensively in North America and Asia, including at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. His work was recently featured as part of Visions and Revisions: Renwick Invitational 2016 at the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.
“Lee has a deep understanding of the field of contemporary ceramics,” says Gremley. “As the son of immigrant Korean parents, he has experienced firsthand the questions of identity and belonging, and uses his work to interpret those complexities. He has selected artists for this exhibition that share this sensibility and through their work help us understand broader views of culture.”
The Penland Gallery and Visitors Center is located at Penland School of Crafts on Conley Ridge Road, just off Penland Road in Mitchell County near the town of Spruce Pine. It is the first building on your right as you enter the Penland campus. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, from 12–5 p.m. For more information, visit penland.org/gallery or call 828.765.6211.