Birmingham Museum of Art Hosts Third Biennial Ceramics Symposium

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The symposium seeks to explore all aspects of ceramics from function, style, and decoration to technology, artists and factories. The 2017 theme Communities of Clay: Ceramic Enterprises Past and Present will explore topics of ceramic enterprises past and present by considering the subject in a broad array of historical and geographical contexts.

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Communities of Clay: Ceramic Enterprises Past and Present will explore topics of ceramic enterprises past and present by considering the subject in a broad array of historical and geographical contexts.

The Birmingham Museum of Art announces the third Bunting Biennial Ceramics Symposium to be held at the Museum February 17 – 18, 2017. Established and debuted by the Birmingham Museum of Art in 2013, the Ceramics Symposium serves as a platform to broaden international dialogue about the study, creation, and collection of ceramic arts historically and today.

“A large portion of our collection is ceramics, and we'd like people to understand that the making and using of ceramics is universal. The history of ceramics is essentially the history of mankind and even today, when ceramics can be pretty cheap to buy and easily replaced, we can all somehow relate to the ceramics of other times and cultures because each society continues to create and use ceramics,” says Anne Forschler-Tarrasch, the Marguerite Jones Harbert and John M. Harbert III Curator of Decorative Arts at the Birmingham Museum of Art.

The symposium seeks to explore all aspects of ceramics from function, style, and decoration to technology, artists and factories. The 2017 theme Communities of Clay: Ceramic Enterprises Past and Present will explore topics of ceramic enterprises past and present by considering the subject in a broad array of historical and geographical contexts.

Acclaimed ceramic artist Susan Folwell and cultural specialist Ali Istalifi will be featured as the keynote speakers. Five additional speakers will comprise the weekend agenda. The symposium is presented in conjunction with the 32nd annual Alabama Clay Conference.

"We are so excited to host our third Bunting Ceramics Symposium. These biennial gatherings bring together scholars, collectors, artists, and the general public to hear wonderful talks about ceramics traditions from around the world. Our theme this year looks at communities all over the world that have specialized in making ceramics - one of the oldest art forms in existence. It's interesting to consider who has guarded that knowledge and passed it down, and whether ceramics economies are viable today,” says Emily Hanna, Curator of the Arts of Africa and the Americas at the Birmingham Museum of Art.

The Birmingham Museum of Art, a comprehensive regional museum, has emerged as a major Southeastern center for ceramic study. The collection, which is divided among six major curatorial departments, currently includes more than 16,000 objects of ceramic art dating from the Jomon period of Neolithic Japan to the present day. The collection reflects the centrality of ceramics to cultures worldwide as objects of utilitarian, ritualistic, or aesthetic significance.

Keynote Speakers:

Susan Folwell, a ceramic artist from Santa Clara Pueblo, Taos, New Mexico, has won numerous awards for her work and has been featured in several books, including NDN Art: Contemporary Native American Art, Free Spirit: The New Native American Potter, and Changing Hands: Art Without Reservation: Contemporary Native American Art From the Southwest. Her work is represented in well over a dozen permanent museum collections world-wide. Folwell is also an active board member of the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts (SWAIA) and is chair of the SWAIA Arts Committee.

Ali Istalifi is a specialist in Central Asian ethnographic arts and crafts, a project manager at Jindhag Foundation, and an independent filmmaker. He was born in Kabul, Afghanistan. His father, Abdul Istalifi, is a renowned arts and crafts dealer in Kabul and his mother was a senior professor of law at Kabul University. During his childhood, Afghanistan was a relatively liberal, peaceful and normal place. However, during the 1980s, after the Soviet Invasion, Afghanistan changed dramatically. As the political situation deteriorated further, Abdul decided that Ali, his brother, and mother would move to London, but he stayed behind to care for less fortunate members of their extended family. Ali grew up in London, but with his father still in Afghanistan, he never lost his connection to his homeland. In 2000, Ali graduated from London’s Brunel University with an honors degree in Film and TV Studies and American studies with the goal of pursuing a career in media. However, when Afghanistan was liberated in 2001, he was finally able to communicate with his father, who expressed an interest in helping to rebuild the war-devastated country. The reunion of father and son in 2003 was also the start of the project to revive Istalif, Ali’s father’s home in Afghanistan.

Additional Speakers:

Anne Forschler-Tarrasch, Ph.D., chief curator, The Marguerite Jones Harbert and John M. Harbert III Curator of Decorative Arts, Birmingham Museum of Art

Brenda Hornsby Heindl, ceramics department head, Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates Auction, Crawford, VA

Bruce Bernstein, Ph.D., executive director and curator, Ralph T. Coe Foundation for the Arts, Santa Fe, NM

Chris Kelly, chair of the art department and associate professor of art, Piedmont College, Demorest, GA

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Founded in 1951, the Birmingham Museum of Art has one of the finest collections in the Southeast. More than 27,000 objects displayed within the Museum represent a rich panorama of cultures, including Asian, European, American, African, Pre-Columbian, and Native American. Highlights include the Museum’s collection of Asian art, Vietnamese ceramics, the Kress collection of Renaissance and Baroque paintings, sculpture, and decorative arts from the late 13th century to the 1750s, and the Museum’s world- renowned collection of Wedgwood, the largest outside of England.

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