Jentel Critic at the Bray : a residency for writers interested in the ceramic arts
'Two western arts organizations have teamed up to advance critical and creative writing and thinking in the field of ceramic art. The Archie Bray Foundation, one of the nation’s oldest residency programs is teaming up with one of the country’s newest, the Jentel Foundation of Banner, Wyoming. The collaboration is aimed at developing opportunities for more informed and thoughtful critical writing about the ceramic arts on a national and international level, and further enriching the creative environment of both residency programs.'
'Starting in early May of each year, the Jentel Critic at the Bray will spend up to two weeks at the Bray, meeting and learning about the Bray’s Taunt, Lilian, Lincoln, Matsutani, and MJD Fellows and their artwork, as well as experiencing firsthand the creative environment that helps nurture their work. Mid-May through mid-June will be spent at the Jentel Artist Residency Program, where writers can take advantage of the quiet environment to focus on developing the material gathered to produce five 500-word essays about the Bray fellowship artists and their work. '
Susannah Israel was selected as 2011 Jentel Critic at Archie Bray. Israel holds the unique distinction of having been both artist (2002) and writer-in-residence at the Bray.
Harnessing critical writing to ceramic art is a wonderful challenge. I greatly enjoyed meeting the artists, learning about their methods and ideas, and condensing the copious notes that resulted into 500-word essays.
But there was an unexpected part to the residency. As a critic at the Bray, I expected to completely focus on writing catalog essays for the five fellowship artists. I had the pleasure of meeting Resident Director Steve Lee. I got to see the new Shaner Studio. When we got to the Voulkos Studio, Steve told me this was my space for the next two weeks at the Bray. I listened in gleeful astonishment as he informed me that I could ask the Clay Biz for any clay or supplies I needed. Having disciplined myself to the prospect of two weeks without sculpting, I was delighted.
I made the piece "Apostrophe", including bisque-firing, in 12 days, to the amusement of sculptor Kensuke Yamada. It rode away with me to Wyoming, and back to California. The name is from drama, when an actor addresses an absent person. The absent person, of course, was Bill Lassell, my beloved creative collaborator who was with me, my first time at Archie Bray. His presence was a part of my second residency too, infusing the very landscape. The composition of the sculpture comes from the six states I journeyed through: California, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming; each is represented in the blocks that assemble to form a reclining figure.