Betty Woodman · Works in Clay

Innovation and experimentation define the works of Betty Woodman, internationally known artist who has 20 ceramic pieces on display at the JCCC Gallery of Art. Widely recognized as one of the most significant potters working today, Woodman’s ceramics reflect her keen interest in art history, particularly the history of ceramics. Woodman derives inspiration from numerous sources, ranging from abstract painting and sculpture to ancient East Asian and Mediterranean ceramics. She skillfully combines the forms, textures, and surfaces from many cultures and periods into ingenious and witty works.

Woodman’s early reputation was based on being a maker of utilitarian ware. Over the years, however, concerns regarding function were superseded by her desire to explore more personally expressive avenues. In doing so, Woodman has emerged as a leader among ceramic artists, creating spectacular vessels, multimedia installations, fabric works and monoprints.

Perhaps best known for her remarkable “Pillow Pitchers,” Woodman’s repertoire of forms includes woks with titles such as Exaggerated Executive Letter Holder, Winged Vase, Dark Palette Mussel Server, and Parrot Cafe Latte Tray. Her Kimono Vases, Plum Blossom is composed of two vases over three feet in height. Each vase supports elaborately formed appendages which lend a dramatic gestural quality to the work.

In addition, Woodman has proven herself to be a masterful painter when it comes to the surface of her vessels. Rich colors and patterns abound. Expressionistic brushstrokes in vivid hues evoke Matisse – although with glaze rather than paint. In fact, some critics have gone so far as to say that she is a painter who uses the three-dimensional surfaces of her vessels as unique canvases. Woodman has consistently adapted her painterly surface treatments to enliven and complement her increasingly complex forms.

Born in 1930 in Norwalk, Connecticut, Woodman studied at the School for American Craftsmen (then at Alfred University, New York) from 1948-1950. She spent a year in Italy working with Giorgio Ferrero. Following her marriage to painter George Woodman and two years in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the Woodmans settled in Boulder, Colorado. Since 1951, she has lived and worked in Italy nearly every year for varying periods of time.

Works by Woodman are in numerous museum collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the American Craft Museum, NY; the Denver Art Museum, Colorado; the Detroit Art Institute, Michigan; the Boston Museum of Fine Art; the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California; the Renwick Gallery, National Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C.; the St. Louis Museum of Art, Missouri; the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; and the Nerman Museum. Her work has been shown around the world in exhibitions in France, Italy, the Netherlands and Japan.

A recently completed video on Woodman will be shown in conjunction with the JCCC exhibition. The gallery guide features an essay “Betty Woodman: Works in Clay” by Laura Caruso, independent art critic/curator, Boulder, Colorado.

We extend special thanks to Sissy Thomas, director, The Greenberg Gallery, for all her assistance and support. We are also deeply indebted to the numerous private collectors who, through their generous loan of works, made this show possible.