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Exhibit rekindles clay’s beginning

The work of John Mason, Ken Price and Peter Voulkos is currently showcased at the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery at Scripps College. Price’s piece “S.L.Green” was made in 1963 from clay and paint. The exhibition runs through April 8 and is free to the public. / photo by Candice Salazar

Annunciata Williams
Staff Writer

Walking into the white room at the Williamson Gallery at Scripps College, one tumbles into an array of fired clay sculptures by three artists with distinct visions that combine to create one new art form.

“They were pioneers in the field of transforming pottery into art,” Jan Blair, the gallery guard, said.

John Mason, Peter Voulkos and Ken Price introduced the age-old craft of clay work to the art world through their sculptures.

The larger sculptures by Mason and Voulkos surround the rim of the floor while Price’s work fills the center.

Mason’s piece “Red X” had red coloring streaming down the front that softens its stiff form.

“It’s really cool to see the texture from far away and close up,” Scripps College student Annie Aqua said.

Mason’s art is very rigid and overpowering, yet simplistic. He uses simple colors and bold cuts to display his ideas.

“The variation of bluish streaks is very beautiful, it gives the feeling of space within the surface.” Marguerite McIntosh, founding president of the Claremont Museum of Art, said.

“They are all very well displayed on the plain white walls,” Harry McIntosh, a fellow clay sculptor, said.

Voulkos’ abstract art is more intricate than that of Mason, containing a vast array of large and small details and pieces.

An example of this is his “Sculpture Hobgoblin,” a fired clay piece covered in a thin glaze.

Its pot like shapes are enveloped in multiple handles and thick thorns topped with a Romanesque military comb.

Price’s sculptures are more geometric than either of the other artists and are small, intricate and almost delicate.

One in particular reminds the viewer of a newly opened snake egg, sitting in a wooden box.

Price’s work is about the birth of life, McIntosh said.

Many are in egg-like shapes, bright and glistening with a colored object sticking out like life breaking out of its shell.

“It’s a really interesting show,” Blair said.

All of the designs are abstract yet very different in style, texture and character.

When looking around the room it is easy to guess which artist created which piece.

The array of artwork spans the timeline of the artists’ lives and the slow eruption of fired clay into the art world.

Annunciata Williams can be reached at

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