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Scripps’ ‘Best Kept Secret’ exposed

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The Scripps College Ceramic Collection presented “Best Kept Secret” featuring many different pieces. The event took place at the American Museum of Ceramic Art in downtown Pomona. / photo by Keenan Gilson

The Scripps College Ceramic Collection presented “Best Kept Secret” featuring many different pieces. The event took place at the American Museum of Ceramic Art in downtown Pomona. / photo by Keenan Gilson

Erum Jaffrey
Staff Writer

Colorful clay platters lined the wall, complimenting the ceramic vases, culture-rich sculptures and mural presented at American Museum of Ceramic Art.

The Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery at Scripps College showcased “Best Kept Secret: The Scripps College Ceramic Collection” at the American Museum of Ceramic Art, or AMOCA, from Jan. 11 to March 30.

The exhibition consisted of over 180 works of art, with many from the Otis Art Institute.

Other ceramic pieces were by artists such as Laura Andreson, Robert Arneson, Hans Coper and many more.

Most of the artworks on display were donated courtesy of Fred Marer, an avid collector of contemporary ceramics who owned over 1,500 pieces of artworks ranging over 50 years old.

“This selection is just a sampling of our collection at Scripps,” said Kirk Delman, collections manager at the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery at Scripps College.

“It gives people a great opportunity to see a wide range of ceramics made in a variety of styles,” Delman said.

Walking into the exhibit, viewers find themselves taking a step back into history.

The ceramics on display, created by artists from countries such as Japan and Austria, represented different time periods, cultures, ideas, and styles.

Larger ceramics were placed closer to the ground, while smaller pieces were raised higher, thus creating different levels.

“Jumpin’ at the Moon Lodge” by Los Angeles native, Michael Frimkess, was a particularly visual piece, portraying a vase painted with famous historical figures, such as Hitler dressed as Santa and Uncle Sam chasing a slave.

To the left of the gallery was a culmination of various platter and large sculptures, while to the right was a collection of studio pottery.

Little porcelain and ceramic cups and teapots of different styles were placed at the end of the exhibit, concluding the collection of studio pottery.

A mural, titled “Panorama of the Pomona Valley” by Illinois native, Susan Hertel, covered the entire right wall of the gallery, displaying the history of the Pomona Valley, and is part of AMOCA’s permanent collection.

“We target more of Southern California because a lot of local people send their work to artists to distribute as word of mouth,” said Whitney Hanlon, AMOCA Marketing and Public Relations Associate.

The pieces did not have descriptions written, so it was up to the viewers to perceive the art in their own way.

Some clay sculptures were intricate and required two pieces of assembly, such as “Osiris Canning Factory,” by David Gilhooly, which depicted a frog mummy sprouting a can of food while resting on top of a pile of manure.

Others were much more simple, such as “Screw” by Mineo Mizuno, illustrating a life-size two to four foot painted and glazed screw made solely of clay.

It may have been hard to believe that some of the pieces were made of clay, because many of them looked like they were made out of other mediums such as rock and leather.

“I am always fascinated by what artists can do with similar materials, because clay is always changing,” Hanlon said.

Associate curator Rody Lopez enjoyed a specific contribution that looked as if it was made with material other than clay.

“I like this particular piece by Marilyn Levine because she makes it (the suitcase) look like it’s actually made of leather, down to the buckles,” Lopez said.

Cracks and deterioration were clearly visible in some of the ceramics, but they held a piece of special history and added character to the ceramic artwork.

“Ceramics used to be more of a craft back then, but it has evolved into a recognized art form and medium, and has become more expensive,” Hanlon said.

AMOCA also has guided tours for schools and groups of 10 or more, in which they have the opportunity to view the ceramics and participate in ‘An Afternoon of Clay,’ where they can create their own pottery.

“Our viewer turnout was great, around 2500, and our guided tours were very successful,” Lopez said.

“This exhibition ran simultaneously with Scripps College’s 70th Ceramic Annual show,” Delman said.

“(Best Kept Secret) is looking at a historical representation of ceramics, while the Ceramics Annual is celebrating and acknowledging contributions made by our history’s curators,” he said.

Lopez agreed with Delman’s point of view on “Best Kept Secret” having a historical touch.

“Ceramics is the longest standing indicator of life and culture, and the only thing we have today to give us clues to the past,” Lopez said.

“Ceramics is just as exciting and interesting as it was 40 years ago,” Hanlon said.

AMOCA, founded in 2001 and opened in 2004, is home to more than 7,000 works of clay by artists from around the world.

Admission is $7 for adults, $5 for students and children and free for members and children under 12.

AMOCA’s aim is to educate and enrich the public with a newfound appreciation of ceramics and clay as an important form of art, which holds history and culture in its creation.

“If we’ve done our job right then guests leave the exhibition with more information than they came in with,” Delman said.

For more information on AMOCA, visit

Erum Jaffrey can be reached at

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