The New Year is Clay. Let’s Make Something Good.

Where will you look for art in 2014? Sometimes we wonder if, in Atlanta, we only hear about a certain set of well marketed, media-anointed galleries, museums, and events. If so, we are allowing ourselves to be limited. We may even be allowing other people’s preferences to inhibit our own natural curiosity and wonder.

David Drake, "Jug," 1836, and "Jar," 1858. Collection of the High Museum of Art.

David Drake, “Jug,” 1836, and “Jar,” 1858. Collection of the High Museum of Art.

We were happy to see the ArtsATL website review an exhibit that is currently on view at the Hodge Podge Coffeehouse and Gallery in East Atlanta. Hodge Podge is an amazing place for its abundant natural light and its spaciousness. Over time, the quality of art there has been uneven. The ArtsATL review noted that Hodge Podge is not perfectly set up as a gallery. But then, it’s not supposed to be.

Atlanta Art Blog strives to find art in unexpected places. In 2013, for example, we fell for awhile under the influence of Free Art Friday. Our review reflected the open-mindedness that the Decatur event inspired.

David Drake, "Jar," 1858, detail. Collection of High Museum of Art

David Drake, “Jar,” 1858, detail. Collection of High Museum of Art

Lately the decorative arts have attracted us, especially ceramics. For example, we read the book Carolina Clay, by Leonard Todd (WW Norton & Co.: 2008). The book explores the life and times of the potter Dave Drake, who was a slave in Edgefield, South Carolina. The High Museum of Art exhibits work by Dave in its permanent collection.

But the term “decorative arts” seems a ridiculous term to use for the pottery that Dave created under the violent and volatile conditions of slavery. It’s not that the pottery Dave created lacks elegance or 

beautiful form or the ability to function in household chores. It’s just that, in light of the facts of slavery that Dave endured, combined with his bold assertion of artistic values, his work manages to evoke the history of the African diaspora and the eternal struggle for human freedom. Therefore, his work goes far beyond the category of “decorative arts.”

Dave Drake’s example and the acclaim for his craftsmanship that he managed to achieve even in his own day—in spite of the fact that he inscribed poems and epigrams on his work at a time when it was illegal for slaves to write—is a lesson to us about where to look for art. It can be hidden in plain sight. It can be obscured by the ignorance that possesses us through prejudice. And it can be consigned to oblivion because of the categories that we use to sort things.

In the new year, let us hope for and work toward finding art wherever it may live.

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One thought on “The New Year is Clay. Let’s Make Something Good.

  1. FutureRelicsGallery

    It’s nice to see pottery getting some exposure here. These pots are so beautiful and have such an important story for all of us.
    Thanks,

    Reply

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