Walter Gropius Master Artist Series Presnets: Mark Pharis

March 7 - May 3, 2015

Walter Gropius Master Artist Mark Pharis speaks about his work during a public presentation at HMA on April 23, 2015, at 7 p.m. Refreshments will be served. Admission is free. Pharis will present a three-day workshop at HMA titled “Two Dimensions to Three Dimensions and Back Again: Function, Context, and Process” on April 24-26, 2015, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For workshop fee information, call (304) 529-2701.

Mark Pharis was introduced to ceramics in the fall of 1967 as an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN. While still finding his way around the art department, Pharis was encouraged to study under renowned functional ceramist and professor, Warren MacKenzie. Pharis had a transformational experience, drawn to his mentor’s ability to eloquently combine form and function within a structured set of rules. He graduated in 1971 and established a pottery studio in the rural outskirts of Houston, MN. For more than a decade, Pharis created functional pottery – thrown and fired in a wood and oil-fired kiln – and was employed by various Midwestern universities as a visiting artist. Pharis reconnected with the Department of Art at the University of Minnesota in 1985, this time as a professor. He served as Chair of the department from 1998-2004, and as the Associate Dean of the College of Liberal Arts from 2004-2008. His exhibitions are numerous and his work can be found in the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England; Gardner Museum, Toronto, Canada; Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ; and Los Angeles County Museum of Art, among many others. Pharis resides in Roberts, Wisconsin.

Pharis has been making functional pottery for more than 40 years, and is particularly interested in the wide range of objects used in domestic environments: enduring themes such as vases, cups, teapots and plates. Pharis’s process is inspired by geometry and relies upon two-dimensional paper patterns – a process that owes much to the traditions of patternmaking found in sewing and sheet metal work. Ultimately constructed from clay slabs, these earthenware forms possess a dynamic and engaging presence that goes beyond utility and surface decoration. The endless variations of these familiar objects enrich our everyday lives and, in a broader sense, help to shape our cultural identity. Archeology and history suggest that humanity’s need for functional clay vessels is nothing short of eternal; our own culture is no exception. However, the efforts of contemporary clay artists are shifting as industry assumes more and more manual tasks, refocusing our own basic, utilitarian needs.

The Walter Gropius Master Artist Series is funded through the generosity of the Estate of Roxanna Y. Booth, who wished to assist in the development of an art education program in accordance with the proposals of Walter Gropius, who designed the Museum’s Gropius Addition, as well as the Gropius Studios. The Museum is indebted to Roxanna Y. Booth’s son, Alex Booth, for his participation in the concept development of the Gropius Master Artists Workshops.

Walter Gropius Master Artist Series Presnets: Mark Pharis

Mark Pharis, Teapot, 2012. Earthenware, 10.5"w x 6.25” d. 5.5"h. Image courtesy of the artist.