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Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013

South American Traditions Inspire Primitive Pottery

Latino Arts Presents Luz Angela Crawford

By Peggy Sue
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Primitive aesthetics applied to 21st century ceramics travel to Milwaukee's Latino Arts, Inc. at the United Community Center in an exhibition titled: “Contemporary Inspirations from Ancient South American Pottery.” Artist Luz Angela Crawford displays more than 20 examples of her hand built vessels set on wooden platforms in the gallery so the viewer can study them closely.  

Crawford, a native of  Colombia, South America, presently finds her home and studio located in Amarillo, Texas.  All her ‘baskets’ and ‘pots’ draw on the traditions of her native country, where each piece must be hand formed, and the ceramic piece is built up, placing piece on piece, constructed instead of thrown while pedaling a potter’s wheel.

In Crawford’s piece Yellow Pot, the artist forms “rough white clay’ into a thin, rectangular shaped vessel almost resembling a contemporary tote bag slightly thrown down askew. At the top of the vessel on either end, clay beads constructed by Crawford were secured with thin strands of natural hemp for simple adornment. While she uses an earthy color palette derived from metallic glazes, the colors such as cobalt, copper and iron release a vibrant rather than muted hue after the firing process. 

A striking Blue Pot 2 illustrates this intensity, and can be easily distinguished from other pieces by its depth of color. The tall, shapely vessel with a handmade stopper resembles a water jar from antiquity where the viewer can almost imagine this being placed on the head, or slung over the back of a native South American in past ages. Once again, Crawford strings the rough hemp through the fired clay and attaches her hand made beads to the stopper for authentic decoration. 

This polished cobalt blue color, actually glazed with cobalt, enhances the layered decoration to score the vessel with texture. Crawford enjoys using natural elments, leaves and stones to mention two, to inscribes the ceramics with primitive ornamentation and follows the legacy of South American craftsman.

Beside hand building pots, Crawford's ceramic baskets reference the hand woven objects while incorporating red clay into their fabrication, and then copper glazing, to represent the terrain's color instead of ocean and sky. Again, organic elements, all found instead of purchased, make the marks that sparsely ornament these baskets, lines and cross hatchings, or calligraphic designs. A combination of glossy and matte glazes heighten these decorative elements, carefully integrated into the basket’s finished appearance.

Crawford studied her art in Europe and the United States to inspire her techniques before winning numerous regional awards for her unique perspective on this ancient tradition. Five plaques based on weavings from the Guambian Indian women also hang on one wall, another contemporary interpretation to ancient culture. Respectful admirers have already purchased several pieces of Crawford's personal expression of South American ceramics. For anyone interested in these ancient South American techniques or distinctive pottery, visit the Latino Arts Gallery to walk back in time and imagine this culture that depended on these vessels and relied on the human touch for artistic expression, function and daily pleasure.   

Latino Arts, Inc, at the United Community Center presents the exhibition "Contemporary Inspiration from Ancient South American Pottery" continues through February 22.

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