Anderson Turner

Working in the visual art field often means you are the type of person who follows your passion. You have found a profession and a medium that speaks to your soul and you feel the drive to work, make, curate, teach or all of the above, and that love spills out into all aspects of your life.

Often this is also true of the art collector. Something about a style or medium speaks to a special place in your heart and you just want to surround yourself with it. It’s not always about dollar value; it can be simply about discovering your own sense of intellectual artistic pursuit and beauty.

What happens when artists are also collectors? The Bill and Liz Hunt Collection at the Canton Museum of Art is a personal look at two artists who have made collecting American ceramics a lifelong career. Liz is a retired art teacher and Bill is a retired editor of the magazine Ceramics Monthly and a former professor of ceramics from the Columbus College of Art and Design.

The collection is a sampling of mostly functional ware with a smattering of sculptural objects as well. Many of the largest names in ceramics from the past 50 years are represented, including Ken Ferguson, Charles Lakofsky, Robert Sperry, Tom Turner and Robin Hopper to name a few.

Bill Hunt believes that “given enough time, the ceramics movement of the 20th and 21st centuries will be seen as a stunningly important art movement at a time when the more conventional art world was embroiled in rehashing previous styles couched as Neo this and Post that.”

What can’t be denied is that clay has a timelessness that few mediums ever approach. From the caves in Lascaux, France that feature Paleolithic clay sculptures to pottery shards from countless historic places all over the world, ceramics has proven to be perhaps the most durable medium throughout history.

Sperry’s Sculpture with Ball (circa 1987) is a hand-built stoneware piece by one of the intellectual leaders in the clay community from the latter half of the 20th century. Sperry, who worked in a variety of media including printmaking, sculpture, painting, photography, digital prints, and filmmaking, was head of ceramics at the University of Washington in Seattle for 22 years. He is largely credited with helping establish that program as a leader in the nation.

Woodlike Teapot (1990) by James Tisdale is decorated to look like it has been constructed from wood, metal strapping and nails, though it is made of clay. The piece also appears aged and a little rough around the edges, though it is not. It’s a style unique to a medium where you can form the work and manipulate the surface to mimic different aspects from real life.

Bill Campbell’s Crystal-Glazed Plate (2000) is a dramatic-looking functional work coated in crystalline glaze. This type of glaze feature forms by holding the kiln at peak temperature through a process called soaking, and then slowly lowering the temperature so that the crystals have time to form. With the advent of computer controllers for kilns, this type of glaze style can be copied and tried out by just about anybody.

Bowl with Birds and Egg (1990) by Jackie Cohen and Vaughan L. Smith is an excellent example of a slip decorated earthenware bowl. Cohen and Smith, who own and operate the Westcote Bell Pottery in Nova Scotia, are the type of artists who have helped form the backbone of the ceramics community for years and years.

Collecting and working in the visual arts takes passion. The collection of Bill and Liz Hunt highlights the ceramic work gathered by two people who have spent their entire lives enjoying, growing and learning from the world of clay.

Contact Anderson Turner at haturner3@gmail.com.