This sculptural format of three-dimensional ceramic art has its roots in 15th century Italy in the style of Luca Della Robbia and his nephew, Andrea. His works fall somewhere between painting and sculpture. Della Robbia’s portraiture showed a strong understanding of drawing and depicted a sense of depth in a shallow plane. His contemporaries considered him one of the most important innovators of the century.
17th century French Palissy ware depicted Biblical and pastoral scenes; and the French Sevres and German Miessen ceramic manufactures specialized in landscapes, mythology and classical portraiture.
More recent influences come from a collection of contemporary American ceramic masters: Robert Arneson, with his Da Vincian parodies of the pottery side of ceramic sculpture in the 60’s, as well as his ongoing satire of art history and architectural perspective; Jack Earl, with his surrealistic three-dimensional paintings; Viola Frey, with her large, colorful storytelling platters of the 80’s and 90’s; and most recently, Suzanne Stephenson with her three-dimensional gracefully expressionistic thrown wall forms. This particular body of work began in 1982 as an answer to a challenge by Suzanne’s husband, John, as to how to blend sculptural and functional forms in clay. The first works that I created in this format were in 1982 and were architectural renderings of vintage Colorado hotels. The current works contain architectural concerns and parodies of art history, and executed in the della Robbia circular and oval format, as well as free form low and high-relief tile panels.
This art-form is rarely practiced in the United States, probably due to its potential loss rate and the complexity of the assemblage. These works are acknowledged as some of the most difficult sculptures to successfully execute in ceramic materials; and this body of work has emerged as one of the unique art forms created in the United States today.