Ceramics had a far-reaching impact in the second half of the twentieth century, as its artists worked through the same ideas regarding abstraction and form as those for other creative mediums. Live Form shines new light on the relation of ceramics to the artistic avant-garde by looking at the central role of women in the field: potters who popularized ceramics as they worked with or taught male counterparts like John Cage, Peter Voulkos, and Ken Price.
Sorkin focuses on three Americans who promoted ceramics as an advanced artistic medium: Marguerite Wildenhain, a Bauhaus-trained potter and writer; Mary Caroline (M. C.) Richards, who renounced formalism at Black Mountain College to pursue new performative methods; and Susan Peterson, best known for her live throwing demonstrations on public television. Together, these women pioneered a hands-on teaching style and led educational and therapeutic activities for war veterans, students, the elderly, and many others. Far from being an isolated field, ceramics offered a sense of community and social engagement, which, Sorkin argues, crucially set the stage for later participatory forms of art and feminist collectivism.
Rear dust jacket notes: “The Bauhaus, the most famous art school in history, began in Germany in 1919. Among its studio areas was ceramic art or pottery, where one of the first students was a smart, young French-born woman named Marguerite Friedlander (1896-1985), now known by her married name of Marguerite Wildenhain. In time, she was designated a Master Potter, married Bauhaus potter Franz Wildenhain, designed award-winning porcelain pieces, and, after her dismissal as a teacher for being Jewish, left Holland in advance of its invasion by the Nazis. She immigrated to the US, where she joined an artists’ community called Pond Farm in the hills above the redwood trees in northern California. For much of her remaining life, she ran her own pottery school, taught hundreds of gifted students, and secured her reputation as one of the century’s most influential teachers, craftspersons and artists. More than ten years in the making, this monumental anthology is astonishing in its richness. It was painstakingly brought about through the selfless contributions of dozens of international scholars, artists (many of whom were Marguerite Wildenhain’s students), schools, museums and other institutions. Conceived of and compiled by Dean and Geraldine Schwarz (founders of South Bear School), this is a vivid, compelling account — both heartrending and amusing — not only of the life and work of an extraordinary artist and teacher, but also of the historical roots of the European concept of Handwerk; the role of pottery at the early Bauhaus; the establishment of Pond Farm by the Herr family; and the continuing, prospering legacy of the Bauhaus pottery tradition in such diverse places as (in Germany) Dornburg and Halle, and (in the US) Decorah, iowa (South Bear), Fairbanks, Alaska (North Bear) and Spring Green, Wisconsin (Adamah). This is a phenomenal archive of hundreds of Bauhaus-related images, both historic and contemporary, interwoven with essays…”