Style Court

Textiles, Art History, Gardens, and a Little Mental Traveling with Courtney Barnes 2006-2016


Crossing Over

[Unless credited otherwise, photos are my own. Screengrabs are from the High's video.]

Flowers, butterflies, and aesthetic mash-ups: Cross-polination was a reoccurring theme in last night's conversation with ceramicist Molly Hatch -- creator of the High's enormous new piece, Physic Garden -- and Sarah Schleuning, the Museum's curator of decorative arts and design.

[Molly Hatch's design for the High Museum of Art]

Schleuning, who originally asked Hatch to riff on two circa 1755 botanical Chelsea Factory plates from the High's acclaimed Frances and Emory Cocke Collection of English Ceramics, hopes the bold new installation will serve as a bridge between the Museum's traditional and contemporary holdings.

[18th-century Hans Sloane-style Chelsea Factory plate from the High's Cocke Collection]

In short, to get the modernists up in the galleries rethinking the precious old floral ceramics (wares that often have great-granny associations but in design terms are actually rather sensuous) and to encourage the antiques enthusiasts to take second and third glances at the 21st century works.

[See the time-lapse video of the install here.]

For her part, Hatch is excited about the blurred boundaries between studio pottery and painting and drawing. In fact, she considers her piece to be a "plate painting." The familiarity of a nine-inch dinner plate makes it an accessible medium, she feels, in contrast with say a painted canvas or even glazed tile, and she hopes the glossy circles draw visitors in. Up close, the individual plates read as abstract paintings but from afar a representational fruit and flower picture emerges. (The fresh, graphic impact of the whole thing makes me think of the Brodys' midcentury commission.)

As we covered last year, Hatch has long been inspired by 18th-century textiles and decorative arts, as well as Naturalist art, encompassing Chinese Export lacquerware, Blue Willow plates, printed toiles and patterned silks from the V & A's collection. But this is her largest undertaking to date.

FYI: Throughout her entire process, not a single plate broke. In the end, Hatch used 456; the remaining unpainted plates have been donated to the High's teen outreach program, and this weekend Hatch will lead a workshop for the students. Later, their creations will be auctioned during the Museum's Wine Auction. In the meantime, if you're in Atlanta, head down to see Hatch's masterpiece in person. The surface textures and dimension really need to be experienced in the flesh.  

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