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Stele Project: Everhart Museum

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A sereis of four ton ceramic components are fabricated, assembled, and installed in perpetuity. Their fired porosity allows them to erode, releasing the material down the watershed to the mouth of the Susquehanna River where the clay was mined.
  • Mud Man, Fire Man
    Jordan Taylor jokingly suggested when
    we were first in contact that I might dismiss him as one of Bernard Leach’s
    orphans, perhaps my most infamous line. And yes, Taylor began as a
    traditionalist, but he is also a modernist, or in my terms, a neo-classicist.
    Journeys into the traditional kingdom of clay are often narrow, blinkered
    experiences, heavy on the mud but light on the deeper, more complex,
    multifaceted interactions that make up a creative odyssey. Its not that these
    interactions do not exist in the pots, just that a lot of traditional potters do
    not have Taylor's kind of analytical curiosity and so their love of clay can become
    an adobe prison. That said I have not come across a better piece of writing on
    the expansiveness of neo-classicist values than in this publication nor a more
    beautiful expression of traditional clay-and-fire virtues in contemporary
    process art.
    Taylor’s essay moves gently through place, time, and above all, mind,
    inspired by the El Mirador Mayan ruins he visited on a trip to Guatemala. En
    route Taylor cites ceramic heroes such as Michael Cardew and Robert Turner
    but also enlists a less obvious gang of modernists, John Cage, Merce 
    Cunningham, Dan Flavin, Robert Morris and David Smith. His experiences
    drive Taylor inexorably towards a destination that was not clear early on, a
    large-scale public installation of four, six-foot (1.8m) four-ton (4000kg) stelae
    in a park near his studio. Given their porosity, estimated at 6-8%, they will
    slowly erode “and follow the watershed as far as the Chesapeake Bay, back to
    the lie of the land.”
    Taylor’s love of clay is palpable, almost religious, and it is interesting
    because it is not based on what comes out of a pug mill; rather, it is more
    about an existential view of clay and its place, literally, in the greater world. He
    cites a paragraph from Bernard Leach’s foreword to Michael Cardew’s book
    Pioneer Pottery as an early inspiration: “Cardew has spent years under a
    kerosene lamp at night in the African tropics, sweating at his geology and
    chemistry in order, literally, to understand the lie of his land; to find and to be
    able to use intelligently the rocks and clays, ashes and oxides with which…
    pots are made.”
    He responded in 1996 by making “several hundred glaze line blends
    using clays I had dug, and wood ashes. Underlying that research were
    ambitions that I no longer hold exclusively: my goal was to make serviceable
    glazes from indigenous materials. I’ve since reversed this relationship. What I
    make while exploring a new clay is my response to a clay’s material and firing
    properties, rather than shaping clay to execute a plan”.
    But clay does not dominate. Cardew liked to say that in ceramics there
    were two kinds of makers, mud people and fire people. (He identified with the
    former and had a very ambivalent, adversarial relationship with the kiln).
    While his generalization is correct as defining two distant poles, in-between
    there are multiple combinations of the two. My guess is that when Taylor’s
    hands touch new raw clay his first thought might well be, “What will this
    make?” But simultaneously the sensual stuff between his fingers excites
    another question, “What kind of fire will memorialize its life?” In this case he
    chose a firing that allowed the clay its gradual mortality. The same objective
    humanism pervades all of this project.
    Garth Clark
    Santa Fe 2010

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