Sheldon Museum of Art


Date of this Version



Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, October 1992- June 1993


All images are copyright by the original artists. Publication copyright 1993 The Regents of the University of Nebraska


EARTH AND FIRE: CERAMICS FROM THE SHELDON MEMORIAL ART GALLERY, the sixth annual Sheldon Statewide exhibition is a diverse selection of ceramics made in America during the past 100 years. From delicate Victorian vases to commercial ware of the early twentieth century and contemporary sculptural works, this comprehensive assembly truly offers something for everyone.

Though EARTH AND FIRE addresses the American connibution to the ceramics tradition, clay vessels and figures have been formed by nearly every culture since the beginning of civilization. These objects, made of the very earth itself, were not only utilitarian, but also often ritualistic or created for purely aesthetic reasons. The earliest American ceramic objects - pots and jars from the ancient Southwest - date from about 850 AD through the late Pueblo eras. With the coming of the Europeans, more and more types of ceramic vessels were introduced to this country.

Included in EARTH AND FIRE are works by eccennic artist George Ohr whose work of the early twentieth century was unknown to the art world until the recent past. The art potteries of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries are represented by examples from the Rookwood and Grueby studios. The art pottery movement laid the groundwork for the establishment of an American ceramic tradition. The ensuing decades, up to mid-century, saw the emergence of characteristics that can be identified as peculiar to ceramics produced by Americans. During the last forty years these qualities have been more fully defined, most particularly in the works of those artists who were involved in and who have benefitted from the "revolution" in ceramics that took place after the second world war. Notable among these are sculptural ceramic works by masters such as Peter Voulkos, Tom Rippon, Peter Shire and Richard Shaw. EARTH AND FIRE also includes works by Nebraska ceramicists Gail Kendall and Margaret Furlong. Today American ceramics, once a stepchild of other cultures, is strong enough to influence many of those cultures on which it once depended.

As the art museum of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery staff is committed to making the exceptional permanent collection available to all Nebraskans. The Sheldon Statewide exhibition program realizes that goal by circulating art of the highest quality to communities throughout the state. Each Sheldon Statewide exhibition addresses an art historical geme or theme, and together the six exhibitions constitute a mini-art history course and a unique focus on the Sheldon Gallery's renowned collection. As the exhibition series continues, the relationships between diverse artworks are increasingly apparent.