Pervasive Innovation in Northern California Ceramic Sculpture

New Exhibition Opens March 29, 2022, Exploring Northern California’s Ceramic Sculpture Legacy

Pervasive Innovation: Ceramic Sculpture in Northern California  is on view through May 28th at Carnegie Arts Center. Providing an overview of the dynamic and creative ceramics scene in this region, the exhibition features work by 16 artists from the late 1960s to the present.

Image credits, clockwise from top left:  Lorraine Bonner, John Toki, Lisa Reinertson, Arthur Gonzalez, Susannah Israel, Cathi Newlin

For close to 100 years New York City was considered the heart of the American art world – with commercial galleries, major museums, and respected critics setting the agenda and defining the newest movement. Through most of the 20th century, artists made their way to New York to be included in this world. Beginning around the 1950s, however, California started to become more of a destination for the arts. Whether it was Hollywood that started a small migration westward for creative types or the growing reputation of a laid-back atmosphere in San Francisco, artists in California found a new voice and style all their own.  This exhibition takes a look into the unique evolution of creativity in this one medium, in this one region — our own.

What became known as the Northern California Clay Movement began 60 years ago with the work of Peter Voulkos at U.C. Berkeley and Robert Arneson at U.C. Davis. Their work broke new ground for the ceramic arts, moving away from the decorative and utilitarian and toward sculpture in clay that transcended all traditions. Their students and following generations have continued to create a thriving culture of experimentation and innovation in ceramics here in Northern California.

The exhibition is not a fully comprehensive catalogue of the many great artists who made their homes in Northern California. The goal is to highlight the creative development of ceramic sculpture in our region over the past several decades. As Curator Lisa McDermott explains, “Attempting an exhibition of this scope was ambitious for a museum of our size. But working with the generous cooperation of some of the region’s most admired ceramists, and with the support of an influential private collector, we have been fortunate to be able to curate an exhibition with depth and breadth.”

The 16 artists featured in the show represent several generations and five decades. Significant works by the foundational artists in the movement (Peter Voulkos, Robert Arneson, Stephen De Staebler, and Ruth Rippon) set the stage for the survey of works. The exhibition attempts to balance different styles, different techniques, and different demographics. There is no single definition for either “ceramic sculptor” or “Northern Californian” — it is our diversity that helps set us apart.

The CAC has several special educational events scheduled during the exhibition, including a presentation by artist Susannah Israel on the evening of the public reception, April 8, at 6:30 p.m.  Ms. Israel will talk about the development of her work, focusing on the ideas that persist and develop into series.  These include works relating to art & industry, group compositions, and pieces depicting creative work – from writing to playing the cello. She plans to discuss her process, inspiration, and continuity.

Artists in the exhibition: Robert Arneson, Lorraine Bonner, Titia Barnett-Gudde, Stephen De Staebler, Arthur Gonzalez, Don Hall, Susannah Israel, Vaea Marx, Tony Natsoulas, Cathi Newlin, Lisa Reinerston, Ruth Rippon, Ellen Roehne, John Toki, Peter Voulkos, and Wesley Wright.

EXHIBITION DATES:  March 29 – May 28, 2022

EVENTS: Artist Talk with Bay Area sculptor Susannah Israel, Friday, April 8, at 6:30 p.m.  followed by a free public reception from 7-9 p.m.

Family Friday: Play with Clay, April 15, 7-8 p.m.  Free. Sponsored by Laguna Clay Company.

Saturday Studio: Clay Faces, April 23, drop-in 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. $5 per maker; $3 CAC members.

Gallery Conversation with curator Lisa McDermott and sculptor John Toki, Thursday, May 19, at 7 p.m.

GALLERY HOURS: Tuesday – Saturday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

ADMISSION: $7 general; $5 seniors & students; CAC members, CSU Stanislaus students, and children 12 and under are admitted free. First Friday of every month is free admission for all.

Website:, Facebook: @carnegieturlock, Instagram: @carnegiearts, Twitter: @carnegieturlock

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