1994 - metal: bronze
It has been said that Toshiko Takaezu may have been the first potter to successfully close a pot. This seminal decision removed her work and ceramics as a whole, from the realm of craft and functionality, to that of fine art. Her closed, vertical vessels have become her hallmark. Continually drawing inspiration from the natural world and a combination of Eastern and Western techniques and aesthetics, Takaezu crafted a signature vocabulary of ceramic forms. For the most part, her earlier works are wheel thrown, but as she began to envision larger forms, she incorporated hand built techniques in order to transcend the restrictions of the wheel. Her painterly application of glazes acts as a dynamic, visual counterpoint to her meticulously crafted shapes. In regards to her affinity for the clay medium, the artist asserts, "One of the best things about clay is that I can be completely free and honest with it. And clay responds to me. The clay is alive and even when it is dry, it is still breathing! I can feel the response in my hands, and I don't have to force the clay. The whole process is an interplay between the clay and myself and often the clay has much to say." – from The Penland School of Crafts Book of Pottery, New York: Bubbs-Merrill, 1973, p. 145. Many of her pieces remain unnamed; however, she sometimes titled her works according to their varied fonts of inspiration including the astronomical lore of Egypt, West Africa, and Greek & Roman mythology. Her work is represented at Grounds For Sculpture by the Three Graces--a trio of forms that gently swell from their individual cylindrical bases. The turning lines from the potter’s wheel that are still visible in these cast bronze versions reveal the process of their creation and highlight the rhythmic, formal unity between the sculptural elements. The human scale and voluptuous form of each of the Three Graces, coupled with their title, invite figurative interpretation; while the varied patinas refer to their natural surroundings. This piece is part of a series of larger works by the artist. After her retirement from the faculty of the Creative Arts Program at Princeton University in 1992, where she had taught for twenty-five years, Takaezu took advantage of her larger studio space, bigger kilns, and increased time to experiment with new ideas on a larger scale. "At this point I'm making bigger pieces, over five feet high," she revealed, "about 10 years ago I decided, if I don't make those big pieces now, I'll never do it. I like the idea of going around the piece and glazing--it's almost like dancing."