I am a tourist who just cut in line.
I am in, arguably, the biggest ceramics exhibition this year: the NCECA Invitational 2012, Push Play. And, by ‘biggest’ I mean prestige, not size. Size doesn’t matter… especially since my piece is one of the smallest in the exhibit and only half mine. The other half belongs to my buddy, Ian F. Thomas. Our latest collaboration featured me wood-working and him handling the clay. That’s right kids, I am in a major ceramics show without getting my hands dirty. (images of our piece below, statement here.)

The 2012 Invitational exhibit PUSH PLAY  is developed and sponsored by NCECA, held in Seattle this year. As part of my professional development I went to the conference and the opening for the exhibition. The following photo essay documents my trip to Seattle, visiting exhibitions in the area, and skipping part of the conference to go to Comicon on Friday.

As soon as we arrived, Ian and I were alerted to a major omission in the advertising that was handed out to thousands of NCECA members: Ian’s name was left off of the caption for our piece. Ian handled it like a champ, but it kind of screwed him over as he is the ceramicist who handled every facet of our entry and I somehow got all the credit.

Also, I realized that upon arrival and a subsequent tour that I’m a sucker for PVD, which I saw several times in the Conference Center exhibition hall. It’s so shiny! You could make a lump of coal look like gold, which is the kind of alchemy I like.


Design Center, Seattle_ Maybe 30 ceramic exhibits were held in the design center. After the first 4 or 5 shows I thought that I should lower my standards a bit, because I was pretty bored and disappointed in the level of work. I was beginning to resent the $15 taxi ride. A friend of ours and fellow Culture Lab member, Dryden Wells, was working a booth in the building for The Pottery Workshop in Jingdezhen, China. He led us to a couple great exhibitions in the building that totally redeemed the Ceramics world.

I actually derived the most inspiration from the Design Center’s installation systems, which were abandoned in the corners of the exhibit rooms:

Thursday night: Bellevue Arts Museum, PUSH PLAY. _ Most of these people are crazy famous in the ceramics world, like Beth Cavener Stichter, and several of them are famous in the art world, like Kiki Smith [link]. And yes, there is a difference between the ceramics world and the art world.

Briefly: Ceramics stems from a tradition that involves both craft and art, often showcasing vessels or pots, few of which really explore conceptual ideology beyond form and technique. The contemporary art world in which I try to participate requires conceptual grounding in order to validate the need for craft. It is not a prerequisite, it is a conceptual tool. (Oddly, painting and drawing are somehow are still considered ‘art’ even if they are craft, due in part to the ‘individual genius’ stigma that has been attached to the medium since the Renaissance.) There is a high degree of overlap in the fields of art and ceramics, yet we had several conversations about ceramics being an ‘incestuous’ medium: setting up a world of mutual admiration amongst peers and craftsman without a need to relate to the larger contemporary art community.
This conversation was held with Keith Williams, President elect of NCECA and several other artists at a WVU party, which goes to show that they are aware of the box they are in and smart enough to break out of it if they so choose.

Back to the Museum show, a $45 cab ride each way, but they had a DJ spinning funk at the opening, so it was kind of worth it.


My piece, using Dryden’s head for a scale reference. (there is even a ‘gallery stop’ audio track that goes with our art work: call 425-749-3555, punch in the number 13. )

There was also a great show upstairs at the BAM: Making Mends, featuring work by my friend Paul Villinski with whom, coincidentally, I had a long conversation earlier in the day about moving to New York.

My wife asked me to send pictures of Seattle, so I provided her with several pictures of Ian.

Low and behold, on Friday “Comicon” opened at the Seattle Conference Center… in the same building as NCECA. So, I spent $20 on a day pass and geeked out for a couple hours. I ran into one of the cast members from the Guild: Wil Wheaton, talked to comic book artists, saw several warrior dudes and scantily clad females who happily disregard social norms of body type to don amazing outfits. (I am serious here… It was great to see a passionate community where people support each. It was a safe haven for overt displays, yet it seemed awful strange to see it on the streets outside.)

(A Mord Sith with an Ageal, and Captain Hammer wrestling with Dr. Horrible.)

We also went to several hotel parties during NCECA: a killer Indiana University party (we left about 2:30 AM, 4:30 AM Texas time), a great Western Virginia University party, and a Texas Tech University “Ash Tray” exhibit with plenty of booze. (we also met another Culture Lab member at the TTU party: Sarah Haven.)

(view from the TTU hotel room)

and as I exit, a parting shot of the pall above Seattle:





2 responses to “A tourist at NCECA, Seattle”

  1. Joe Arredondo Avatar
    Joe Arredondo


    Sadly, when I called Bellevue Art Center, they seemed to have discontinued the information about your piece (and Ian’s).