Julia Galloway
Utilitarian Pottery

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Wake Robin

Last year, I was walking through Audubon Park in New Orleans when I came around a bend in the river and there, surprise! Look! A group of about 200 egrets flocked to one small area of the bayou. The air was full of their self-involved energy: they fished, rested, preened and called out that throaty egret croak. In the middle of this urban, busy, bustling city, the egrets prevailed…  It was a stolen moment, a frozen moment, a moment in which we all might pause, quiet ourselves and bear witness. 

I am interested in these still moments in our lives, these times of pause when the day's requirements cease and we are momentarily frozen. We are taken out of ourselves:  my  neighbor stops in the middle of the empty street and turns to catch the wind on his face…  a student is suddenly still before the exuberance of wide-eyed understanding… my own hesitation when I hear the first bird of the morning.

Wake Robin, written by the late 19th century naturalist John Burroughs, is a book of essays documenting his long walks though the wilds of New York State and the birds that he found there.  His beautiful prose, written recordings of his discoveries, came to be an inspiration for the pottery in this exhibition, as did the drawings from John James Audubon's passionate watercolors. I find myself drawn to these watercolors and by drawing them on my pottery, I can look at them closely, again and again. This collection pays homage to the great beauty of these watercolors and to the birds themselves. These pots create flocks in my kitchen cupboards, clusters on shelves in my living room and coveys stacked by the sink.

I am, at heart, a potter. Over the years I have come to understand the world through pottery. Pottery is different than sculpture, photography and painting: it comes into our homes, and into our lives as both useful and decorative objects. The more we use a cup, the more we reach for it and draw it into our day.  It becomes part of the story of our lives. Nothing touches our lips as often as a cup. Few objects in our homes are as intimate and relied upon as the dishes that we eat from for our needed nourishment.

The audio element of this exhibition is a curious addition to displaying pottery. I wanted the user to have a moment’s pause when they select this cup. The birds’ songs cause a pause in which we dwell or that transports us to a different place or time. In addition, this is a salute to the great authors of Magical Realism: If we drink from these cups, perhaps we can sing like these birds. 

This exhibition would not have been possible with out tremendous help and influence from others. I would like to thank: The insightful art historian, Chip Sheffield for bringing John Burroughs to my attention; Forrest Snyder for inspiration and instruction to make this idea a reality; Brandon Carmo and Luke Peart, exceptional woodworkers who so confidently figured out the mechanics and making of the shelving units; Alyssa Grummert and Dulcie Miller, my fantastic, tireless, thoughtful studio assistants; and Allegany Meadows and Sam Harvey for their patience and devotion to the growing understanding and support of the ceramic arts. 

Julia Galloway

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