Paul Greenhalgh's essay Social Complexity and the Historiography of Ceramic addresses several ideas concerning the ceramic medium's relationship to Modernity. I enjoyed Greenhalgh's definition of the term Modernity, especially after he quoted Wilde's comments and categorizations of Victorian Society. I would be curious to hear a conversation regarding Modernity between Greenhalgh and Josiah McElheny--as McElheny is using glass as a material which has a "historiography" I might compare to that of ceramics. I would be curious to know if Greenhalgh would conclude from their conversation that McElheny is an artist who is exploring the next phase of modernism, dubbed "complex modernism" by Greenhalgh.
Greenhalgh aslo briefly addresses the complexity of ceramic's historical realtionship to the decorative. He states "Ceramic is a discreet set of stories within the history of ornamentation" as one of his bulleted points. I would love to read more regarding this topic as this seems to be such a loaded statement. What are these stories? What would Greenhalgh write about in his history of ornamentation?
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Greenhalgh's use of Wilde's writing style in his essay as described above tickled me. It was an effective and humorous way to categorize ways of looking at ceramic objects.
As a result of brainstorming about the questions I often ask as I look at ceramics, I will categorize and phrase my own list in the following manner (please keep in mind that many of these questions can be asked of many of the categories--not just the one it is listed in) :
1) In regards to the PHYSICAL
* What materials were used? (regional vs. far reaching--what materials were available?)
* How it was made? (Handbuilt, wheel or cast? Mass produced? What kinds of glazes? Technical proficiency of the maker(s), surface treatment,specific color choices, time involved in making the object, what does the bottom look like? With what tools?)
* How does material choice affect value?
* Why was it made? (for what specific function, purpose, does it belong to a larger group of objects?)
* Where was it made? (regional or "folk tradition")
* How big it is? What does it weigh? How does it relate to the body?
* Does it have all of its parts?
2) In regards to SOCIETY
* Who made it? (what is the role of the object for the person who made it? WHo were the artist's teachers? Gender of the artist? Age, work enviornment, politics, education, lifespan of the artist, how did these factors afffect/not affect their career?)
* Who was it made for? (why? who paid for it to be made? What class was it made for? What was the class of the maker? Is it valued the same by the society that made the object as the society that purchased the object?
* What is the cultural influence on the object? (far reaching? regional?)
* Was there an inspiration for the object? If so, what was the inspiring factor?
* Was it made for personal or public use? (religious or secular, everyday or ceremonial)
* Does the conext in which you regard it affect its meaning
* Is it beautiful? Interesting? Is there visible iconic or narrative meaning or information present?
* What does the object say about the person who owns it?
* Can it be shared?
3) In regards to HISTORY
* How has time cahnged the object?
* Does the permanence of the object affect its value? (Will it appreciate? What is its worth? Says who?
* Was it considered art when it was made (How does that change how we regard the object? Is it original? Was originality valuable at the time it was made?
* Could the object still be used today for its original function? What is the modern equivalent? What is its historical equivalent?
* Does it have a title?
* What is the provenance of the object? Was it well cared for?
* How does it relate to other objects of its time? Was it meant to last? How does it relate to the history of similar objects?
* Why is it displayed the way it is?