Chuck Stern Ceramics
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Chuck Stern media

Chuck Stern: Selections: 1985-2010
February 1- March 11, 2010

Reception and Gallery Conversation:
Wednesday, March 10, 11-1pm
Holyoke Community College

Tabor Art Gallery
303 Homestead Avenue
Holyoke, MA 01040

413-552-2614 (Call ahead for gallery hours) .

Statement: Holyoke Community College; Feb. 2010.

This mid career retrospective offers me a unique opportunity to assess the changes, similarities and the growth of my work over the past 25 years. And although my work has finally evolved from narrative to abstract and from political/philosophical to visual and visceral, there remains I find, threads of continuity. There is the power of the line - my love of drawing remains undiminished. And pattern - whether in nature, the artistic, or the inadvertent. And, of course, texture - both for its tactile quality and it’s engagement with uncomprehending beams of light.

But above all, there remains my awe and naked jealousy of nature’s artistic abilities. From the beginning, I have attempted to co-opt her into my work by continuing to push technique beyond my control. I’ve layered paints and canvasses, mixed wax and sand in the paints, slowed the shutter on my camera, and shot without composing. And I finally moved on to clay where control is almost impossible (for me) and firing the work in a soda kiln inevitably gives nature the final say. The process is exciting, the results are decidedly mixed, but there is often serendipitous success that would never have happened without this primordial assistance.

And there have been changes. Beyond the obvious changes in media and narrative, the greatest changes have happened in my intentions, my ambitions and what I hope to communicate. I’ve come to believe that while the largest and the loudest get the lion’s share of attention in politics, the art world or the garden, it is the work of subtlety that offers the greatest opportunity of quiet growth and enrichment. Perhaps it’s just my age talking, but for me, less is now more and a rich engagement with just one person trumps the fleeting, passing glance of the crowd.

It’s been a great run so far and I feel there’s something just beyond my sightline urging me to keep this expedition going. So on it goes.

Chuck Stern


Sculptural Ceramics

Oct 5 - Nov 11, 2009

Raymond M. Lafontaine Fine Arts Center

Gallery Hours: Mon. - Fri. 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Mount Wachesett Community College
444 Green Street,
Gardner MA 01440

(978) 632-6600


Oct. 3 - Nov 9, 2008

Please join us for the opening reception with the artist:
Oct. 11, 5-8 pm

Chuck comments on the work:
I came to clay by way of woodworking, painting and photography. And as time consuming as the others were to learn, clay seems to me the most difficult medium to assimilate - it’s simply the most willful of the bunch. A teacher of mine, Sadashi Inazuka said, “Chuck, the clay is 10,000 years old - it knows more than you do.” And while it may seem a quaint homily (it did to me at the time), it turns out that the only pieces I feel have any satisfying qualities are the ones I didn’t try to beat into submission. The results were far more satisfying when I was patient enough to catch the hints the clay was giving - when I was calm enough to step back and see/feel the next step …

And because I’m forced (?!) to slow down and spend time out of my usual head chatter, clay has allowed me to plumb deeper into the unknown. To create something that I had not seen before hand - that my hand saw before my brain. It’s a real gift of the medium.

So part of the goal is simply to learn how to work with this wonder-full stuff. It seems akin to learning a foreign language; first the teachers (great local potters) give you vocabulary, then sentences and then some phrases. Then you put together a combination of colloquial phrases, find some inflection or rhythm. Then you expand your vocabulary with success and beautiful serendipitous mistakes. You begin to acquire the tools that form the basis of your ability to communicate. You begin to trust your understanding - and your work expands into that trust. Like language, it is finally only developed from time spent using it. Clay and work are the ultimate teachers.

Part of the goal is to make artifacts that sit in the room like the interesting stranger you hope to meet at a party - fine looking, a colorful story-teller and a good listener. One who keeps you entertained with new ideas and interesting takes on old ones. But even the works that turn out shy or obtuse should mean well and have enough character to amply repay your efforts to get to know them. It would be wonderful to make something that adds a bit of respite from the everyday internal conversation and leaves you feeling better after your encounter. But short of that, I would hope they would lend some sweetness to the ether.

And the final part is wondering where this stuff will take me tomorrow and tomorrows.

These pieces are the result of a search for an unknown, satisfying form within the constraints of the available technical tools, a lifelong cache of visual patterns, and the emotional wiring that drives me forward and holds me back.

My work is predominantly coil built and soda fired, often multiple times in a cross-draft kiln. It is fired to 2300 f, with the soda added at about 2200 f for about an hour.


Patty Arbour
The Artisan Gallery
Northampton, Ma 01060