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Susanne Stephenson

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Susanne Stephenson, American, b. 1935. A 20th century low oval glazed terra cotta wave bowl in blue & orange tones. Initialed "SGS" with artist inventory number "95-N-G" on underside. Measures 15 x 13 x 5" high overall.

“While her early studies were in painting, Stephenson made a conscious choice to present her ideas through the intimacy of pottery form. In doing so, her work elicits our primal being whose perception of touch developed before sight. While color and gesture are paramount to the visual experience of her work, Stephenson delivers human-scale vessels with thickly textured strokes of painted color, sensual and rough edges and unique empty volumes that curious hands delight in exploring. Traditional painting cannot offer such experiences.”
– Artist & curator Paul Kotula on Susanne Stephenson, 2018

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Susanne Stephenson, American, was born in 1935 in Canton, Ohio. She received her BFA degree (1957) from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and her MFA degree (1960) in Ceramics at Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

She taught at the University of Michigan from 1960-1961, and then became a Professor of Art at Eastern Michigan University from 1963-1991, becoming Professor Emeritus in 1991.

Artist Statement:

“The focus of my work in ceramics has been abstracting landscapes in low fire terra cotta clay.The brilliant range of ceramic pigments at this temperature in thick, juicy slips and engobes continues to hold my interest.

The images I deal with in the plate form are fragmented and abstract. The seascape becomes condensed as I try to express a very large image concept in the relatively small space of the pottery form. I am committed to expressing the visual energy that I see in nature at a particular time of day.

The impact of the material clay on my ideas is important because of its plastic and tactile qualities. It helps me pull out the physical and gestural possibilities in my work. To get the full implications of gesture there is a need for three-dimensionality. The energy expressed in the flow of water in nature is an example of gesture. To contain this idea of the landscape in the bowl or vase requires an understanding of gesture. Personally it seems irrelevant to me to pursue the gestural with paint on canvas. For me the canvas is rigid and confining. I am not interested in creating an illusion of space. The clay form for me is a gesture, which carries color of the thickly applied slips. This is the means of my expression.”

- Susanne Stephenson, January, 2007

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