Exhibition > Featured Artists
Stephen L. Horn
In 1974, one of my professors at Cal State Fullerton required those of us in his graduate seminar to write a personal statement
about their artistic philosophy. I did not keep a copy of mine, and all that I can remember is my last line, a quotation from Dante:
“Do as the Divine: create.” At the time I was not conscious of what I (or Dante) meant by that, but it was an urge that I deeply felt.
Forty years later, the meaning is clearer.
It’s about doing what comes naturally, about playing, about potential—following thoughts and impulses, seeing what happens if I
try this or that, and taking a ride to somewhere unknown. It’s about learning how to stand out of the way and let the process take over.
It’s a journey with no destination that brings the soul near.
I would never have imagined that I would be making the things that I make. George Ohr, the Biloxi potter, wrote at the turn of the
century: “Clay follows the fingers and the fingers follow the mind.” I’m happy that I have worked and lived long enough to develop
the skills needed to create these objects. And the neurons are still firing too.
SURFING, CERAMICS, TAI CHI AND GEORGE OHR (LISTED IN THE ORDER OF MY DISCOVERY)
As a long-time surfer, I was stoked when I first saw George Ohr’s mud babies. That was also my reaction to my first ceramics class and
my first tai chi lesson. All of these activities—surfing, making things out of clay, doing tai chi—embody a tension between a disciplined,
balanced core and an expressive and sometimes explosive flow of movement. They’re meditative and solitary, and they’re tribal at the same.
And, putting aside the Zen business, they’re a whole lot of fun! Ideas are important, but they don’t mean a thing if they ain’t got that zing.
I suppose it was impudent and maybe imprudent to want to be a member of a George Ohr tribe, to attach my work to that of an artist who was so
clearly one of a kind. But, as with surfing and ceramics and tai chi, he was irresistible to me. I saw his pots and I wondered, How do you do
that? And then I just wanted to see if I could.
It took several years to learn to work in the way of George Ohr—to throw thin and to execute the twists, dents, pinches, ruffles and collapses
(controlled or otherwise). These techniques are more akin to glassblowing, as is Ohr’s method of working on the top and bottom of a piece at
more or less the same time. Many of his glazes are also very glassy; it was a challenge to develop my own glazes in the Ohr spirit.
When you adopt someone’s methods, inevitably you will arrive at many of the same conclusions, but you hope you can push a little farther,
past mere emulation, or perhaps in a different direction. Standing on George Ohr’s shoulders is no easy feat: it’s a balancing act, like
trying to stay on your board atop a wild wave. I know there are many more waves out there in several vast oceans, but this one has been a great ride.
I received an M.A. in art from California State University, Fullerton, in 1975, and my M.F.A. from that same institution in 1996.
Since taking my first ceramics class in the late 1960s, I have worked steadily in my own studio and taught ceramics at several colleges
in Southern California, including Riverside Community College, where I am a full professor of art and chair of the art department. I have
also served as an arts commissioner for the City of Pasadena.
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Exhibitions include “California Ceramics and Glass” (The Oakland Museum of Art, 1974), “Earth and Fire: The Marer Collection of Contemporary
Ceramics” (Pomona College, 1984), “Art in Clay” (Olympic Arts Festival, Barnsdall Park, 1984), “Vessels” (Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena, 1996–97),
and “Brand XXCII” (Brand Library and Art Center, Glendale, 1997–98), “Other Mad Potters,” Corollary Exhibition to “George Ohr Rising,” American
Museum of Ceramic Art Pomona, Ca., 2007.