Saturday, August 23, 2008

Ceramic City

I have been doing some research about the piece of artwork my mother bought at the auction at Midtown Plaza. A ceramic artist made it at the School for American Craftsmen (SAC). The artist is Hobart Cowles (1923-1980). He was a professor at SAC when it was in downtown Rochester and at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

I came across the email address for his widow, Barbara Cowles, during my online research. I sent her a note about the piece and asked her if she knew anything about it. Barbara got back to me the same day.

She thinks the piece was made for a contest Midtown Plaza held for new artwork for the opening of the mall in 1962. The artwork has an address on the back, and she says that was their home address until November 1962. That means the piece was made before that date. She does not remember the piece itself because she says “Hobie” did his work at the studio, and she did not get to see much of his work. She thinks the title may be “Monroe County”, but asked me not to hold her to that statement.

It is possible that some of his students may have helped with the piece. I’m in the process of trying to track down any student who may remember it. We are also in the process of finding an art appraiser to tell us how much it is worth. I’m not sure if my mother plans to sell it at this point. Gauging a value may be difficult since it has no initial sale value as it was made for a contest.

I have probably spent about 3 hours just looking at it and studying its shapes and texture. There’s so much to look at. The artwork measures 31” x 49 ¼”. The tallest building is about 2 ½” tall. The whole thing with the wood base is about 4” thick. It weighs 70 pounds.

I like how he made cut outs for some of the buildings instead of building them up. The whole design is very well balanced. The water has crushed glass beneath the clear glazing so it sparkles in the light. The surface is divided up along what could be roads in the area. It had to be fired in smaller pieces. The smaller pieces are set in concrete. The way it is both accurate and representational is amazing to me. I find the two hard to mix in my own work.

1 comment:

Joolie said...

Good detective work! That is such a great find.

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