John Spiteri & Carey Overstreet
2nd Floor Gallery Show:
November 12th - December 6th
I began working in clay at a time when there were serious questions about the purpose of art, when it became difficult to make art that was not construed to be decoration for the affluent lifestyle. Finding functional clay presented itself as a means around this dilemma. Functional art in general had little intellectual baggage. I found I could make a bowl and that was that!
Functional form is constrained, but within those constraints there exists myriad possibilities, and the classical elements of harmony, balance, gesture, and mystery, (among others that may present themselves in specific situations), combine to give me an almost infinite number of possible combinations. It is with these design variables that I work hoping to approach, one pot at a time, the elusive perfection of expression. One never arrives at perfection, of course, but what can be achieved, I believe, is a poetics of form that ends with compelling objects that are capable of infusing themselves into our daily lives.
Influences on my work operate at a sub-conscious level; they find their way from many directions, times, and places. I resonate with the balance of historical Asian pottery, the legacy of the Leach and Hamada tradition, the rich and varied accidental surfaces of soda and salt glazed wares. The constant, however, is always an almost obsessive exploration of form and function. With each iteration I want to achieve a vessel that fulfills a real purpose, and at the same time holds its own in space and time, an object that compels rather than insists on attention.
I am primarily a self-taught functional potter working in
stoneware and porcelain, firing my work in gas reduction, soda, and
electric atmospheres. By self-taught I mean that I have not studied
ceramics in an undergraduate or graduate setting. My interest in
ceramics began at the end of the 1960s when, disillusioned with my
studies, I happened into a university building, the entrance to
which was sculpted in clay.
I found on campus the ceramic artist who did that entrance and became intensely interested in what I found in her pottery studio, in her work, and in the work of her graduate students. In a short time I gave up most of my other academic pursuits and immersed myself in learning about form and function in clay.
After learning the rudiments of my craft, I headed out to Colorado on an invitation to teach a summer session at a pottery camp there. I quickly became friends with a whole community of artist-craftsmen. In particular, I became an informal apprentice to a very good functional potter and refined both my craft and my understanding of what I was doing and why I was doing it.
Recently, I've been a member of a local clay coop, and teach throwing there and at a ceramics gallery in Oak Park. My teaching is a means to see what I have to say about my work.
and Artist Statement
I am a mostly self-taught MFA drop-out working in oil, acrylic and collage paintings. In the 1980's, I had the misfortune of being in a graduate studio program, when conceptual art was the vogue and painting was supposed to be dead or at least passé. I thought that was silly to say the least, if not outright absurd. I've always been the moth-to-the-flame of a good painting. A good painting excites and stimulates me as no other art form can.
Art that satisfies and excites me usually operates on a sensual, emotional and intellectual level. When I work I try to engage my heart, mind and hand. A difficult but worthwhile goal. I feel lucky when I get two out of three. Duchamp challenged the brain but Matisse, Vermeer, Caravaggio and Johns to mention a few painters, hit on all cylinders.
My paintings can run the gamut from abstract, figurative, landscape or collage and rather than being unfocused, this gives me the best chance to realize the goal of reaching more than one dimension.
I can't remember when, even as a child, I didn't draw or paint and I've stayed active with painting as part of what I do from day-to-day and year-to-year while maintaining a career in business and an active family life. Family, work and art creates a balance that informs and supports each part of my life. At times, I've been away from my painting for long stretches - but I always return and some part of me is always involved with thinking of art - or doing art.