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Arts of North America

Art created in North America includes objects made by native cultures of the present-day United States and Canada; paintings and decorative arts produced during colonial times; 18th- and 19th-century masterpieces; and the work of contemporary artists and photographers.

American, 1893 - 1998
Gold-lustered earthenware

15 ¼ x 7 ¼ inches

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Gift of Garth Clark and Mark Del Vecchio

Arts of North America

At age 88, when most artists would be well into retirement, Beatrice Wood embarked on a new body of work aesthetically different from her earlier ceramics. Critically lauded as innovative and expressive, the new work almost eclipsed her past objects. The signature pots from this period are a series of complex, often large-scale chalices. Assembled from thrown and hand-built forms, the chalices are totemic, sculptural compositions that demonstrate true harmony between form and glaze.

Wood’s interest in ceramics was initially stirred by the purchase of six Dutch lusterware plates in 1933. Eager for a matching teapot, she enrolled in a ceramics class. After establishing her own studio, Wood created forms that were the result of free exploration, with experimental glazes. For the next 40 years, she made thrown and hand-built vessels and figures in a range of colors and textures. At once vivid and subtle, her glazes had depth and tonal richness and seemed to be molded with light. This spectrum was achieved through her all-over, in-glaze luster that, when fired, caused metallic salts to rise to the surface, a complex process almost impossible to control. Wood’s metallic sheens were unlike any glaze being used by modern potters.