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Louis Marak

American, b. 1942

Handled Teapot

15 x 13.25 x 5.625 in.
Gift of the Nora Eccles Treadwell Foundation

Louis Marak’s illusionistic ceramics grew from his interest in optical illusions and surreal compositions. His clay bodies are a mixture of commercial buff stoneware and traditional porcelain, with added nylon fibers to decrease the risk of the slabs fracturing or distorting. He makes preparatory cartoons on paper at 1:1 scale in order to incise low relief lines and texture drawings into leather-hard press-molded clay slabs. He then brushes on porcelain slips in several layers to create false perspectives. Once the basic form is complete, the work is bisque fired, and a dark stain is airbrushed on to highlight the trompe l’oeil illusions that are characteristic of his work. Marak’s images are full of illusory juxtapositions like that in Handled Teapot, where a hand appears to push through several horizontal levels of a nonetheless flat ceramic box.

Marak is now retired, having taught for nearly forty years at Humboldt State University in California. He grew up in a small town in Oklahoma, received a BFA in crafts from the University of Illinois at Champaign–Urbana in 1965, and an MFA degree in ceramics in 1967 from Alfred University in New York. Marak’s work has been exhibited nationally and abroad, and is represented in many collections. He has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the California Arts Council. He was a visiting artist at the American Academy in Rome (1995), and selected as a recipient of the 2019 National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts Excellence in Teaching Award.

Billie Sessions, PhD.

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