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Howard Pierce


Vase With Open Center and Silken Giraffe With Palm
circa 1956

8.75 x 5.5 x 2.25 in.

Much of Howard Pierce’s work was more commanding than the multitude of ceramic candlestick, candy bowl, and critter artists of mid-century southern California ceramics. This vase is an excellent example of his unique additive approach. Not only does the vase have an eye-catching, beautifully shaped open space in the middle, he fills that space with a silken palm and giraffe. Because the negative space in the middle of the vase splits the interior chamber, making pleasing flower arranging difficult, Pierce is making the vase into a non-functional sculpture piece. This cast slip mold vase was produced in Claremont, CA in speckled yellow, pink, green, and sandstone. Pierce worked with porcelain slip in a one-firing process—which is rare today. The flora and fauna in the open space are made of white porcelain bisque, and have a satin sheen from the clay elements in porcelain.

Pierce was born in Chicago and attended the University of Illinois, the Art Institute of Chicago and Pomona College in Claremont, CA. He moved to Pasadena, CA in 1934 and worked with William Manaker in 1938. During WWII he worked for the Douglas Aircraft Factory in Long Beach as a production illustrator. His production flourished from his studio in Claremont from the mid-40s to 1968 when he moved to his twenty-acre property in Joshua Tree, CA. His large (up to twelve-feet high) and small figures exhibit a semi-abstract quality. He preferred abstract, but the public preferred realistic, so he created this compromise. He also worked in concrete, plastic, plaster, brass, pewter, drawings, and anything else he found around the house. Art was his life.

Billie Sessions, PhD.

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