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Gaell Lindstrom

American
(1919–2009)

Plate
1976

Stoneware
2.125 x 11.5 x 11.5 in. (5.398 x 29.21 x 29.21 cm)
Gift of the artist
1984.1000

During his lifetime, Gaell Lindstrom became a master artist in both the watercolor and ceramics mediums. Though he studied painting at the prestigious Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art in 1951, he had noticed the ceramics revival after World War Two, which influenced his involvement in that art. At the University of Utah (1949–1952), he studied painting for his degree, as well as pottery with Dorothy Bearnson. Lindstrom began his teaching career in 1953 in a Cedar City high school, and later taught ceramics classes at the College of Southern Utah in Cedar City, with rather poor wheels and a kerosene-fueled kiln. Despite these nonideal conditions, he thought, “Rather than do another painting or two, I’d like to learn more about ceramics.” He enrolled at the California College of Arts and Crafts (CCAC) in Oakland, and, attending as he could while teaching, he finished his MFA in ceramics in 1962. In the early 1950s Lindstrom had found a very light, yellow clay on a hillside in Cache Valley and brought it to his ceramics class. The clay melted to a very nice mustard color, and it became a useful glaze, still known as the Hyrum Dam glaze. That whetted Lindstrom’s appetite, and natural clays and glaze testing became the subject of his thesis for his CCAC degree.

Utah State University ceramics classes had been taught by Warren Wilson (1949–1954) before his twenty-nine years at Brigham Young University; Harrison Groutage filled in before Lindstrom accepted the USU position in 1957. With some good wheels he established an “emphasis in ceramics” program, while also teaching drawing, painting, and art history. USU was an agriculturally oriented college, and there seemed to be a potentially vacant barn. After moving out the sheep, much sweeping, and further negotiations, USU had an Art Barn. The university remodeled it for ceramics and sculpture, and added a third floor for figure-drawing classes. Lindstrom gathered many clays from sites all over Utah and northern Arizona and tested them in the lab at USU. Some were good for high firing just as they were; others had to be modified to change the color or the maturing temperature. His pieces were often made from Utah’s native clays, using natural slips and glazes and emulating the state’s Native American traditions.

Billie Sessions, PhD.


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