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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 notable than that of the multitude of candy-bowl-and-critter artists of midcentury Southern California ceramics. This vase is an excellent example of his unique approach, with its eye-catching, beautifully shaped open space in the middle displaying a silken palm and giraffe. This negative space splits the interior chamber, making flower arranging difficult, so Pierce turned the vase into a nonfunctional sculpture piece. This slip-cast molded vase is finely speckled in yellow, pink, green, and sandstone. Pierce worked with porcelain slip in a one-firing process, which is rare today. The tree and giraffe in the open space are made of white porcelain bisque, resulting in the satiny sheen.

Pierce was born in Chicago and attended the University of Illinois, the Art Institute of Chicago, and Pomona College in Claremont, California. He moved to Pasadena in 1934 and worked with William Manaker in 1938. During World War Two he was a production illustrator for the Douglas Aircraft Factory in Long Beach. His own production flourished in his Claremont studio from the mid-1940s until 1968, when he moved to a twenty-acre property in Joshua Tree, California. His tall (up to twelve feet) and small figures exhibit a semiabstract quality. He preferred abstract, but the public preferred realistic; pieces like this represented a compromise. He also worked with concrete, plastic, plaster, brass, pewter, drawing, and anything else he found around the house. Art was his life.

Billie Sessions, PhD.

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