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Susan Peterson


circa 1970's

10.25 x 5.125 x 5.125 in.
Gift of the artist

Susan Peterson’s Vessel exhibits the artist’s commitment to an expressionist technique. Each stroke of color is gestural and painterly, treating the surface of the object as a canvas. She does not attempt to disguise the vessel’s origins on the potter’s wheel: the imprint from her fingers as she shaped it is clearly visible on the upper body. Peterson remained deeply committed to the philosophies of the vessel tradition for the entirety of her career. While she experimented with scale, color, and surface decoration, she did not abandon the traditional means of production as did so many of her peers in the 1970s.

Few studio potters can claim the influence that Susan Peterson had on the field of postwar American ceramics. She received her BA degree from Mills College in 1946 while working with F. Carlton Ball; she got her MFA from Alfred University in 1950. She taught at the Chouinard Art Institute, and later the University of Southern California, where she remained for twenty-three years. Beyond teaching, Peterson’s legacy lies in her efforts to disseminate the ceramics tradition to the general public, as well as to document its history. She was the host of the influential educational television program Wheels, Kilns, and Clay, first broadcast in 1964. Peterson understood how Japanese and Native American ceramics shaped the development of the art in the United States and wrote several key texts on the subject, including Shōji Hamada: A Potter’s Way and Work (1974), The Living Tradition of María Martinez (1977), and Lucy M. Lewis: American Indian Potter (1984).

Matthew Limb

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