American Craft Council Fellows

American Craft Council Fellows

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Robert Brady, Soll, 2007. Photo/Courtesy of Braunstein/Quay Gallery

The American Craft Council's 2007 Aileen Osborn Webb Awards, named for the Council's visionary founder, honor those who have demonstrated outstanding artistic achievement and leadership in the craft field.

Joining the College of Fellows, which now numbers 247 individuals, are Robert Brady, Marilyn da Silva, Mark Lindquist, William Morris, Richard Notkin, Arturo Alonzo Sandoval and, as Honorary Fellow, Nanette Laitman.

Robert Brady Trained and triumphant in ceramics, Brady took a risky segue into wood and now enjoys a rewarding career in two media.

California-based Robert Brady has spent a lifetime exploring the similarly warm and receptive yet distinctly different mediums of clay and wood. Born in Reno, Nevada, in 1946, Brady credits his "crafts" high school teacher, Tom Tucker, as the most important influence on his career. "Without his guidance I am quite sure I would not have had a future in the arts." Encouraged to pursue his fascination with clay, Brady attended the California College of the Arts in Oakland (B.F.A. 1969), before entering the University of California, Davis, receiving an M.F.A. in 1975. Since that year he has taught at California State University, Sacramento, where he is a professor of art.

Brady began his career as a potter, but in time established a reputation as a force in Bay Area ceramic sculpture. Following a variety of work in his first love, Brady turned to wood sculpture by accident, roughly 20 years ago, concentrating on figures that appear totemic, commanding interest for their scale and attenuated postures that might be difficult to achieve in clay. Now alternating between clay and wood, Brady is also at work on two outdoor bronze sculpture commissions. His pieces are in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, among other collections, and he was the subject of the touring show "Robert Brady: Sculpture 1989-2005," organized by the Palo Alto Art Center in 2006. "The greatest reward in my career as an artist is the satisfaction of creating and discovery," Brady says. "Being an artist has led to the appreciation and integration of aesthetic awareness in all aspects of my life. I am grateful for the rich and provocative life afforded me by being a member of the arts community."

Marilyn da Silva
The expansive dialogue with metals da Silva began in the 1970s continues today, often inspired by the inventiveness of her students.

Passionate about using her hands to express her visions, Marilyn da Silva transforms cold metal into nuanced objects, many powerfully depicting personal experience. Born in Akron, Ohio, in 1952, she received her M.F.A. in 1977 from Indiana University in Bloomington, where the late Alma Eikerman was her mentor. "It was through her that I began to realize the possibilities of metal as an art form and the importance of craft and design throughout history," da Silva says.

Color is important to da Silva and she uses gesso and colored pencils to achieve a rich surface on metal, enhancing her narrative approach. "I regard my work as three-dimensional drawings; the forms and colors move through space creating layers both visually and conceptually." Since 1987, da Silva has been professor and program chair in jewelry/metal arts at the California College of the Arts in Oakland, and she regularly lectures and teaches around the country and abroad.

For the last 10 years, birds have been "the primary players in my work," notes da Silva. "They act as metaphors for life's experiences. I casually observe them only to realize that they are often spending time watching us." When asked to contribute to The Penland Book of Jewelry (2005), da Silva returned to wearable pieces, enjoying the challenge "to re-examine what I was making, allowing it to evolve in a different direction." She exhibits widely and her work can be found in the collections of Indiana University, the Oakland Museum of California, the Racine Art Museum and the Modern Museum of Art, Seoul, Korea. "My life revolves around making art and teaching," da Silva says. "I feel fortunate to be able to spend my career doing the things I love and sharing my life with my fellow metalsmith and husband, Jack."

Mark Lindquist
Lindquist's pioneering spirit and bold technical achievements have widened the horizons of turned wood sculpture worldwide.

For Mark Lindquist, working with wood is a family affair. Born in Oakland, California, in 1949, he grew up in Schenectady, New York, learning from his father, engineer and wood turner Melvin Lindquist, who gave Mark his first lathe when he was 10. In 1969, Lindquist built a home and studio in Henniker, New Hampshire, where he applied his studies in art at New England College to the craft he'd learned at his father's side. Ever since, Lindquist has been a full-time studio artist and a leader in the field of turned wood sculpture, known especially for his use of flawed materials, such as spalted wood, and for technical advances involving the coupling of the chainsaw to the lathe. (His Sculpting Wood: Tools and Techniques, 1986, is an essential primer for the field.) He began exhibiting in the early 1970s, and in 1977, his work was included in the group show "Young Americans" at the Museum of Contemporary Craft, and the following year, with that of his father, as well as Ed Moulthrop and Bob Stocksdale, in "The Art of the Turned Bowl" at the Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian.

When Lindquist relocated to Quincy, Florida, in 1983, he created a home/studio in a former 1904 brick packing plant, where he and his wife, Kathy, still live. Continuing his studies at Florida State University, he earned an M.F.A. in 1990. He has lectured and taught at colleges, institutions and workshops around the country and abroad. "Mark Lindquist: Revolutions in Wood," a touring 25-year retrospective, celebrated his career in 1995. His honors include the Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award, New England College (1999), and the American Association of Woodturners' Professional Outreach Program Merit Fellowship (2006). The Art Institute of Chicago; the Mint Museum of Craft + Design, Charlotte, North Carolina; and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, are among the many institutions with his work in their collections. Currently Lindquist is pursuing new directions in monumental sculpture.

William Morris
Tapping into images of ancient human cultures with technical virtuosity, Morris evokes stories that cross boundaries of space and time.

William Morris surprised the glass world by announcing his retirement a few months prior to turning 50 in July 2007, at the peak of a successful career. While studying art in Seattle in the late 1970s, Morris was hired as a truck driver at the Pilchuck Glass School and was soon working as chief gaffer for its founder, Dale Chihuly. Pilchuck became Morris's creative base-he was in turn student, resident artist, teacher and, in 1991, artistic director. He still has a home in Washington.

Born in Carmel, California, Morris enjoyed an outdoor life and has always drawn inspiration, he says, from "the natural world and the way it resonates in humankind; how it compels us and what we recognize through it." He has traveled the world and worked with the masters of Italian glass, developing the technical mastery and evocative imagery that became his signature-his glass sculptures often resemble bone, wood, stone or leather and contain mythological symbols that connect viewers with natural and spiritual forces. His work has been widely exhibited and is in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Corning Museum of Glass; Victoria and Albert Museum; and the Auckland Museum, New Zealand; among others. The James Renwick Alliance honored him with its 2005 Master of the Medium Award. Looking back, Morris notes "the incredible relationships that have been developed over the years," and acknowledges the "profound support that has allowed me to experience a life of free expression and risk. Though I am still using my hands to create, what I realize is that my compulsion to create is independent of an audience or commerce, which gives me a whole new freedom."

Richard Notkin
Since the 1960s, Notkin has never feared expressing his political views in ceramic sculpture. Today he takes on the Iraq War.

In the late 1960s and early 70s, Richard Notkin, then at the beginning of his career (he earned his B.F.A. from the Kansas City Art Institute in 1970, and M.F.A. from the University of California, Davis in 1973), used his ceramic sculpture as a form of protest against the Vietnam War and the presidency of Richard Nixon. With the final withdrawal of troops and the resignation of Nixon, Notkin decided he wanted his work to express more universal themes-humanity, war and the environment-rather than comment on specific incidents or personalities. The election of George W. Bush in 2000 ended what Notkin calls his "self-imposed ban" on pointed political expression. His current work is a passionate protest against the Bush administration and the war in Iraq. "I could not let this moment pass without comment," he says.

Whatever statements Notkin chooses to make these days, the Montana artist is doing so as an internationally recognized ceramist whose teapots and sculptures, many of them inspired by traditional Chinese Yixing wares, are regularly exhibited and grace the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, among others worldwide. In a nearly 40-year career, Notkin, who was born in Chicago in 1948, has been the recipient of three National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, as well as fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation. While Notkin is motivated by his personal political beliefs, he doesn't believe that all art needs to be social commentary. "We need as many objects of sheer beauty or thought-provoking aesthetics-whether figurative, narrative or abstract-as artists, can produce," Notkin says. "All art, in all media and forms, is what I advocate. More art, less bombs."

Arturo Alonzo Sandoval
Fate may have led to Sandoval's career as a weaver. He took its course into his own hands when he began experimenting with new materials.

One late night in 1965, as Arturo Alonzo Sandoval worked in the weaving room at California State College, Los Angeles, where he was a graduate student, the room went dark and he heard a voice. "Weaving will be very important to you," it said. Sandoval, who was born in 1942 in Espanola, New Mexico, and is Hispanic and Native American, believes this may have been an ancestor, possibly one of the men on his paternal grandmother's side of the family who had been weavers of colonial Spanish textiles for over 250 years.

Weaving became more than important to Sandoval-it became his life's work, and after 1965 it evolved into something that even the spirits of the past might never have predicted. In 1969 Sandoval began using recycled industrial products, beginning with Lurex, a metallic yarn that was originally designed for tobacco packaging and decorative window shades. Then in 1973 the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a craftsman fellowship that funded his first machine-sewn series, Sky Grids, in which he used vinyl and polyethylene plastic among other materials. In time he added Mylar, microfilm, battery cable and punched computer tape. Another NEA grant and two fellowships from the Kentucky Arts Council afforded Sandoval the time to experiment with even more materials and techniques.

Beyond his artistic achievements, which have resulted in numerous gallery and museum exhibitions, Sandoval has influenced the fiber field as a widely respected educator-he has been a professor in the department of art at the University of Kentucky in Lexington since 1974. His fiber mixed-media works are in many collections, including those of the Museum of Modern Art and the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Sandoval's influences run the gamut from religion to astronomy to political ethics (or lack there of, as he puts it). "Every day I'm awed by beauty and how it influences our world regardless of the distorted and horrific conditions," he reflects. "My need is to somehow find magnificence in this fodder and to create beauty from the residue of our culture."

Nanette Laitman
In her passion for the decorative arts, Laitman has ensured that the oral histories of 100 leading figures in American studio craft have been preserved for posterity.

In 2000, Nanette Laitman, the board president of the Museum of Arts & Design and a longtime collector of three-dimensional art, decided that the extraordinary life stories of artists working in clay, glass, fiber, metal and wood were worth pre­serving for posterity. Her generous grant to the Smithsonian Institution's Archives of American Art has resulted in the Nanette Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America, a rich trove consisting of oral histories of 100 leading artists and a collection of their personal papers.

Laitman first began acquiring decorative art 35 years ago. Inspired by her parents, who collected antique porcelains, she became interested in contemporary artists in ceramics-among her favorites are the sculptors Daisy Youngblood and Mary Frank. She became involved with the Museum of Arts & Design (formerly the American Craft Museum) more than 15 years ago, when she attended the opening party for a shoe exhibition. After telling the curator about her passion for three-dimensional sculpture, "one thing simply led to another," she says, and she began working with the museum. But Laitman's philanthropic interests, focused on medical research and the arts, extend beyond her work for MAD. She has actively participated in the financial campaigns of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the New York Public Library, the New York Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Opera and the New York City Ballet. As a stalwart "angel" of the arts, Laitman has enabled a variety of cultural endeavors to flourish whatever the economic weather.