Fine art

'Migration' on view at TCA's Encore

Sang Roberson's exhibition of ceramic works is rooted in nature

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The title of Sang Roberson’s exhibition at the Encore Gallery is “Migration,” and although one might assume it relates to the idea of a mass exodus of some sort, it’s actually very simple. “The show is called ‘Migration’ and the reason for that is I primarily make pieces of art out of terra-cotta that are on pedestals,” Roberson said at the opening reception to her show Thursday afternoon (July 13). “Most of my work is on tabletops or on mantels or chests of drawers, and for this show, they asked that I have more pieces for the wall, so it challenged me to migrate from the pedestal to the wall.”

“Migration” is a mixture of wall vessels and boxes made of paper clay, as well as Roberson’s traditional terra-cotta box forms on pedestals, a Taos Center for the Arts press release states. Roberson says the many colors of the Southwest — in particular the flowers in her Taos garden — have influenced the shapes and palette for this exhibit.

She describes her work as nonfunctional sculpted boxes and vessels inspired by the organic shapes of nature. Roberson’s work is hand built from slabs of terra-cotta or paper clay. Each piece is burnished with terra sigillata, a fine clay slip. The work is fired twice in electric kilns, then often pit fired outside in hay, sawdust, bamboo and other plants. All findings are organic and the cording used is waxed linen.

Roberson grew up on a lake in the Mississippi Delta, where she was surrounded by nature.

“I share my time between Taos and Ormond Beach, Florida, on the Atlantic,” she says in that region’s lilting accent, “and I’m very much a nature lover. Most of my work relates to nature and, in particular, my garden here in Taos, the flowers in the summertime. They really inspired several of these wall pieces. Then, the rest of it, Deborah [McLean, Taos Center for the Arts executive director] told me I had to make pieces for the wall instead of for pedestals and so they’re just thoughts that came to me. Most of them relate to nature in some way or another.”

When asked if the work might be considered “delicate,” Roberson said, “It’s delicate looking. It’s low-fired clay and like anything, if you drop anything that’s breakable on a concrete floor like this [in the Encore], it will break. But, as far as being sturdy, it is fired and is substantial. The pieces are hung very simply. They have an opening in the back and they’re very easy to mount on the wall, and they’re lightweight because the wall pieces are all made of paper-clay. I usually work in terra-cotta, but these are a bit different.”

Roberson said the difference in atmospheric conditions between humid, sea-level Florida and high desert Taos is obviously quite stark. “As far as the physicality of the works,” she said there is little change. They’re fired the same in both places. Interestingly, and delightfully, paper-clay dries so quickly out here in this arid climate and so I can produce more pieces. I have to watch them because you never want the clay to dry too quickly because it might crack. But, no, the drying time is: In Florida, you don’t need to cover anything. It’s just going to take weeks to dry. Here, it’s a day. So, I have to modify my working habits to accommodate the aridity of Taos.”

She said she also believes that her signature box shapes are derived from the many Sundays she and her family spent at the construction sites of custom homes that her father, a builder, designed. She got her start in pottery from a class she learned about in a newspaper advertisement. The class offered free babysitting, so she took her son and took the class. Since that introduction to ceramics, she has refined her craft and distinctive style. She describes her relationship to clay as “love and obsession.”

Roberson attended Sophie Newcomb College and received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Mississippi. Her sculpted clay forms have been exhibited in galleries nationally and internationally and in juried exhibitions, such as SOFA Chicago, SOFA New York, the Smithsonian Craft Show and the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show.

She is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Individual Fellowship and a Visual Artist Grant from the Florida Department of State. She has led clay workshops at the Penland School in Penland, North Carolina; La Universidad Nacional in Bogotá, Colombia; and Gaya Ceramic, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia, among numerous others. Her artwork is in many public and private collections.

Roberson is represented by Blue Spiral 1, Asheville, North Carolina, and Watson MacRae Gallery, Sanibel, Florida.

The exhibit in the Encore Gallery at the Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte, will be on view through Sept. 3.

For more information, contact Deborah McLean at deborah@tcataos.org or (575) 758-2052.

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