TELLURIDE – By definition, a vessel is a hollow receptacle. And while the pieces featured at this week’s artist’s reception at the Telluride Gallery of Fine Art are identified as vessels, to describe them as empty would be misleading.
The pieces – “vessels” – are art in multiple dimensions. Sculpturally they are stunning, possessing angles and curves that inspire the space they inhabit. Visually they are invigorating, awash in luminous color contrasts and hinting at pattern and geometry without fully committing to either. Physically they are perplexing, hiding a delicate buoyancy (an effect of having been gilded in gold) behind a guise of sturdy composition.
And while the pieces themselves are artistically multi-dimensional, the same can be said of their creator, artist Bennett Bean. His singular ceramics are centerpieces in fine art collections at the White House, Smithsonian Institute, Boston Museum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. Yet Bean’s contemporary imagination is not confined to ceramics alone. He has recently forged a path down a new creative boulevard, crafting rugs that tie his inimitable designs to the ancient technique of Tibetan rug knotting.
Local art aficionados will be able to explore Bean’s two different artistic avenues, guided by none other than the artist himself, at a reception for the artist this Thursday, Aug. 7, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Telluride Gallery of Fine Art. The reception is a highlight of the Thursday night Telluride Art Walk, a program of the Telluride Council for the Arts and Humanities.
“I seldom use the word ‘beauty’ to describe art,” says TGFA’s Director Bärbel Hacke, “but it’s difficult for me not to say it when I talk about Bennett Bean.” Hacke calls Bean an innovator in the field of ceramics, having carved a distinctively “Bean” niche for himself in the world of contemporary ceramics. Bean has been showing at the Telluride Gallery of Fine Art for more than 20 years, and in that time the gallery has founded a solid relationship with the artist even as he has grown into one of the field’s most prominent potters.
Bean’s distinction comes from his inventive take on traditional pottery, which moves the idea of the vessel from utilitarian to inspired. His pieces can be rugged, with elbows of clay bent at 90 angles painted over with squares and lines in bold primary colors, or refined, as in two bowls fit together in an eddying hug of smooth shapes and rounded curves. Every angle at which you view a Bean piece delivers a different experience. And while each piece is distinctive, they maintain a familial connection afforded by his inimitable designs as well as his use of gold gilding. The interior of each vessel has been illuminated by the lightness of the gold, which can be yellowish, whitish or in shades of red.
As he explains on his website, www.bennettbean.com, “I found the idea of the vessel the most personally interesting. It is the paradigm of historical ceramics and not appropriated from the art world… The two characteristics of the vessel that I have chosen as my subject are decorative surface outside and space inside, with the concomitant unfolding of the relationship between these two elements. It is by mining these essential concepts that my work finds consistency and coherence.”
That consistency and coherence has also transferred gracefully into the medium of rugs. Bean’s travels in Nepal inspired his evolution from pottery to rug design. His rugs are all handmade using the knotting techniques handed down through generations of Tibetan rugmakers. Thursday’s showing will be Telluride’s first glimpse of Bean’s new artistic venture.
Bean will be at the Telluride Gallery of Fine Art for the showing this Thursday starting at 5:30 p.m. For more information, visit HYPERLINK "http://www.telluridegallery.com" www.telluridegallery.com. For more information on TCAH’s Thursday Art Walks, visit www.telluridearts.org.