Fantastic ceramics: Doug Herren at the List

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Doug Herren, a noted ceramicist, will be displaying his artwork at the List Gallery from now until November 6. The Gallery held a well-attended reception this past Friday to showcase the work and introduce the artist. Herren works as a studio technician at the College.

More than twenty pieces, all glazed and enameled stone, highlight this particularly prolific and whimsical artist. Functional items take on a colorful cast as interpreted by the artist. What could be a serving plate in any normal home, “Platter Form #5,” becomes a gold and turquoise fountain when reproduced by Herren. In one instance, a pretty functional “Teapot” turns into a Mad Hatter’s purple fancy through the artist’s imagination. Other ceramic works such as “Platter Form #6” take on an almost cartoon personality, with pronounced bumps and silly spikes. With its bold red color, the work looks more fit for Daisy Duck’s kitchen counter than an exhibit. Like those Disney animators of old, Herren takes boring and makes it special, begging the question, why can’t all life be as brilliant as a Herren piece?

In an interview, Herren told the Gazette that he chose ceramics “because of the physicality of it, and the tradition…it’s a long process making the pieces. A lot of graphic design majors were sucked into the major, like me.” And as for influences? “It’s either ancient or contemporary, ancient Iran or Egypt or something by Peter Voulkus.” One can see both the spirit of something very old in the stone and the magic of a new spark in the style. Whichever era interests the art fan, he or she will not be disappointed.

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