Mark Pharis

Artist Statement

I have been making functional pottery within and outside of academics for many years. During this time I have been engaged in the history of clay, craft, aesthetics, studio process, and the semiotics of vessels. I am particularly interested in the wide range and vigor of objects found in domestic space and focused on the architecture of vessels and the space in which they are used. The themes provided by function are familiar: plates, teapots, vases, and teapots. The functions embodied by these themes are shorthand for a longer and, perhaps, less obvious list of ongoing challenges which include, in no particular order - interactivity, material, metaphor, formal constitution, social and cultural context, an object’s relationship to "fine art", utility as "idea” and musings on the media’s history. For me, the balance among these formal and conceptual concerns - the texture of form, color, surface, and the tactile experience - is renewing and provocative.

Artist Bio

My introduction to ceramics began in the fall of 1967 at the University of Minnesota. I as I began my education at the University, I found my way into several art classes and eventually the clay studio. I had been encouraged by my best friend’s parents to study with Warren MacKenzie, which I eventually did. It was a transformational experience. Nearly all of my early work was functional thrown, and once fired in a wood and oil fired kiln. Since 1992, I have worked exclusively in earthenware. My three-dimensional forms are handbuilt and arrived at through the use of two-dimensional paper patterns and slab built The process owes much to the traditions of patternmaking found in sewing and sheet metal work. When considering form I think about and use geometry while making these pieces, however, it is casual, intuitive and not derived from serious math. I studied with a cohort of talented and committed undergraduate students at the University until 1971. In the summer of 1973 I set up a pottery studio in a rural area outside of Houston, Minnesota and produced work in that studio until 1989. In 1985 I joined the Department of Art at the University of Minnesota as a faculty member. I served as the chair of the department from 1998 to 2004 and as Associate Dean in the College of Liberal Arts from 2005-2008. I retired from the University of Minnesota in May of 2016.