Down Range 2018 clay glaze, pigment 9.5” x 16” x 14”
Our October exhibition features narrative sculptures by ceramic artist Thomas Orr. Orr served in Vietnam as a combat infantry platoon leader and his wartime experiences are influential in his work. After his service, he took his first ceramic class in 1971 at Clatsop College in Astoria Oregon where he was studying Oceanography. He fell in love with the material and changed his course of study. After several years as a studio artist he attended the Claremont Graduate School where he received his MFA in 1990. Thomas was the chair of the ceramics department at the Oregon College of Arts and Crafts for nearly 19 years and is now Professor Emeritus. He currently co-directs the Emerging Artist Mentorship Program at the Ash Street Project in Portland, Oregon.
Thomas Orr's ceramic work are highly personal sculptures. He once referred to them as "small scale stage sets." These settings evolved over time in both scale and in content to become environments, depicting activities that may have taken place in the past, but have a "potential of a future activity."
Initially, the artist's reason for their creation was purely one of enjoyment. They moved from stage sets to playgrounds, and finally to sculptural environments. Their intent and content became deeper and more personal. According to Orr, "My most trusted critic, my wife, said to me “those aren’t playgrounds….. they are Vietnam”.
Plinth Gallery Curator Jonathan Kaplan, reflects that "clearly, Orr's personal narrative is deeply entwined with his history and memory, and has a potential to always morph into something other, or that which is pending. Thomas Orr's sculptures shows the importance of art making and how personal narrative can become transformative both to the artist and to the viewer."