Excerpts from Essay - The Living Clay by Glenn Adamson:
A few years ago, Ashwini Bhat was at a residency in Appomattox, Virginia – the place where the Civil War ended. The place had a strangely apocalyptic feeling. Rain poured from the sky. She had no cell phone service. And when she waded out into the muck to dig up clay, she was attacked by mud dauber wasps (“they are interested in the same material I am,” she thought). Actually, she was very happy there. She was close, so very close, to nature. Bhat gathered things on her wet walks, filling up her jacket pockets and accumulating interesting piles on the corner of her worktable. When the wasps’ nests fell from the trees, abandoned by their former residents, she would fire them in the kiln. She found chunks of feldspar and other constituent materials of her ceramics and fused them into her sculptures. These works seemed mineral, animal and vegetable all at once.
Bhat is an unusually articulate narrator of her own journey as a sculptor. She can pick out the multiple currents of her biography, and describe how they have all flowed together: her upbringing near Kerala, in west India, where she trained in the traditional dance form of bharatanatyam; her initial training in ceramics with the American expatriate Ray Meeker, in Pondicherry, on the far side of the subcontinent; her time in Japan, living in the cultural capital of Kyoto; and the important role played in her creative life by her partner Forrest, who is a poet and geologist (an ideal love match for a potter!). It was this romantic relationship that drew her to California, where she currently lives and works: “he chose Petaluma, and I chose him.” Bhat has absorbed the local materials and history there with her customary omnivorousness, seeking out new clays and firing processes, and learning about the defining figures of west coast ceramic history, such as Robert Arneson, John Mason, Ron Nagle, and Peter Voulkos: “heroes you are free to worship, she says, “partly because you will never make that kind of work.”
About GLENN ADAMSON: Writer and Curator. Currently Senior Scholar at the Yale Center for British Art. Former Director of Museum of Arts and Design, Head of Research at V & A and Curator at the Chipstone Foundation, Milwaukee
Ashwini Bhat, an artist born in southern India, currently lives and works in the Bay Area, California. She holds an M.A degree in literature and had an earlier career in classical Indian dance. Bhat is awarded with McKnight Foundation Residency Fellowship for 2021 and was a recipient of Howard Foundation Award in 2014. Her work has been exhibited nationally & internationally and can be seen in collections at the Newport Art Museum, USA; Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park, Japan; FuLe International Ceramic Art Museum, China; the Watson Institute at Brown University, USA; New Bedford Historical Society, USA; Daugavplis Mark Rothko Centre, Latvia, and in many private collections. Bhat is the guest curator for the 77th Scripps Annual, Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery, Claremont, CA, 2022. Her work will be shown in Objects USA, NY in 2021 and at American Museum of Ceramic Art, CA in 2022.
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