In Response to George Ohr by Lily Fein:
In January 2020 I went to Louisiana and Mississippi to study the work of George Ohr.
I was attracted to how Ohr inverted the metaphor of the vessel- what one would expect to live in the inside of the hollow object manifests itself on the exterior of the pot. In turn, as much as a pot references the human body, then Ohr put the insides of our bodies on the outside of his pots. He made the underlying connection between the vessel and the body overt- putting excrement in teacups, and making vulva piggy banks. He was not shy, which posthumously gave other clay artists permission to play.
I went South thinking that seeing Ohr’s work in the stacks at the New Orleans Museum of Art and at the Ohr-O’keefe museum in Biloxi would bring revelations and new approaches to my work. As I moved through the stacks and made work in the South I began by closely referencing particular Ohr pieces, recreating ghost objects. These objects were essential in this project and helped me realize that I then needed to depart and claim my relationship to Ohr apart from him and the distinct objects and persona that he created. This realization brought me back to myself. Ohr and his artwork were entirely Ohr and to relate to him most was to assert my own narrative within my vessels through repeated motifs and gestures. These gestures feel like they are in conversation with Ohr’s signature twists and folds, but had begun before this project, and continue to change.
There are various ways that I touch these vessels. The first gesture that is imbued in each piece I make is the fingermark from coiling and pinching. I then alter the piece and change its form. Often pushing out from the inside of the vessel creating raised rib-like features. I squeeze parts of the exterior to create folds, and sometimes use a needle to methodically poke the surface and create a new texture that emphasizes the pinch. I am continually reminded of how Ohr claimed his clay gestures in his lifetime while I continue to develop my own in mine.
18% of sales from this exhibition will be donated to Black Lives Matters. Read more here.
Statement from Lucy Lacoste:
Lily Fein: In Response to George Ohr, June 6 - 27, traces the creative journey of this young ceramic artist to New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, as she seeks threads of synchronicity with the revolutionary Ohr, the self-styled ”Mad Potter of Biloxi”. Ultimately, she realizes that the best way to relate to him is to claim her own narrative and return home. Along the way she observes Ohr’s interpretations of the female body from the male identifying perspective and learns how hers might be different as a woman.
George Ohr (1857 – 1918), often considered the first Art Potter in America is known for his flamboyant, wild pots, breaking the boundaries of symmetry. Ahead of his time, he paved the way for contemporary artists to tear into the clay and deconstruct the vessel.
Ohr’s pots have a flamboyant sensuality often bordering on the erotic. They can have a visceral, direct sexuality, as can be seen in his famous money bank—the front is a vulva and the back a breast.
Lily Fein’s sensuality is intuitive, organic, implied—naturally reflecting the outer female sex organs. This is evident in her Vulva series. The edge is important. The clay reflects the way she touched and pinched the clay—as if it were skin.