Tamara Laird - January 2011
January 21st - March 1st, 2011
For our first exhibition of the year 2011, Cross MacKenzie Gallery is pleased to present “Paisley Monuments”, the monumental new ceramic sculpture by D.C. artist, Tamara Laird. An accomplished professional artist, RISD grad, and ceramics professor at the Corcoran College of Art and Design, Laird draws on her extensive world travels to inform her art.
While still a young ceramic student, she traveled to England to meet the world famous Bernard Leach and other British ceramists. Then in 1982, while visiting Zaire, Laird developed a number of illustrated training guides for use by the Peace Corps. In 1984 she moved to Nairobi, Kenya, where she worked at the National Museums of Kenya on a project funded by the United Nations and she also taught art at the Kenyatta University. Her next destination was Bangkok, Thailand with her family, where she carried out extensive research in local ceramics including individual artists, traditional village production, and full-scale industrial ceramics factories. She was invited to participate in an educational tour for traditional northeastern Thai ceramics, sponsored by the Thai government. She has also traveled to Mexico where she participated in a tour of ceramic factories that integrate traditional and contemporary industrial majolica production. Majolica was her focus when in Deruta Italy at the Grazia Majolica Artistiche Artigianali factory, as well. It is not surprising that she currently teaches majolica techniques for a annual summer study abroad program in Amalfi Italy.
Laird is interested in finding the connection between local culture and artistic development. Her current work is based on the paisley motif, a universally recognizable pattern that has been used for thousands of years. The form makes reference to botanical imagery, water, fruit, and fecundity. Usually applied to textiles, the shape is transformed into an elegant yet whimsical and expressive three-dimensional form in Laird’s hands - resembling a plant shoot. Last year her work was included in the show “Flora: Growing Inspirations” at the U.S. Botanical Gardens where they were placed outdoors in the Conservatory Terrace at the foot of the Capitol. The artist makes the sculptures in high-fire stoneware with various glazed surfaces from flat black to reflective metallic lusters demonstrating the material possibilities inherent in clay, a material essential to human development as she discovered first hand all over the world. “I have paired this essential element with a universal symbol to create a monument to ornament”, says Laird.