Rebecca Chappell returns to NCC after being gone for eleven years. When she was last here, in 2008 – 2009, it was as an Emerging Artist Resident. You may remember her striking tabletop composition from the cover of the November 2011 issue of Ceramics Monthly. Chronicled in the article was Chappell’s choice to switch from porcelain to earthenware, a change she embraced during her 2010 – 2011 Fellowship at The Clay Studio. She has continued to embrace the directness earthenware affords her vision. Her use of color is unapologetic and bold, an appropriate complement to her forms, which are highly evolved and yet retain a delicious primitiveness.
This combination can also be identified as intuition, moderated by deliberately methodical decisions, creating a format for Chappell to explore the concept of pots. She reaches beyond function, saying:
Pots can be covert instruments for carrying messages—objects that, over time, through intimate actions with the human body, slowly reveal surprises and meanings that are contained within. They are a subtle way of communicating that need not be obviously aggressive or confrontational in order to have presence and importance. Patience, curiosity, and a willingness to play are all required to reveal the surprises that pots for use can contain. Pottery runs parallel with life but never can equal it. It can contain sustenance, hold, provide, and offer it, but cannot breathe in the same way. Pots for use are dependent on embedded memories, as well as the substances they hold or present in order to gain importance.
While Chappell is very engaged in the “idea” of useful pots, she also emphasizes the importance of respecting the parameters of function, explaining:
The familiarity of pottery is a very useful tool when I engineer my work. Everyone knows and uses dishes on a daily basis. They are comfortable and readily accepted into the home for an intimate touch, which is consequently often overlooked or dismissed as a result of this familiarity. It is an acquired atrophy of the senses. When does a motion of the hand become like breathing? I question how much of the familiar pottery vocabulary needs to remain in order to maintain these types of relationships.
Chappell received her MFA from the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University in 2008 and her BFA from the Cleveland Institute of Art in 2003. Chappell has participated in solo and group exhibitions across the US. She was awarded the Evelyn Shapiro Foundation Fellowship in 2010 and her work is part of the renowned Rosenfield Collection. She currently resides in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where she was a resident artist from 2010 – 2015 at The Clay Studio. She currently teaches a community class there and has also been teaching at Maryland Institute College of Art for eight years.
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