Ceramics Professor Pushes New Materials into Traditional Clay

A new international exhibition, Clay+, proposed and juried by Assistant Professor Wade MacDonald, opens on August 6 at the Clay Center of New Orleans. The show will run from August 6 through September 18, 2021. Clay+ features fourteen ceramicists selected by MacDonald who use clay in conjunction with other materials in their respective practices.

Although the field of ceramics today continues to focus primarily on clay, it is slowly beginning to welcome other materials, many that are not at all associated with ceramics. “The contemporary ceramics conversation is multi-layered but leans heavily toward a purist philosophy focused only on clay and the processes and histories associated with that material,” MacDonald said. “In my opinion, for the field to continue to evolve, it must embrace a multitude of approaches to making along with new conceptual frameworks. Using materials other than clay to enhance and elevate the ceramic object is one such approach – it is just an alternative way to consider the histories, processes and meaning of the material.”

MacDonald said he believes the most exciting ceramics programs are pushing interdisciplinarity. “The clay tent is big enough to include all forms of ceramic art and the larger art world supports this notion. This exhibition, Clay+, aims to showcase artists who are changing the field by including multiple materials alongside clay within their art practice.”

MacDonald, who teaches ceramics, including all the traditional methods of clay work, at UA, uses a variety of unusual materials with clay in his own work. Wood, foam, vinyl and Plexiglas often show up in his architectural clay sculptures. “I’ve been fortunate to be in ceramics exhibitions with my mixed media work. This is due, in part, to the clay components being front and center. The other materials used are not the focus of the work but support the ceramic objects literally and metaphorically.”

MacDonald’s work has appeared in juried exhibitions at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, Milwaukee, Wis.; Kennedy Museum of Art, Ohio University in Athens, Ohio; Urban Institute of Contemporary Arts, Grand Rapids, Mich., and many others. His solo exhibition, Eden: Wade Folger MacDonald, at Auburn University’s Biggin Gallery, will be up through August 26, 2021. He received the 2018 National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) Emerging Artist Award and was profiled in American Craft Magazine (August/September 2018).

For more information about The University of Alabama’s programs in studio art and art history, visit our Degree Programs page.