The teapot is, at first glance, a simple object: a hollow vessel with spout, handle, and lid created for steeping and pouring. And yet, Morgan Contemporary Glass Gallery in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, describes the artists featured in the 2018 “teapots!12" exhibition as having “accepted the teapots! challenge.” So, what is the challenge of the teapot? Perhaps it is not only the challenge of translating an artist’s chosen media into innovative teapot-like forms, but also choosing between the various experiences and images that gather around this structurally simple, but symbolically-laden object. The teapot, after all, seems to simultaneously evoke childhood whimsy, domestic warmth, and sacred space. The more than 50 artists chosen to participate in this year’s twelfth annual teapots! invitational, like those before them, have created teapots that reflect their particular interests and chosen media, as well as their creative responses to the various images and experiences evoked by the teapot.
Morgan Contemporary Glass Gallery describes itself as dedicated to “exhibiting contemporary studio glass, focusing on sculpture, goblets, and jewelry in glass and mixed media.” This varied focus is reflected in this "teapots!12," which introduces mixed-media works that seem to reflect, in part, the connection between the teapot, the human body, and nature. It is not difficult to see the teapot as a metaphor for the human (and, perhaps, the specifically female) body, the place where ideas and life are given shape and then released. Some of the teapots featured in this year’s invitational make this metaphorical connection a reality, such as Robert Bender’s cast glass teapot that resembles a glass nozzle with human legs, or Susan Taylor-Glasgow’s sewn-glass teapot with a woman’s head and four legs wearing high heels. Via tea, the teapot is also connected to nature and the seasons. Different teas are considered suitable for different times of year, for example, making the teapot a place where the seasons gather and are celebrated. Wes Fleming’s A Midsummer Night’s Tea is a delicate rendering of a cage-like teapot with glass flowers, leaves, insects, and, at the center, what look like two small sprites sharing tea. Then there are works that literally incorporate natural elements into a teapot form, such as Eileen Braun’s basket-like teapot made of rattan reed.
And yet, there are also works that appear to traverse the natural and human worlds. Ann B. Coddington knotted teapot using fiber-craft and basketry techniques, a work that, to me, evokes the close relationship between fiber and the human body via clothing. Similarly, Steven Cox’s Yellow Spout looks like a crossing between the human body and an exotic, colorful glass bird. The act of drinking tea is one of gathering, whether it is gathering oneself at the end of the day with a steaming cup or whether it is the gathering of family and friends over a tea ceremony. As the vessel in which tea is made, the teapot is naturally, as any child with a tea set would likely point out, the center of this gathering. Tea and the teapot not only connect us to each other and our inner self, but, simultaneously, to nature and the seasons. Given the role of tea and teapots as sites of gathering, as well as the potency of the teapot as an image, it is no wonder that The Morgan Contemporary Glass Gallery has been attracting both audiences and artists to this show for over a decade.
IF YOU GO:
Through May 26th, 2018
Morgan Contemporary Glass Gallery
5833 Ellsworth Avenue