Stonework is published by Houghton College, a Christian liberal arts college located in New York’s rural Genesee Valley. Stonework seeks a diverse mix of mature and emerging voices in fellowship with the evangelical tradition. Published twice a year, the journal reflects the arts community at Houghton College where excellence in music, writing, and the visual arts has long been a distinctive.

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  • Issue 6
    Poetry by Paul Willis and Thom Satterlee. Fiction and interview with Lori Huth. Essay by James Wardwell, and student poets from Christian campuses.
  • Issue 5
    Poetry by Susanna Childress and Debra Rienstra. Fiction excerpt by Emilie Griffin. Art from Houghton's 2007 presidential inauguration and a forum on women writing.
  • Issue 4
    Matthew Roth--new poems. Diane Glancy--from One of Us and an interview. John Tatter-on gardens and poetry. The Landscapes of John Rhett. Stephen Woolsey--on the poetry of Jack Clemo. James Wardwell--on Herrick.
  • Issue 3
    Poetry by Julia Kasdorf, Robert Siegel and Sandra Duguid. Fiction by Tom Noyes. The portraits of Alieen Ortlip Shea. An anthology of Australian Poets
  • Issue 2
    Thom Satterlee - Poems from Burning Wycliff with an appreciation by David Perkins. Alison Gresik - new fiction and an interview. James Zoller - Poems from Living on the Floodplain.
  • Issue 1
    Luci Shaw — new poems with an appreciation by Eugene H. Peterson & Hugh Cook — new fiction and an interview

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

A Kind of Extravegance - a Kind of Love: The Art of Gary Baxter

By Kelsey Harro

Gary Baxter, Houghton College professor of art, talks about his first college ceramics class as though it was the beginning of an affair. “It was one of those love stories where I fell in love with everything about the material and the process. It moved me,” he recalls. At the time he was in his third year studying architectural drawing but after finishing his degree, he switched fields and went on to get a master in fine arts at the Rochester Institute of Technology. “I think part of it was the whole functional thing: you spend the day making things and you end up with this pile of pieces in front of you—it’s very satisfying.”

To him, the sheer abundance of wheel-thrown pots is part of the fascination. “There are millions and millions of them in the world, and that’s the point.” he explains. “It’s like nature, it seems wasteful to have so many varieties and colors of birds and trees. They do meet certain utilitarian needs but mostly we don’t need them anymore. Making pots is a kind of extravagance, which translates into a kind of love.”

In an intensely process-based medium like ceramics, the concepts of nature and the environment which intrigue him can be entwined into every aspect of Baxter’s work.
The development of throwing the form, for instance, echoes the idea of growth Baxter begins with a very thick walled piece which is stretched and altered as it dries “like a melon growing in the garden” that gradually expands. These alterations deliberately resemble the bulges of fruits and vegetables and “the kind of things you see when you’re snorkeling over corral reefs.” He describes the shape of the vessels as “very domestic, very spherical, like a well-fed human.” The swollen forms are intended as a reference to God as the “ultimate provider and nourisher, both physically and spiritually” leading to “a sense of growth from the inside emanating out.” For Baxter, machine-like consistency is not the goal. Instead, he alters his
vessels in order to attain a different kind of perfection.
“It depends on how you define perfect,” he explains.

The idea of returning to the most basic possible materials of earth, water, wood and fire, is also metaphorically significant in his environmental awareness. He compares the use of water to move clay to the natural process of erosion, and the firings to the igneous solidification of earth into granite. For his firings, Baxter uses scrap wood from local Amish sawmills that would otherwise go to waste. His choice of traditional ash glazes and wood firing techniques increases the unpredictability inherent in a system that depends on extremes of temperature and balance. “Wood is definitely the wildest form of firing,” he says. “I like the risk, the natural references.”

Baxter compares the concepts of risk and intensity in the way that “ceramicists restore order and give shape to decomposed particles” to the Joman potters in Japan and the Korayo in Korea whose ceremonial vessels were used both to celebrate nature and appease the gods. In this sense, both the process and the product can be seen as a kind of allegory of redemption. “The hand is capable of taking ideas and transforming materials into tangible objects that are a record of our thought processes, what was important to us, a record of our faith.”

Works in order of appearence:
Orange Jar # 4
Covered Jar # 2

Sand Spiral

Spanish River

Rabbit Jar
Covered Jar # 9
Ridged Covered Jar
Jar # 12