Museum of Contemporary Craft explores relationship between craft and the Land Art Movement

March 03, 2010

March 3, 2010

Leslie Miller, External Relations Specialist
Pacific Northwest College of Art
503.821.8959 |

Becca Biggs, Director of Communications
Pacific Northwest College of Art
503.821.8892 |

Museum of Contemporary Craft explores relationship between craft and the Land Art Movement

Land Art: David Shaner
On view March 10 – August 7, 2010
Museum of Contemporary Craft

PORTLAND, OR—MARCH 3, 2010—Through this exhibition, Museum of Contemporary Craft asks “What is the relationship between craft and the Land Art Movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s?” Earthworks, or the Land Art movement of that time period typically refers to works in remote natural settings in which art and the landscape are inextricably intertwined. Increased attention to the relationship between humans and the land, including pilgrimages to Earthworks sites, contemporary art historical scholarship, exhibitions and curricular programming has broadened the scope of what might be considered Land Arts today.

“This renewed interest in the landscape clears a space for craft to enter the conversation about ‘land- scape’ as a cultural terrain,” says Namita Wiggers, curator, Museum of Contemporary Craft. “David Shaner’s ceramic works reveal a symbiotic relationship with the American West that is very different from that of the Earthworks. Shaner’s works, though, were created at the same time. This exhibition provides an opportunity to consider how certain questions of a particular historical moment surface differently through the range of visual art practices.”

Robert Smithson’s monumental Spiral Jetty (1970), for example, is a quintessential monumental and ephemeral Earthwork. By contrast, Shaner’s Garden Slab (1964, Collection of the Museum of Contemporary Craft) is a sensual, personal and physical response to harsh, dry landscape of Glen Canyon, Utah. Created during Shaner’s tenure as the resident director of the Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts, Shaner’s manipulation of clay, glazes, and firing methods conveys the mass and heaviness of that landscape. Through the works on view, visitors can consider how works such as Shaner’s offer an equally contemplative experience through craft.

The exhibition’s installation is designed to mimic the scale and proportions of a home. Much like the Earthworks artists who deliberately created work that challenged the commercialization of the art market of the 1960s, Shaner, too, created work for a domestic space, purposely working to occupy a space in the craft arena between that of the street or art fair potter and the artist who created pedestal- oriented work for sale in a gallery.

Using works drawn from the Shaner Family Collection, Catherine and Mike Gilbert, Patti Canaris and the Museum’s collection, along with selected photographs and personal notes taken by the artist over several decades, Land Art: David Shaner provokes questions about how broader cultural interests in conceptual art and the land, ecology and materiality are explored through the work of an artist known as a “potter’s potter.”

Following the Rhythms of Life: The Ceramic Art of David Shaner, written by Peter Held, Ceramic Research Center, Arizona State University is available for purchase in The Gallery. Essays by Daniel Duford, fac- ulty, Pacific Northwest College of Art and Namita Wiggers, curator, Museum of Contemporary Craft and information about programs is available online at

David Shaner (1934–2002) received his Masters of Fine Arts at Alfred University and later became the director of the influential Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts in 1964, located in Helena, Montana. Shaner is celebrated in ceramic circles for stabilizing the Bray and securing its first NEA grant. Shaner is also beloved as an individual not swayed by trends. He once wrote in an artist’s statement, “My pots are not about risk taking. They are about serenity – clarity – simplicity. Some people like to climb mountains. I like to walk through meadows of wildflowers.” In 1970, Shaner left the Foundation and settled in Bigfork, Montana, creating his studio and his home there.

CraftPerspectives Lecture: William Gilbert
“Land Arts of the American West”
Wednesday, March 10, 6:30 pm PNCA Swigert Commons, 1241 NW Johnson St.
Free and open to the public
In conjunction with the upcoming exhibition Land Art: David Shaner, Museum of Contemporary Craft in partnership with PNCA presents the lecture “Land Arts of the American West” by William Gilbert, a ceramic artist who holds the Lannan Chair in Land Arts of the American West in the Department of Art and Art History at the University of New Mexico. Gilbert will discuss the resurgence of interest in Land Art and how this genre has shaped the American West while simultaneously being informed by it.

Craft Conversation: Reading the Land
With Daniel Duford (PNCA) and Matt Johnston (Lewis & Clark College)
Tuesday, April 6, 6:30 pm
The Lab at Museum of Contemporary Craft
Free and open to the public In this new program format, artist Daniel Duford and art historian Matt Johnson will each speak for 20 minutes about how “reading” the landscape functions in their own work, providing another lens through which the connections between David Shaner’s work and land can be understood. The final 20 minutes will focus on connecting their talks through discussion and dialogue with the audience.

Committed to the advancement of craft since 1937, Museum of Contemporary Craft in partnership with Pacific Northwest College of Art is one of Oregon’s oldest cultural institutions. Centrally located in Portland’s Pearl District, the Museum is nationally acclaimed for its curatorial program and is a vibrant center for investigation and dialogue, expanding the definition of craft and the way audiences experience it.


Ford Institute for Visual Education

Paul G. Allen Family Foundation · The Collins Foundation · Maribeth Collins · Truman and Kristin Collins · John Gray Charitable Fund of the Oregon Community Foundation · First Independent Wealth Management · Mary Maletis · Miller Nash, LLP · PGE Foundation · Regional Arts & Culture Council · Harold & Arlene Schnitzer CARE Foundation · The Estate of Gordon Smyth · Al Solheim · The Standard · Mary Hoyt Stevenson Foundation · Rose E. Tucker Charitable Trust · US Bank · Western States Arts Foundation · Whiteman Foundation

With special thanks to: Gerding Edlen Development and their support of the CYAN/PDX Cultural Residency Program, The Heathman Hotel and the Nines Hotel.

Museum of Contemporary Craft
in partnership with Pacific Northwest College of Art
724 Northwest Davis Street Portland, OR 97209

Tuesday through Saturday 11 AM to 6 PM
First Thursday of every month 11 AM to 8 PM
Closed Sunday and Monday