Frank Lloyd Gallery - Modern and Contemporary Ceramic Art   current exhibit archive news artists publications about contact home
Beatrice Wood
Small is Beautiful
September 1-Dec 31, 2022
click here for exhibition artwork

Online-only exhibition

The small, hand-held vessel has a timeless, honored presence in the world of ceramics. And Beatrice Wood, one of the most well-known ceramic artists, was renowned for her lustrous, gleaming ceramics, produced in her Ojai studio in the later decades of her life.  Small and  beautiful, these pots have the other-worldly presence of ancient relics from a lost world, Atlantis perhaps. Their shapes derive from ceremony and their glazes dazzle the eye.  

Before her studio life as an artist, she had momentous experiences with major figures in the twentieth century art world, as well as leaders in the spiritual community. Her early mentors in the art world famously included Marcel Duchamp, while her experiences with the philosophical and religious world included Annie Besant and Krishnamurti. Beatrice learned from each of them, and led a charmed, lustrous life.

Wood also had a love of India and traveled to that country in 1962, when she exhibited her pottery there. As she wrote in her autobiography, "Working through the United States Information Service, the All-India Handicraft Board arranged for an exhibition of my pottery in fourteen cities."  One of the smallest pots in our show, a tiny bottle with a seemingly lava-like glaze, was shown, and bears the mark "M-16" on a paper label.

Beatrice was, she professed, shy. And she only overcame that shyness when she had to speak about her work on the tour of India. In her writings, a voice of perseverance and determination can be gleaned. An early statement by the artist is indicative: "Talent is not enough," Beatrice wrote in the 1940s, "everyone has it if released. It is desire, burning activity that leads one to the star. But in the journey of self expression, one must move with detachment drawn by the vision, unconcerned with the result. The vast spaces of the imaginative world are nebulous, but it requires discipline to bring them into actuality. If the clay on the potter's wheel is not centered, the pot collapses. Thus the physical plane leads to the spiritual."

Raised in New York by proper, aristocratic parents, by the age of 16 Wood felt stifled by the mores of high society and yearned to run away to Paris, where she planned to spend the rest of her days painting in a garret. Her mother, desperate to prevent all-out rebellion, finally sent her wily daughter on a chaperoned trip to France, where Wood studied acting at the Comedie Franšaise and painting at the Academie Julien. Forced to return to New York by the advent of the war, the nineteen year old Wood soon found a place among the growing expatriate artist community there. She met Marcel Duchamp and his friend, writer and diplomat Henri Roche, and the three formed a close friendship. Together they founded the magazine Blind Man, one of the first manifestations of the Dada art movement in New York. They also frequented avant garde gatherings, spending many lively evenings at the home of collectors Walter and Louise Arensberg, whose walls were hung with works by Picasso, Matisse and Braque.