Internationally acclaimed ceramicist Don Reitz will visit the campus of Western Carolina University on Tuesday, April 6, to demonstrate and discuss his work in clay.
Reitz will give informal clay demonstrations from 9 to 11:45 a.m. and 1 to 3 p.m. in the Fine and Performing Arts Center. He will present an artist’s talk and slide show from 4 to 5 p.m., also at FAPAC. All events are free and open to the public.
The events were rescheduled after an illness forced Reitz to cancel a campus visit planned last September.
“Don is considered one of the pivotal figures in 20th-century ceramics,” said Joan Byrd, WCU ceramics professor and Reitz’s former student at the University of Wisconsin. Byrd said Reitz, whose health is restored, is known for his lively demonstrations.
“He’s both a great artist and something of an entertainer,” she said. “He loves to work, and he’s happy when he’s working.”
Preston and Sara Hudgins Tolbert, alumni of WCU’s School of Art and Design, will assist Reitz. The Tolberts first met Reitz when they assisted him during a 2007 visit, and they recently returned to North Carolina from a residency at Reitz’s Clarkdale, Ariz., studio.
Born in 1929, Reitz worked a series of jobs, including lumberjack and meat cutter, before devoting himself to ceramics and painting. He fires his work in immense, hand-built, wood-fired kilns, and has achieved new clay surfaces by reviving and developing traditional salt-glazing techniques. Reitz works in a studio in Arizona, where of late he creates hand-painted ceramic sculptures up to 9 feet tall.
“My language is the surfaces I use, not necessarily the forms, because I’m basically a painter but am using clay as my medium,” Reitz has said.
Reitz donated a piece he created during his previous visit to campus to the university’s Fine Art Museum, where it now is part of the permanent collection. He has exhibited worldwide, and his work is in the permanent collections of dozens of institutions, including the Smithsonian Institution in Washington; the American Museum of Ceramic Art in Pomona, Calif.; the High Museum of Art in Atlanta; and the Chicago Art Institute.
Reitz’s visit is sponsored by the School of Art and Design and funded by the Randall and Susan Parrott Ward Endowed Fund for Ceramics.