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“There is an eagle in me that wants to soar, and there is a hippopotamus in me that wants to wallow in the mud,” Carl Sandburg once said–words that clay sculptor Janathel Shaw can relate to. Her recent clay works can be seen at Touchstone Gallery from Sept. 6-29, 2013. As a teen, Jan was inspired by teachers at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts and sculptor Elizabeth Catlett (who she was fortunate to meet). She relished in half day-studio classes staying late into the evenings to hone her art skills. Over time, attended Howard University, Prince Georges Community College and George Washington University. Jan received her Bachelors and Masters from George Washington University.
As a graduate student, one of the more interesting places Jan worked was in the conservation lab at The National Museum of American Art. But it was under the influence of sculptor John Krumrein, that Jan tried her hand at molding clay-malleable, soft, and sometimes frustratingly uncooperative. Janathel later developed a portfolio spotlighting the plight of Black youth and adults in the African-American community. Often such lives are ignored by society, but Jan puts them front row center so we must pay attention to their personal testimonials. Her work also incorporates feminist themes.
Working with clay can be cathartic. It allows Janathel to capture the suffering of lingering bigotry in facial expression and physical pose. Her work captures the bold and proud gaze of a mother living through the agony of a child’s death or the solemn gaze of a man who has survived untold indignities and come out on the other side alive. Judiciously chosen glazes and stains emphasize the overall temperament of each piece. Jan finds her voice in the medium of clay. “My hands and fingers woo and mold the clay…squeezing, pushing, scraping, pounding, carving, hollowing, spritzing, rebuilding, and – yes, repairing – bring me contentment.”
Her work has been cited or published in Studio Magazine, Ceramics Monthly, Ceramic Review and in the book Confrontational Ceramics. Janathel is an educator, has taught art in public schools and in children’s workshops at the National Museum of African Art. by Rosemary Luckett
See Jan’s solo exhibition “ReBirth”:
September 6-29, 2013 at Touchstone Gallery
901 New York Avenue NW, Washington DC.
Opening reception: Friday Sept. 6, 6-8:30pm.
Encore Party and Artist Talk: Sept 21, 4-6:30pm.