Marilyn MacKenzie — Review By Gregory Ghent
Visual Dialog Magazine, Vol. 2, #2

When reviewing the work of Marilyn MacKenzie one runs up against an interesting and important issue. When does a pot planter, fountain, birdbath, become more than a decorative, useful item? What constitutes the fine art of sculpture in current ceramic practice?

One immediately thinks of a comparison between antique ceramics, generally regarded as sculpture, and the current craft scene. Certain artifacts from Mexico, tea cups and bowls from Japan, figures and vases of the Mediterranean cultures, all share the same basic qualities. The best examples originate from a unique eye and hand. The figures have an effect of spontaneity through masterful control of the clay. They deviate from the norm or the conventional, yet show an unmistakable clarity of purpose: the realization of a unified artistic conception. In many cultures, clay sculpture overcame the servitude of a sacred or secular function.

Several California potters whose creations exhibit the expressive functions of stone, wood, or metal sculpture should be seen in the same light. In all cases, when hollow volumes suggest an inner strength, light and shadow interplay on dynamic forms, and the surface design enhances the overall shape, the piece of pottery becomes sculpture.

Marilyn MacKenzie exploits every aspect of the craft to achieve a sculptural vision. Her pieces stand out among California pottery for their impressive size, consistency of design, motif, and wit. Her concentrated devotion to the visual effect of each piece results in an impression of overall excellence. Combining technical skill with imagination, her work becomes meaningful on various levels.

Technically, her skills encompass huge wheel thrown volumes, with ever thin walls, detailed modeling, and careful glazing. Each piece has a finished quality without being slick or academic.

There is something in her work which borders on the symbolic or mythological. The pedestal planters recall to mind totemic sculpture of Indian cultures. They signify the rampant perpetuation of nature, relentless in its will to push forward. The fountains embody the logic and order of natural harmony in a display pleasing to the eye and ear.

This talent for selecting expressive animal forms, combined with technical virtuosity and skill, answer the question posed. Sculpture, as meaningful art in the current craft scene, has a vitality and future due to the inspiration and hard work of people like Marilyn MacKenzie.

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