Ceramic possibilities

Sergei Isupov, “Pass By,” ceramic, 2004.

Sergei Isupov, “Pass By,” ceramic, 2004.

Clay, the humblest of art materials, is revered as the medium of choice at the annual California Conference for the Advancement of Ceramic Art, hosted by the John Natsoulas Gallery in Davis. This year marked the 16th conference spotlighting Northern California ceramic artists. During the three-day clayfest, held this year from April 29 to May 1, their work is displayed in venues scattered throughout Davis and on the UC Davis campus.

Although the annual conference has come and gone for 2005, the Ceramics 30 exhibition held in conjunction with the conference is up until May 29 at the Natsoulas Gallery. It boasts art by a veritable who’s who of ceramic artists, both on the local scene and globally.

Estonian immigrant Sergei Isupov’s “Pass By” offers a curious, dreamlike encounter of two triangular pieces that become a balanced unit, with two sets of creatures within—or is one just an extension of the other, looking to connect with its own ilk? Rendered with exacting attention, both in shape and surface detail, it’s a hard piece to walk away from.

Upstairs, Esther Shimazu offers a comical note with her series “Geisha Girl Dropouts: Better Late than Never.” Animated figures pose on the wall with bald heads and such round tummies they look like female Buddhas. Their mirthful repose is contagious.

Then there are other pieces, like the leather jacket hanging on the wall by Marilyn Levine. “Johan’s Jacket” bears her trademark stamp of sculpting and finishing clay so expertly to mimic the soft folds of leather that you can’t tell the difference until you touch the fired piece. Sadly, Levine passed away last month. Upstairs, on the roof, it’s a garden of dogs—Roy De Forest’s dogs, that is. His eager, colorful pooches balance benches and tables. The Natsoulas Gallery is located at 521 First Street in Davis. For more information, call (530) 756-3938.