JAMES LAWTON: Biography
James Lawton earned his Bachelors degree in Constructive Design at Florida State University, Tallahassee in 1976, and MFA in Ceramics at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge in 1980. In 1984 and in 1986, Lawton was awarded the National Endowment Visual Arts Fellowship, and the South Carolina Artist Fellowship Grant in 1990. Lawton joined the Artisanry faculty at UMass Dartmouth in 1998, where he is currently Professor of Ceramics. He was elected to the International Academy of Ceramics in 2011.
Prior to coming to UMass Dartmouth Lawton was Assoc. Professor and Chair of the Ceramics Department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, 1992-1998. Lawton been Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University, and LSU-Baton Rouge. Lawton has been artist in residence at the International Ceramics Studio in Kecskemét Hungary; Penland School of Crafts, Penland, NC; Earl Brydges Art Park, Lewiston, NY; Ohio University, Athens, OH; Univ. of Mississippi, Oxford, and Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts, N. Edgecomb, ME, among others. Lawton served as Assistant Director at Haystack Mountain School in Deer Isle, ME, and has lead workshops there and at Penland School, Cleveland Institute of Art, Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts, and the Anderson Ranch Art Center, among others.
Major exhibitions his work has been shown are Color and Fire: Defining Moments of Studio Ceramics 1950-2000, LA County Museum, CA, The 29th Ceramic National Exhibition, Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, NY, SOFA: Chicago and New York, and international venues such as the Shigaraki Museum of Ceramic Art, Japan, The Eccentric Teapot; American Potters Today, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and Taking Measure: American Ceramic Art at the New Millenium, at the World Ceramic Exposition, Yoju, Korea, where he was one of 5 artists selected for the collection. Lawton’s most recent solo exhibition was “In Retrospect” at the New Hampshire Institute of Art.
His work is included in the publications, Contemporary Ceramics, by Susan Peterson; The Book of Cups and American Ceramics, 1876 to the Present, by Garth Clark; 10,000 Years of Pottery, Emmanuel Cooper; Ceramics: Ways of Creation, Richard Zakin; and The New Ceramics: Trends & Traditions, Peter Dormer, and Post Modern Ceramics by Mark Del Vecchio, among others. Articles on his work and technique have been covered in numerous periodicals including Ceramics Monthly, Studio Potter, New Art Examiner, American Craft Magazine, the New York Times, Portfolio Magazine, Keramisch Werkcentrum, Heusden(Dutch), and the Seoul National University Press.
Professor Lawton's professional activities include serving as a juror for numerous exhibitions and fellowships, including the McKnight Fellowship Northern Clay Center, Minneapolis, MN, NCECA Regional Student Exhibition, Kansas City, and as Visiting Critic at the Rhode Island School of Design. He is on the Board of Trustee's of the Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts and the Studio Potter Magazine and has contributed articles to Ceramics Monthly, Studio Potter, the NCECA journal, and other publications dedicated to the ceramic arts. He was the juror for the Lark Books publication, “500 Teapots, Vo. 2,” where he also authored the introduction to the book. Lawton gave the Distinguished American Artist Discussing Art Series Lecture in 2012 at the New Hampshire Institute of Art, where he also was juror for the 2012 Ceramics Biennial.
Lawton's work is in collection of the Renwick Gallery of American Craft at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C, the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Mint Museum, Charlotte, NC, the Museum of Ceramic Art, Alfred, NY, and the Icheon World Ceramic Center, South Korea, among numerous other public and private collections.
Like the tailor, the approach I take in making pots is to configure enclosures- to contain as well as to reveal within the work the eccentric shape of human life. It's my view that meaning is held on both sides of the clay fabric: an inner life of use and the outer one of appearance. It is not incongruent to me that clay and carnal bodies share certain elemental connections: pottery possessing the ability to describe the human condition while simultaneously being a part of it. Modernism defined use and meaning as separate and mutually unjustified, and it is this disparity which makes the potters' work at this juncture in history most compelling to me.
At one time, garments found their way onto the work. In the form of paintings, the clothes seemed full of implied presence as they advanced across the surfaces exactly as devoid of body as the pots' physical ability to function. My pots had therefore become image only, objects that had achieved full autonomous status. A choice became clear to me, follow the vessel image to the wall or do the audacious: accept the interior as relevant! At present, the image itself has become the functioning vessel, forms drawn from the alphabet or my handwriting, functioning as funnels, teapots, melita filters, etc., suspended inside a cage-like apparitions.