Wood and ceramic works on display at Gallery Fifty Six
By Richard Kendrickson
University of Memphis ceramics professor Niles Wallace will have a one-man exhibition of his work Sticks and Stones (one thing follows another) at Gallery Fifty Six (2256 Central) during the month of June. An artist’s reception will be held on Friday, June 3 at the gallery from 5-8pm. The exhibition dates are June 3 through June 25, and gallery business hours are Wednesday through Friday from noon-4pm and Saturday from 11am-4pm.
This exhibition includes two current, loosely connected bodies of work – small gestural porcelain and stoneware bowls, and natural branch assemblages placed on roughly made tables.
Niles’ initial interest in art was ceramics, and the use of clay has sustained him, with a few lapses, for over thirty-five years. These small bowls are wheel-formed and altered while they are still wet to suggest flower blossoms or feminine imagery. They are generally glazed with one glaze that is of a strong but complex color that follows the topography of the bowl as a pool of chromatic and textural relief from the unglazed portions of the bowl. The artist finds these pieces to be unabashedly beautiful and sensuous. They are gestural sketches that he has organized into groupings and collections but that the artist finds satisfying individually.
The branch assemblages are made from found wood pegged and glued together. The artist uses crepe myrtle limbs that have been pruned and discarded. This wood has a curved and folded form and surface that is much like what he is doing to the ceramic forms. In building these pieces, he tries to find wood that fits naturally, puzzle-like, together. The pegs that join the limbs may seem brutal and unfinished, but Niles likes the no-nonsense and fixed finality about them. He wants them to be complex, tangled, and masculine. The tables should be viewed as tables rather than pedestals. They are the part of the work that suggests home, intimacy, and humor.
Niles Wallace was born in Western Pennsylvania in 1948. His serious interest in art began in high school and extended to college. He graduated from Edinboro State University of Pennsylvania in 1970 with a degree in Art Education. At Edinboro he became interested in Ceramics and subsequently attended graduate school at Alfred University, Alfred, NY, where he studied under Val Cushing, Daniel Rhodes, Robert Turner, Ted Randall, and Wayne Higby. He received his MFA in Ceramics in 1974. After short teaching stints at The Philadelphia College of Art and The State University of New York at Albany, he began teaching Ceramics at Memphis State University, which later became The University of Memphis. For the past fifteen years his work has focused on mixed media sculpture. His work has been exhibited nationally and is included in many private and corporate collections.