Berkeley Art Center’s Sculpture Patio has seminal works by three Berkeley sculptors; Harold Paris, Stephen DeStaebler, and Peter Voulkos, who together transformed the clay media from the level of arts and crafts to the scale, depth, content, and emotion of fine art.
Harold Paris, Wall 2: Paris adapted Figurative Expressionism to the ceramic sculptural media in this monumental work. Forms evolve out of the surface; an all seeing eye, arms raised in supplication, beast-like shapes, a pig’s nose, legs, an inverted throne. As a whole the piece invites a personal dialogue with the viewer at an emotional level. It suggests a Manichean conflict between knowledge and ignorance, good and evil. The surfaces are slashed and the fired patina varies in tone, presenting a dynamic conflict fused by fire.
Peter Voulkos, Isis . Peter Voulkos deconstructs a conventional utilitarian ceramic form, a pot with a chimney, and evokes a maternal archetype, the Egyptian mother God, Isis. Isis references feminine characteristics, emotionally and physically distressed, broken, penetrated, distorted and reassembled, manifesting the emotional intensity of the creative process.
Stephen DeStaebler’s Horned Woman, is a seated form; vertical, linear, encapsulating abstracted elements, leg, breast and torso. The relationship between DeStaebler’s and Paris’s approach, forms emerging from the clay, contrasts with Voulkos’s concept. Although not as apparent in this example, DeStaebler's work singularly illuminates the polarities of the human condition; evanescence contrasted with the potential for spiritual transcendence.
All three artists convey a reaction to the seismic turbulence of the American Society in the 1960’s, a time in which social and political conventions were being challenged and torn apart on many levels and irrevocably altered.