Gary Beaumont’s ceramic Planetary Platters can set one’s imagination spinning out into the universe … and that’s just what the artist hopes will happen. His exhibit of a dozen of his bewitching ceramic orbs opens at Athens Arts on Wednesday in the Fishero Gallery. The exhibit continues through Feb. 22.
The brilliant, deep greens, blues and golds, circling and circulating on these stunning 24-inch platters, take viewers journeying through a galaxy of swirl and color. Each piece is a planet unto itself, aglow with light, depth and whirling surfaces. One gives the illusion of deep ocean and currents. Another suggests that a brilliant sun favors it, or that perhaps it contains a molten, golden underland. Another plate suggests the greenest of eyes or maybe a deep glacial or volcanic pool. Beaumont creates this alluring effect of faraway planets by hanging 12 of these pieces side by side in Athens Arts’ Feature Gallery.
Ironically, the substance that Beaumont works with to create interstellar space objects is made from the most basic of earth’s materials — clay.
“For me ceramic art is magical — taking earth materials, combining them in unique ways and creating something artistic,” Beaumont said.
In creating these pieces, Beaumont proves himself the magician. Part of the power of ceramics is its ancient history.
“Ceramics speak directly to what it means to be human,” he said. “I often think about early people sitting around a fire discovering how heat made clay turn hard and then shaping this clay into useful containers. Most importantly they made their pots interesting to look at by adding color and texture and imagery.”
Beaumont carries on this tradition. His craft is a careful and difficult one. His 24-inch platters, as anyone who has ever tried to throw a pot can tell you, are challenging to make. Beaumont calls it “throwing large.”
“Most potters can’t throw this big because everything about a large patter is difficult,” he said. “The larger the piece, the more cracking, warping and failures. Larger pieces also change the scale of the design just like a large canvas changes how a painter paints.”
The artist calls his planetary platters, “glaze paintings” noting that they are “in no way functional with simple, commercial glazes. Instead they are fired with varying and unique glazes. Often they are fired multiple times to obtain complex layering, and sometimes they are fired outside the accepted range of the glaze for unique effects. Also other media are added to finish the piece. In the end, however, the platters are an excuse to create pieces with color and texture, demonstrating a creative use of ceramic materials. Hanging them on the wall turns them into ‘paintings’.”
Beaumont has had a lifelong interest in art, though in college he first pursued architecture and then communication in his undergraduate years. He also holds a master’s degree from the University of Illinois in speech communication. After attaining his degrees, Beaumont had a full, 35-year career at the University of Illinois in the communications field.
Upon retirement, he started a second career as a ceramic artist. Beaumont interned with Michael Schwegmann and completed a course of studio ceramics with professor Tammie Rubin at the University of Illinois. During the early years of his first career, he had taken all the ceramic courses available at the U of I and had learned to throw pots from Don Pilcher. So at the point of retirement, he was ready to launch.
During the last decade and a half, his lifelong love of art has come to fruition: his work has been shown and recognized at juried art shows around the nation. From Chicago to Baltimore, from Michigan to Kansas, from Florida to California, and many places in between, Beaumont’s ceramics have caught the eyes of the public and judges alike. He exhibited a piece in Athens Arts’ nationwide, juried art show [untitled] during the spring of 2019.
The community is welcome to visit this exhibition 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday at gallery, 113 N. Washington St.
The public is invited to an opening reception 6-8 p.m. Friday at Athens Arts. Visitors will be able to see the exhibit and have the opportunity to meet Beaumont. Light refreshments and music will be part of the evening. All events at Athens Arts are free and open to the public.