Visions in Clay
Every year I look forward to the Visions In Clay show held at the LH Horton Jr Gallery on the campus of San Joaquin Delta College. This show was founded by the San Joaquin Potters Guild in 2002-2007, who turned it over to the Horton Gallery with the request to continue presenting an annual ceramics based exhibition which Jan Marlese, Gallery Director, has continued and more. Now Visions In Clay is the largest exhibition of ceramic work in the San Joaquin area presenting 55-65 works per show. In addition, the show has garnered regional and national attention and has been featured several times in Ceramics Monthly, a renowned national ceramics magazine. Visions In Clay is an exceptional show of technical ability with diversity in style, process and content.
“With over 20 years experience in the arts when I started at Delta College, it was quite easy to pick up the program and shape it into what it is today,”states Jan Marlese, who has worked for the Minneapolis Arts Commission, Zeum Studio for Technology and the Arts at Yerba Buena Gardens, and as Director of the Napa County Arts Council. She came to San Joaquin Delta College as Gallery Director/ Program Coordinator in May 2007.
“Since 2010, I’ve seen what seems to be quite an increase in ceramic art shows. I think the broad reach of ceramic arts, from sculptural to decorative / functional, and the wide range in formal qualities is what the public is responding to. I recall being in sensory overload with the first Visions In Clay show (and every show thereafter), as I am awed at the range in surface quality and form. The curated shows and Visions In Clay are the most well attended exhibitions.”
Also, Visions In Clay supports the popular ceramic and sculpture courses taught by Professors Shenny Cruces and Gary Carlos who work to advance students to a high level of proficiency. The exhibition creates a great opportunity for students to see fantastic ceramic works created by the best of the best artists, and broadens their understanding of what is possible to do with the clay medium. Students also have the opportunity to participate in John Natsoulas Gallery’s Ceramics Conferenced for the Advancement of Ceramic Arts, which is an incredible educational opportunity for showing their work.
When Jan first arrived at the Horton Gallery, there were six quality shows a year, primarily individual and small group shows, processed through the Gallery Committee from a broad call for entries process. Finding something lacking, she produced more specific calls, and curated shows by invitation, which changed the gallery programming. Adding 2-3 fee based calls also generated income, enabling more exhibiting artists, art lectures, demonstrations, student workshops as well as thematically-tied performing arts events. “The great thing about being a not-for-profit gallery is our ability to spend all of our income on artists.”
In 2012, the killing of Trayvon Martin inspired Jan to curate identity art exhibitions which have now become a major mission in the gallery to recruit BIPOC artists for shows overall. “Themes of Black Identity in America,” the first of these exhibitions, included Amy Sherald, who later became the portrait painter for Michelle Obama.
Covid-19 has brought a huge challenge to all of the art classes. However, the ceramics and sculpture departments have risen to the occasion. New ideas and materials are taught and some materials are distributed for at home building. Professor Cruces continues to fire using social distancing appointments to the ceramics department during the Covid-19 campus closure.
You can check out the LH Horton Jr Gallery on Facebook, or on Instagram @hortongallery_deltacollege, or find all the shows since 2000, including 10 years of Visions In Clay on their website: http://gallery.deltacollege.edu