Owed to joy 

A ceramic artist's view of vases

Asked to what he owes his motivation to create, ceramic artist Hal Mathew answers simply: “the joy of creation.”

“I am basically a high-spirited person,” he explains, “and I like to be joyful.” The product of Mathew’s pleasure will be on display in his upcoming show, Variations on a Vase, at The Missoula Artists’ Shop.

A self-taught artist, Mathew has been making decorative pottery for 35 years by “picking up things as I went along.” He started off making naturalistic pottery that “looked like growing things,” but describes his work these days as “romantic.” Many of his pieces have a strong Asian influence, but even more reflect the work of classic painters. On one vase the turn of a painted dancer’s hip is reminiscent of Degas; on another the positioning of a woman’s nose invokes Picasso. On several vases the bodies of Rubenesque female figures inhabit the rounded vessels in a perfect harmony of image and medium. In another piece, a version of da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” smiles from beneath a blue night sky reminiscent of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.” However, Mathew has given the classic beauty a contemporary twist by setting a shiny new nose ring in her delicate nostril.

Mathew also pays homage to his Montana roots in a tall vase with a beautiful cowgirl posed along its length. Beneath her cowboy hat her face is strong and feminine, the simple lines of the drawing capturing her steely gaze as well as the dimpled chin set firmly in her square jaw.

Mathew says he’s continually exploring different ways to make containers for holding flowers. “Vases are the most romantic form a potter can make,” he says. “They show off the flowers from the people who love us.”

There will be an artist’s reception with Hal Mathew for Variations on a Vase at The Artists’ Shop Friday, June 3, at 5 PM. The Artists’ Shop is located at 306 N. Higgins Ave.

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