Permanent Galleries

Notre Dame, 2001

Peter Voulkos
Notre Dame, 2001
American, 1924–2002
wood-fired stoneware
56 x 32 inches (142.24 x 81.28 cm)
Acquired with funds provided by Mr. John C. Rudolf (Class of 1970)

Peter Voulkos created this piece during a two-week residency at Notre Dame in 2001. He first threw traditional ceramic forms, such as plates and bowls, on a potter’s wheel, then took these vessels apart and reassembled them. In doing so, he challenged the traditional belief that ceramic objects should have a function, such as food storage or service, and that they should fulfill this function with highly decorated, refined forms. Voulkos’s interest in revealing the artist’s labor is evident in the impressions left by his hands and fingertips. The sculpture also shows the chemical transformation that occurred during its firing in Notre Dame’s anagama wood kiln. Ash carried by the draft of the fire landed on the surface, where it melted to form the glaze. The greenish areas show where the ash rested most heavily, and the reddish areas indicate where ash did not settle.

Like Abstract Expressionist painters, for whom creating art was a process of self-exploration, Voulkos utilized an aggressive process to produce artworks. Some have suggested that his sculptures should be read as metaphors for the transformative events that all individuals undergo during their lifetime. Others see them as references to humans’ primal needs: housing (caves or huts), food preparation (chimneys or ovens), and food storage (amphorae).