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John Takehara Gallery Named at Boise Art Museum

BOISE, ID.- Boise Art Museum and Skip and Esther Oppenheimer bestowed a special honor that pays gratitude to John Takehara, influential artist and advocate of the artistic community and arts education, who passed away in 2009. The Museum gallery in which selections from the Takehara ceramics collection are on long-term display will be named the John Takehara Gallery, thanks to a contribution from Skip and Esther Oppenheimer in homage to this distinguished artist and educator. Esther studied with Takehara at Boise State University , and Skip and Esther were good friends of his for many years.

In 1994, Takehara donated his collection of 166 fine contemporary ceramics by internationally recognized ceramic artists to the Boise Art Museum . Since then, objects from the Takehara collection have been on continuous view, utilized for teaching about ceramics, and appreciated by thousands of museum visitors annually.

Takehara advanced the knowledge of contemporary ceramics through his teaching, workshops, exhibitions and publications. He was a masterful ceramist whose dedication and commitment was widely respected. He is fondly remembered for his teaching, artist-in-residency programs and his extraordinary collection, which is a permanent legacy for the people of Idaho . Now a gallery within the Boise Art Museum will permanently bear his name as a lasting tribute to his important artistic contributions to this community.

Although he was born in Korea , John Takehara’s first contact with Japanese ceramists occurred in the 1960’s at the Archie Bray Foundation in Helena , Montana , an internationally recognized gathering place for emerging and established ceramics artists founded in 1951 by brickmaker Archie Bray. After receiving an education degree from Walla Walla College and a master of arts degree from Los Angeles State College (now UCLA), Takehara was offered a position at Montana State University where ceramic artist and professor Frances Senska further sparked and encouraged his interest in clay. Montana State University and the Archie Bray Foundation sponsored a guest artist program that introduced him to influential ceramists including Peter Voulkos and Rudy Autio. In 1968 Takehara accepted a teaching position at Boise State University and began his own workshop series in the Archie Bray tradition that had been so important to him, bringing internationally known ceramics artists to the university to conduct ceramics demonstrations and to work with his students.

Takehara traveled extensively and met many of the masters of 20th century ceramics including Japanese potters designated as Living National Treasures by their government such as Shoji Hamada and Toyo Kaneshige, their counterparts from Great Britain such as Michael Cardew and David Leach, and many renowned American and Australian ceramic artists. As he traveled and visited their studios, he began to collect their artworks. The Oppenheimers once delivered one of Takehara’s ceramics works to a colleague in Japan on his behalf.

In 1983, Boise Art Museum presented an exhibition of ceramics created by Takehara. He became friends with BAM’s Curator of Art Sandy Harthorn and maintained that friendship throughout the remainder of his career.

While John Takehara was considered a contemporary American ceramist, his work approached the aesthetics of traditional Japanese Potteries and English potters who, for generations, produced utilitarian wares that were necessary to the life of the people. Teapots, storage jars, vases and cups were meant for use and were meant to be beautiful. The potters did not overlook the importance of aesthetics in their production, but they realized that only a few objects from among the thousands created would succeed in achieving a rare status of purity and beauty. John Takehara was true to this tradition. He maintained a commitment to the utilitarian form and focused on objects that were, in his words, “decorative, useful and simple.” He was prolific in production, as were traditional potters, because success in this creative practice includes a high loss ratio in the handling, drying, glazing and firing processes. Takehara had an exacting knowledge and understanding of what was necessary for a piece to attain the spiritual level of existence, and, according to his standards, few pieces achieved the refinement he sought. He will remain known for his eloquent spherical forms, large platters and classically shaped storage jars.

In 1993 John Takehara wrote: It was during my graduate studies in Los Angeles in the early 1960’s that I began collecting ceramic art. Although my major area was graphic design, I developed an interest in clay art. I started my career teaching watercolor, design, lettering and graphic design at Montana State University in 1963. I learned after a time that Montana State was the home of some of the nation’s outstanding ceramic artists. Moved by their work, I became involved with ceramics.

As time has allowed, I have traveled extensively in this country and abroad to meet the masters in the field of ceramics and to collect their works. This has become my way of life.

My reasons for collecting ceramics are many-fold. The first concerns teaching. It is important to show students how current work grows out of the ceramic tradition. Another reason for collecting these objects is the immutability of the medium. Ceramic art remains as fresh and unchanged as the day it emerged from the kiln. It will not fade, corrode, rust or change in any way. The beauty lasts forever. The pieces represent expressions of philosophy and technique, and they embody the stories and visions of their creators. Finally, although these pieces will continue to grow in monetary value, their genuine worth lies in their unique aesthetic qualities.

My collection of American, European, Australian and Far-Eastern pieces largely represents a contemporary cross-section in the world of ceramic art. There are historical objects as well. By placing the collection at the Boise Art Museum , I hope the pieces will continue to communicate with the same intensity to others as they have to me and my students.

Boise Art Museum | John Takehara Gallery | Skip and Esther Oppenheimer |

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