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Bellevue Arts Museum honors local ceramist Patti Warashina with exhibition
Patti Warashina. Genesis, 1995. Water media on paper, 52 x 73 in. Collection of the artist. Photo: Spike Mafford.

BELLEVUE, WA.- Patti Warashina, the pioneering Pacific Northwest ceramic artist whose insight and intellect have served as the cornerstones of a career spanning over five decades, is being honored at Bellevue Arts Museum for her contributions to the world of ceramics with a retrospective exhibition on view through October 27, 2013.

Patti Warashina: Wit and Wisdom serves as BAM’s Summer 2013 lead exhibit, and honors Warashina’s curiosity, effervescence, and healthy dose of skepticism by featuring approximately 140 of her works which touch on such divergent themes as the human condition, feminism, car‐culture, and political and social topics, which she has used throughout her career to raise questions of social consciousness and life‐cycle mysteries based on two seemingly incompatible influences: current news reports and her own subconscious voice.

By channeling such opposing energies, Warashina’s works often possess duality and ambiguity, which allow them to be enjoyed for their social commentary, personal revelations, and political observations as well as their visual value.

BAM is one of only two west coast venues to host the exhibition, which is organized and curated by the American Museum of Ceramic Art (AMOCA) in Pomona, Calif. The local presentation, which was made possible by leading support from The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, has been curated by Stefano Catalani and feature many important pieces from Northwest collections in addition to works traveling with the exhibition.

As an undergraduate at the University of Washington in Seattle, Warashina enrolled in the university’s ceramics program and became transfixed with clay, to the point she would regularly sneak into the throwing studio after hours just to hone her craft.

Warashina’s early artistic influences included California Funk, Surrealism, and experimental West Coast ceramic sculpture from the 1950s and 1960s with her first solo exhibition at the Phoenix Art Gallery, Seattle in 1962. While initially known for her abstract “glaze graphics,” she quickly became prominent for a series of ceramic altars featuring fierce women, blazing with color, offering musings about the nature of the feminine.

Later, she created casts of tiny characters made of bone‐white china who engaged in shocking antics: riding nude in showoff cars, painting each other, and shooting arrows into the air, and while humor has always been a distinct aspect of Warashina’s work, it is not always evident or intentional as unexpected quirks of form may be interpreted as more humorous than the overt contents and titles she has become known for.

Her newest series, “Conversations,” is populated with doll‐sized figures with oversized heads and bodies and spindly arms and legs with strategically placed graphic elements, such as black bands, squares, or stripes across their bodies.

The extreme changes in her work throughout the decades require not only a high degree of craftsmanship and attention to detail on Warashina’s part, but can be highly demanding of viewers as well since many of her pieces gradually undermine the boundaries and issues associated with them, leaving the theorizing to others.

Born in Spokane in 1940 to father Heijiro Warashina, a Japanese immigrant, and mother Aiko Konzo Warahina, a secondgeneration Japanese‐American, Patti was the youngest of three children. It was during this time she cultivated her acute sense of curiosity and skepticism, specifically as it relates to social and political subjects, after witnessing the mistreatment of her immediate family and extended Japanese‐American relatives during WWII.

Having earned her BFA (1962) and MFA (1964) from the University of Washington, Warashina embarked on a teaching career that would take her to Wisconsin and Michigan before returning to Seattle where she taught at UW for 25 years, retiring as a Professor Emerita.

Revered by generations of ceramic artists and devoted collectors, Warashina has received numerous awards for her work, which is featured in public collections worldwide, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum's Renwick Gallery, Washington, DC; Museum of Arts and Design, NYC; Los Angeles County Art Museum; the National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto; Australia's Perth Cultural Center; and Korea's Icheon World Ceramic Center.

Her awards include: 2012 Watershed Legends Award; 2012 University of Washington Timeless Award; 2009 Regis Masters; 2008 Voulkos Fellow; 1994 American Craft “Council of Fellows;” two National Endowment for the Arts Grants; a “Lifetime Achievement Award/Woman of the Year 2001” given by Artist Trust in Seattle; and a “Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2003” from the University of Washington in Seattle. Her personal “lifetime” papers and “oral history” have been collected by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institute. She was given travel grants and invitations by the Japanese, Chinese, and Korean governments to participate in their cultural exchange programs. She has been commissioned awards both from King County and Seattle Arts Commission, and received a “Commendation from the Governor of Washington State.”

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