Breaking Ground: Women in California Clay – Exhibition Overview

The American Museum of Ceramic Art is proud to present the exhibition and accompanying catalog Breaking Ground: Women in California Clay, celebrating 44 artists who have defined—and redefined—ceramics over the past 100 years. Many of the Golden State’s most innovative and impactful ceramic artists in the 20th and 21st centuries are women who faced adversity due to gender inequality and were often ignored or overlooked in favor of their male counterparts. These incredibly determined women pushed forward, driven by creativity and tenacity. 

Breaking Ground highlights the significant shifts in California ceramics over several generations of women artists. The story is told in three sections, using the artist’s “breaking ground period” (rather than their date of birth) to determine their place in history. The story begins with trailblazers Laura Andreson, Betty Davenport Ford, Stefani Gruenberg, Vivika Heino, Elaine Katzer, Mary Lindheim, Martha Longenecker, Gertrud Natzler, Susan Peterson, Ruth Rippon, Susi Singer, Helen Ritcher Watson, Marguerite Wildenhain, and Beatrice Wood. These artists laid the groundwork for the field and inspired successive generations of artists.

The second section includes a disparate group of artists who explored—or are exploring—the female figure, feminism, and the creation of the perfect form. Works by Judy Chicago, Dora De Larios, Roseline Delisle, Viola Frey, Magdalena Suarez Frimkess, Phyllis Green, Margaret Keelan, Karen Koblitz, Marilyn Levine, Elsa Rady, Lisa Reinertson, Nancy Selvin, Anna Silver, and Sandy Simon mark a substantial break in artmaking from their predecessors.

The final section represents a younger generation of artists working to shift the perspective” and includes Ashwini Bhat, Christina Erives, Keiko Fukazawa, Jenny Hata Blumenfield, Julia Haft-Candell, Anabel Juarez, Cathy Lu, Brittany Mojo, Crystal Morey, Kristen Morgin, Annabeth Rosen, Erika Sanada, Joan Takayama Ogawa, Kim Tucker, Anna Valdez, and Bari Ziperstein. Their work, in many ways, continues the conversation of the artists featured in the second chapter to traverse the themes of politics, identity, the environment, and other prevailing issues of globalization, colonialism, and reclaiming histories that have become increasingly important in the lives of practicing women artists.

Assembled together for the first time in Breaking Ground, these works tell the compelling story of how women artists from California made, and continue to make, significant contributions to the American Studio Ceramics movement in profound and singular ways. 

A momentous reframing of the California Clay Movement and its legacy, this exhibition will be the first to chronologize the evolution of ceramic art in California solely through the work of women artists, and the first exhibition to be presented across all three of AMOCA’s ground-floor galleries. As the show is loosely organized by generation, so too are our gallery spaces. AMOCA’s Armstrong Gallery leads viewers through work from the first generation “Trailblazers” to the second generation, “The Body Politic.” Then, viewers move through The Vault and Gallery B to experience work from Breaking Ground‘s generation three “Now” artists.

Breaking Ground will be on view in AMOCA’s Armstrong Gallery, Gallery B, and The Vault from September 10, 2022 through March 12, 2023.

The exhibition is co-curated by Beth Ann Gerstein (Executive Director), Jo Lauria (Adjunct Curator), and Edith Garcia (Professor, California College of the Arts and University of California, Berkeley).

This exhibition and catalog are funded, in part, by grants from the National Endowment for the ArtsCalifornia Humanities, the Pasadena Art Alliance, Boardman Foundation, DEW Foundation, and The LA County Department of Arts & Culture.


Copyright © All rights reserved.