Peter Voulkos helped to change the mind set of ceramics in the art world during the craft-to-art movement. He was heavily influenced by the abstract expressionist movement going on at that time by the painters in New York. This lead him to making abstract expressionist sculpture which made people question the possibility of ceramics being an art and not craft. His work carries a lot of visual weight with large chunks of clay forms all sculpted together some of these from being wheel made. The use of color and or glaze helps to add more weight grounding the piece even more.
He started off as a painting and ceramics student at Montana State University, Bozeman Montana where he received his B.S. in 1951. After that he went on to further his education in clay at California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland California where he earned his MFA in 1952. Through 1952 to 1954 Peter along with Rudy Autio, another well known ceramicist, became the first residents at the Archie Bray Foundation in Helena Montana. He then went out to Black Mountain College in North Carolina in the summer of 1953 to teach, he was there during the same time as Karen Karnes. From there he went back to California where he founded the ceramics department at Otis College of Art and Design. In the time from Black Mountain College and through the time spent at Otis College his work clearly started to move towards strong abstract expressionism. In 1959 he left Otis College of Art and Design to start a ceramic department at the University of California Berkeley.
It was not until the late 1970s that Peter began to use a wood kiln. Peter Callas was the driving influence behind the use of a wood kiln for Voulkos. And for years Callas would fire Voulkos's work in his anagama, developing a lasting friend ship. This fit Voulkos's needs seeing how he enjoyed making large scale work. The different atmospheric results from the kiln enhanced his strong masculine forms. Later on in his career he became fond of making his work in front of an audience. Through out his life he never limited himself to just clay. He continued to paint not only on canvas, but also on clay, made prints and in the late 1960s he started bronzing.
Though out his time as a maker Peter was awarded many medals. The first one in 1955 being a gold medal from the International Exposition of Ceramics at Cannes and many more came to follow. He also was a three time fellowship recipient from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1976, 1978 and 1986. His work can also be found in numerous museums and galleries as well as private collections.
Image found at www.voulkos.com/frameportfolio.html
In Memoriam. University Of California 7 Feb 2010 www.universityofcalifornia.edu/senate/inmemoriam/PeterVoulkos.htm
Peter Voulkos: Chronology. Art Net World Wide Corporation. 29 Jan. 2010 www.artnet.com/usernet/awc/awc_history_view.asp