Museum of Contemporary Craft

A Beautiful Rawness


Meghan Morris, MFA '13 offers a ceramicists' view of Betty Feves: Generations at Museum of Contemporary Craft.

Ceramicist Meghan Morris, MFA ACD ’13, makes quietly graceful and richly earthy work. Her rounded and occasionally dented vessels seem almost to breathe, and Morris’ affinity for the natural world is evident in her work. There is a part of Morris that is, like ceramicist Betty Feves, “too much the farmer’s daughter.” In fact, one of the first things I learned about Morris was that she had worked – labored, really – on an organic farm in Martha’s Vineyard to which she longed one day to return. When the Betty Feves: Generations opened at Museum of Contemporary Craft in mid-March, it seemed a natural choice to ask Morris to review the exhibition and share her unique perspective of Feves’ work. Morris and Feves share a deep love for material and for the landscape – whether it be the rolling hills of Pendleton, Oregon, Betty Feves’ hometown, or the gently sloping and cultivated fields of the Martha’s Vineyard. I’ve often wondered what it would be like to look at a bridge as a bridgebuilder, or at a building as an architect. Below, Morris shares a rare and much appreciated glimpse into how a ceramicist looks at clay. It seems to be visceral relationship.

Betty Feves: Generations runs at Museum of Contemporary Craft until July 28, 2012. The Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, 11am – 6pm. You can view Morris’ work on her portfolio at and on SmugMug.

- Killeen Hanson, MFA ACD ’12


A trio of Morris’ rounded vessels.

A Beautiful Rawness

Walking into the Betty Feves: Generations exhibition at Museum of Contemporary Craft was like a returning – an aesthetic and inexorable home-coming for the part of myself viscerally connected to the earth as a substance. As an artist, as a student, as a farmer, and as a human, I was drawn in by Feves’ work.

A ceramicist myself, the show was, of course, captivating on a material level. There is a beautiful rawness. Feves combines rich texture with elemental, organic forms and references to the human body. She is a master of subtle restraint as she abstracts the imagery and color of the Pendleton landscape from which she so powerfully drew inspiration. Betty Feves reminds me why I make, why I make in clay, and affirms that the connection I feel between nature and my own work is one I do not harbor alone.

Paul Klee once famously wrote that, “For the artist, communication with nature remains the most essential condition. The artist is human; himself nature; part of nature within natural space,” and further, that “the creation of a work of art – the growth of the crown of the tree – must of necessity, as a result of entering into the specific dimensions of pictorial art, be accompanied by distortion of the natural form. For therein is nature reborn.”

Numerous thinkers and artists have drawn connections between growth processes in the natural world and the generative creative process for the maker. Klee’s conception of this as it relates to the power of abstraction is potently at play for Feves. She is, in her own words, “too much the farmer’s daughter” – her relationship to the dirt of the land and to the medium she chose is clearly seen in the work.

Her voice is also distinctly female, powerfully female. Womanhood, motherhood, family, a penetrating celebration of the cycles of life from that perspective is evident. The title of the show, Generations, speaks in its own way to this. There is a sense of time passing, both in the process of the clay, in the process of the earth, and in the process of the artist. Feves left me inspired, humbled, and full of thought.

Each piece in the exhibition resonated with personality, even soul. Her more functional work too, specifically the bonfire series of vessels, spoke with great depth, each with its own story, marked by the wood firing. Full with black space when seen from above, the dark openings lend an air of mystery, and a sense of breath or inhalation emanates from the voluminous forms.


Betty Feves, Stacked sculpture, date unknown, Stoneware on wooden base, 31 × 11 × 26 inches, Collection of Feves Family. Photo by: Dan Kvitka

Compositionally speaking, Feves is masterful. The harmony in ‘Stacked sculpture’ is ineffable, which is a word that often comes to mind as I sit here attempting to do justice to an exhibition of such an artist.

The photograph below records a powerful moment.


Betty Feves with Three Figures (now in Collection of Museum of Contemporary Craft), 1952

Her hands resting on the piece, her gaze fixed upon it, I can appreciate this moment of exchange. I like to imagine her going over in her thoughts the interplay between the figures, the dialogue between the forms.

Betty Feves: Generations runs at Museum of Contemporary Craft until July 28, 2012. The Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, 11am – 6pm.

by Meghan Morris, MFA Applied Craft and Design ’13.

— Posted on 04/25 at 06:27 PM

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