Lucretia Waggoner’s on a mission to gain respect for pottery as an art form
As a long-standing supporter of DIFFA, Mexican-born, Dallas-based artist Lucretia Waggoner was disappointed that she couldn’t attend last weekend’s gala. It was a disappointment for the former member of DIFFA’s Style Council, but a family obligation demanded her absence.
But just because she wasn’t there physically doesn’t mean she wasn’t represented. Among the masks designed for the masquerade-themed fashion event was one by Waggoner. Look closely at it: The material isn’t just papier mache and colored paint. Like all of her works, the devil is in the details: That mask is made of ceramic, the coloring the result of gold- and platinum-leaf appliqué. It’s not just a mask — it’s art.
And therein has laid a conundrum for Waggoner.
“I used to call myself a potter, but I don’t anymore,” she says from her University Park home studio. “Pottery doesn’t get respect as art. So I say I am a ceramic artist.”
Waggoner has certainly come a long way since that time in high school in Mexico City, when she threw her first pot — a tall, bulky, cobalt-colored vase she keeps on her mantelpiece to this day. Waggoner has traveled extensively since then, throughout the U.S. and Europe, learning something new in every locale.
“Everywhere I go, I’ve taken ceramics with me,” she says. “And everywhere I go, I learn different styles.”
Nowhere, though, did she learn more than in Santa Fe, where she wandered by chance into Heidi Loewen’s gallery and immediately realized the true potential of her medium. Loewen became her mentor; she divides most of her work into pre- and post-Heidi phases.
It is the post-Heidi that will be on display at the Laura Rathe Fine Art gallery for the next month in the two-artist exhibit Spring Eternal, beginning with an artists’ reception Saturday.
“It’s a growing process,” Waggoner says of her developing art. She’s no longer satisfied with single pieces, opting lately for elaborate installations. The upcoming show will include multi-piece arrangements of tiny discs, hand-crafted and so delicate looking you imagine they might fly away like capricious hummingbirds. One work will even mount hundreds of small ceramics on tree branches, echoing the migratory monarch butterflies that return to her home country every year and cover vast forests with their bodies. She’s even taken to incorporating acrylics into her art.
There will still be the small vessels and large platters Waggoner has perfected over her career, and while finished so that you could eat food off them, that’s the one thing she asks you not to do. It’s the old utilitarian bugaboo again.
“I have fought that battle [of having ceramics treated as fine art],” she says. “I might not be around when that war is won.”
But art it is, if only for the commitment Waggoner shows in realizing each piece. She covers the foot of a tiny dish — about the size of a soy sauce container at a sushi restaurant — with layer after layer of platinum filigree. And then what does she do? Mount the dish with the foot facing the wall. No one will even see the hard work she put in. But she’ll know.
“Even if they look on the side, and it seems unfinished,” it would diminish the piece, she explains.
Another sign that an artist is at work is that even Waggoner is not sure what the final product will be. Less than a week before the show, she still isn’t sure whether every piece will be used. Like Coco Chanel, she prefers to remove something before declaring the look complete.
“My work is never done until I see a person’s reaction to it,” she says.
And that reaction will certainly warrant some “wows.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 4, 2014.