Ken Ferguson is an artist whose accomplishments are lauded not just in Kansas City, but internationally. As Professor and Chair of the ceramics department at Kansas City Art Institute for over thirty years, subject of a major retrospective of the Nelson--Atkins Museum of Art and countless other exhibitions, and one who continues to make work into his 70s, Ferguson has imparted a love and respect for clay to multitudes.
As a graduate student at Alfred University, resident potter and studio manager at the Archie Bray Foundation in Helena, Montana, and through years of teaching, Ferguson mastered the craft of functional pottery, developing formidable skills on the wheel and in handling glazes that integrally inform his work today. Yet as his command of the medium expanded over the years, so too has his willingness to assert his own creativity. Functional pots yielded to works meant for display, in which the physical experience of touching an object is replaced by an energy so visceral it feels tactile. In the context of this exhibition, Ferguson's work looks both timeless and remarkably contemporary. Too, it shares with the younger artists' work a hybrid nature. The leaping hares of Basket with Triple Hare Handle effortlessly bind Eastern and Western influences, the spontaneous, expressive gesture and the carefully planned form, tradition and innovation, strength and fragility, grace and awkwardness. Udder T--Pot with Mermaid Handle derives its tripodal shape (three separate vessels dexterously fused together) from the traditional Chinese "li" form, the sensuality and sexual connotations of which Ferguson flaunts. Adding a half--drooping phallic spout, world--weary mermaid's head, and glaze that activates the surface while suggesting both mossy growth and patina, he transforms the vessel into a lively, multi--gendered, multi--cultural stage, which yet retains powerful wholeness. This and all of Ferguson's works teem with vitality, as formal prowess weds lyrical expression to glorious effect.