AXOM Gallery is pleased to present SHAMAN-ISMS: New Ceramic Sculpture by Bill Stewart. Stewart is best known for his intricately patterned clay figures that inventively combine both animal and human characteristics with humorously irreverent social or political commentary.
In Stewart’s current work, he uses the concept of the shaman to explore how body decoration and costuming can psychologically and physiologically affect the way we perceive ourselves and others. In primitive cultures, shamans summon the spirit world to provide guidance or aid in healing. The shaman channels these spirits with the use of masks, costumes, incantations and movement to physically transform into an alternate state of being. Stewart creates his deity-like anthropomorphic figures to be reminiscent of ancient mythologies, yet upon closer inspection, they incorporate images of our contemporary culture. This work begs us to look at ourselves and how we identify with our own costumes and visual embellishments.
Stewart began his career in the 60’s when the Craft – Art Movement was becoming recognized as a mainstream art form. Highly influenced, by west coast Funk Art, his early sculpture was a panoply of iconic pop imagery and patterns of brightly colored glazes. In 1990, he was commissioned to create “The Council” a large scale piece of public art for the Greater Rochester International Airport, which solidified his shift toward tactile black surfaces and working on a larger scale.
Bill Stewart is a professor emeritus of SUNY Brockport. He is internationally recognized for his influence and achievement in pushing the envelope of what was traditionally a craft medium into the world of fine art. Of note, the ASU Art Museum which has one of the most significant collections of contemporary art and craft, recently acquired two of Stewart’s sculptures for their permanent collection. His work is in other numerous public and private collections including the Museum of American Crafts in NYC, Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco and the Burchfield Penny Art Center in Buffalo.