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Bared body of work

Autumn Phillips
Key points ° Opening reception for "Recent Works by Paul F. Morris and Jennifer Scott McLaughlin" ° 5 to 7 p.m. today ° Depot Art Center, 1001 13th St. ° The exhibit will be on display through Feb. 20. The Depot ArtsCenter is open from 9 to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Call 879-9008.

Key points ° Opening reception for “Recent Works by Paul F. Morris and Jennifer Scott McLaughlin” ° 5 to 7 p.m. today ° Depot Art Center, 1001 13th St. ° The exhibit will be on display through Feb. 20. The Depot ArtsCenter is open from 9 to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Call 879-9008.

Try to find Paul Morris on the Internet. You won’t. Try to find him in a book or magazine article. You probably won’t.

As an artist, Morris is what one would call “obscure” but soon to be discovered.

Although Morris turns 50 this month, he has only been in the studio full time for a year.

“I’m kind of a late bloomer,” he said.

Morris has been an artist his entire life, but making the money he needed to pay the bills ate up most of his time. Is seems that as soon as he decided to stop teaching and start being an artist full time, everything started to fall into place.

Morris entered his work in SummerArt 2004 at the Depot Art Center and was awarded Best of Show for his “Envy Ewer.” And beyond Steamboat, his work is starting to gain some national recognition.

Until recently, his work has mostly shown regionally, but now his resume includes shows in Los Angeles, North Carolina, Salt Lake City and Texas.

Morris’ recent body of work is large scale (2 to 3 feet tall) sculptural pots.

The majority of his work is hand built out of parts that may be thrown, press-molded or just hand-shaped slabs of clay. His glazes are textured mixes of bright colors.

He mixes all his glazes and applies them to the surface of the pot in much the way a painter would. He brushes it on or sprays it. He will trail it onto the pot with a syringe.

“I like to control the way it looks,” he said. “I apply the glaze and fire it, and if I don’t like it, then I fire it again.” The pots in tonight’s show will have been fired six or a dozen times.

“Texture has always intrigued and excited me,” he said. “And I think to fully understand a work you have to see it and touch it.”

At first glance, his art follows the traditional form of a pitcher — body, handle, spout — but his purpose is not to make a vessel to hold water, but a vessel to hold a message.

When he explains that his pieces are about being male, the pitcher seems an obvious canvas for a discussion about gender.

“The notion of the body is what pottery is about,” Morris said. “People made pots to sustain the body, to store food, to eat out of.

“And there are parallels between our existence and the life of the pot. We are born. We die. The pot is made. It serves its purpose, and it eventually breaks.”

There are obvious anatomical references in his work — the shape of a breast, the shape of a back.

“My work is my expression of what its like to be human,” he said. “Maybe (the viewer) will be able to empathize with the male by looking at my work. They can understand how wretched men can be, as well as wonderful. All people are a curious mixture, and I want that to come out in the work.”

The 12 pieces that will be on display tonight in the Depot Art Center are a continuation of the themes he already was exploring in the “Procrustean Ewer” and the “Envy Ewer” that people saw at SummerArt 2004.

“All this work comes from a very deep passion,” he said. “I am trying to understand who I am and to communicate what I discovered.”


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