George E. Ohr
|George E. Ohr|
The "Mad Potter of Biloxi"
|Born||July 12, 1857
|Died||April 7, 1918(aged 60)|
George Edgar Ohr (July 12, 1857 – April 7, 1918) was an American ceramic artist and the self-proclaimed "Mad Potter of Biloxi." In recognition of his innovative experimentation with modern clay forms from 1880–1910, some[who?] consider him the father of the American Abstract-Expressionism movement.
George Ohr was born in Biloxi, Mississippi, on July 12, 1857. He was the son of German immigrants who arrived in New Orleans c. 1850 and subsequently married and moved to Biloxi. George Ohr tried his hand at various trades before he became interested in ceramics in 1879, while an apprentice of Joseph Fortune Meyer. Ohr married Josephine Gehring of New Orleans on September 15, 1886. Ten children were born to the Ohrs, but unfortunately only 5 survived to adulthood. George Ohr died of throat cancer on April 7, 1918.
Ohr studied the potter's trade with Joseph Meyer in New Orleans, a potter whose family hailed from Alsace-Lorraine, as did Ohr's. Ohr's father had established the first blacksmith shop in Biloxi and his mother ran an early, popular grocery store there. In his lifetime, Ohr created well over 10,000 known pots. He was a showman of the style of P.T. Barnum, a contemporary.[according to whom?] Ohr was an American figure at the turn of the 20th century. He called his work "unequaled, undisputed, unrivaled." In 1884, Ohr exhibited and sold his pottery at the World's Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition in New Orleans. Of the hundreds of pieces he showed, Ohr boasted "no two alike."
The 1894 fire that burned most of Biloxi also destroyed Ohr's workshop, and it has been noted that Ohr's post-fire works show tremendous "energy" and "fluidity."
While Ohr had a healthy self-image, during his lifetime, many others in the art world[who?] did not accept him or his pots, and considered him a boasting eccentric. In the early 1900s, the Arts and Crafts Movement and its leaders (such as William Morris) advocated that an artist should display control and perfection in all art forms. Ohr displayed little obvious perfectionism in his art or control in his person, antagonizing art leaders[who?] nationally and political leaders[who?] at home. Ohr's work is now seen as ground-breaking and a harbinger of the abstract sculpture and pottery that developed in the mid-20th century.[by whom?] Ohr's pieces are now relatively rare and highly coveted.
A notable feature of Ohr's pottery is their thin walls, metallic glazes, and twisted, pinched shapes. To this day, potters marvel at Ohr's porcelain-thin walls and unusual glazes. Few have been able to replicate them using a pottery wheel, which is how Ohr made his works. Ohr dug much of his clay locally in southern Mississippi from the Tchoutacabouffa River. Tchoutacabouffa is the Biloxi tribe's word for "broken pot."
The Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art
The Ohr-O'Keefe Museum Of Art in Biloxi has a large permanent collection of Ohr's work. Three buildings of the new campus designed by Frank Gehry opened to the public on November 8, 2010, with several exciting exhibitions, including a large selection of work by George Ohr. In addition to the Gehry-designed buildings, the Pleasant Reed Interpretive Center is also open to the public.
The museum campus was partially destroyed during Hurricane Katrina when a casino barge was washed onto the semi-constructed facility. As art lovers visit the eastern portion of the campus, they can view the construction that is planned to continue on the western part of the campus, beginning with the Center for Ceramics building, followed by the George E. Ohr "Pods," scheduled to be completed in 2012.
From 2007 - 2010 Ohr Rising: The Emergence of an American Master, a major national exhibition of Ohr pottery, traveled to Pomona, California; San Angelo, Texas; Alfred, New York; Toronto, Canada; and the Louisiana State University Museum of Art in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Many of those pieces, as well as several that have never been displayed, can now be seen at the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art.
Two new Frank-Gehry designed buildings are scheduled to open in 2012. The City of Biloxi Center for Ceramics will open in late spring/early summer 2012 and will be used for classes in ceramics and other art. The Center for Ceramics will also contain community meeting areas.
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- Ellison, Robert A., Jr. (2006). George Ohr, Art Potter. The Apostle of Individuality. Martin Eidelberg. London: Scala. ISBN 1-85759-425-8.
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- McKee, Jesse O.; Velvelyn Blackwell Foster, Stephen Young, et al. (2005). Mississippi: The Magnolia State. Atlanta: Clairmont Press. p. 330. ISBN 1-56733-125-4.
- Carr Black, Patti (2009). American Masters of the Mississippi Gulf Coast: George Ohr, Dusti Bongé, Walter Anderson, Richmond Barthe. Jackson, Mississippi: Mississippi Arts Commission. ISBN 978-1-60473-205-4.
- Clark, Garth; Ellison, Robert A.; Hecht, Eugene (1989). The Mad Potter of Biloxi: The Art & Life of George E. Ohr. New York: Abbeville Press. ISBN 978-0-89659-927-7.
- Ellison, Robert A. (2006). George Ohr, Art Potter: The Apostle of Individuality. London: Scala. ISBN 978-1-85759-425-6.
- Hecht, Eugene (1994). After the Fire: George Ohr, an American genius. Lambertville, NJ: Arts and Crafts Quarterly Press. ISBN 978-0-9637896-9-3.
- Mohr, Richard D. (2003). Pottery, Politics, Art: George Ohr and the Brothers Kirkpatrick. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. ISBN 978-0-252-02789-5.