california clay cover

In California during the 1950’s the art climate was in a state of flux and open to experimentation. The presence of Peter Voulkas signaled a philosophical upheaval of ceramic tradition and technique, inspiring the west coast clay revolution. California Clay in the Rockies is an assemblage of interviews, demonstrations and performances showcasing the seminal artists of this innovative movement, interwoven with a superb survey of their work.

Voulkos’ colleagues, Funk originator Robert Arneson, raku innovator Paul Soldner, trompe-l’oeil figurativist Richard Shaw, monumental sculptor Viola Frey, superrealist Marily Levine, classicist Michael Frimkess, Ron Nagel, Jerry Rothman and Phillip Cornelius applaud Voulkos’ inspiration and encouragement as a catalyst towards the development of their personal commitment and vision. Ceramics historian Garth Clark’s critical commentary underscores the accomplishments and achievements of these visionary artists. Chris Felver directed California Clay in the Rockies in 1983 at Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Aspen Colorado.


Filmed at Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Aspen, Colorado, this documentary was assembled from segments of interviews and demonstrations with Robert Arneson, Philip Cornelius, Viola Frey, Michael Frimkess, Marilyn Levine, Ron Nagle, Jerry Rothman, Richard Shaw, Paul Soldner, and the artist credited with starting the “West Coast clay revolution,” Peter Voulkas. Because there is no introduction or narration (with the exception of comments by gallery owner Garth Clarke and Whitney Museum curator Paterson Sims), the viewer unfamiliar with the California clay scene and these artists’ past and present works may have some trouble following these loosely threaded vignettes. Despite the lack of continuity the film does document the personalities of these artists and their feelings about the medium within a mainstream art context. There is something almost honorific about the way and duration the artists are considered by the camera, something which begs the question about whether we are watching people who are truly great. And one senses a kind of ‘60s loving feeling in this video, particularly directed toward Peter Voulkas.