33rd Ceramics Conference for the Advancement of Ceramic Arts – College Edition 2.0

This is the kind of educational, intellectual event one expects from museums or universities, but which public institutions seem less and less able to provide.


After 33 years of tradition, the John Natsoulas Center for the Arts is proud to announce its continuation of the largest sculptural ceramics conference in the world. Conceived by the need for dialogue and direct interaction between artists and students, this educational conference is an expansion of our annual ceramics conference that was held this past May, and also a sneak peek into next year’s annual ceramics conference that will take place from April 30thto May 2nd2021.

Date: Friday, September 18th 2020
10 am – 4 pm
Presenters: Michelle Gregor, Lisa Reinertson, Shalene Valenzuela, Jeff Downing, Lisa Clague, Arthur Gonzalez, Louis Marak, John Natsoulas, etc.

This Fall, the John Natsoulas Center for the Arts will present some of the best ceramic sculptors in the world. One of the distinguished artists included in this free webinar is Lisa Clague, whose transformative work of turning the figurative tradition on edge earned her two Virginia Groot Foundation Grants. Also included in this conference is Arthur Gonzalez, a recipient of the National Endowment of the Arts fellowship. Michelle Gregor, a leading figure in the second generation of Bay Area Figuration who is multifaceted in her works of clay, bronze, paint and drawing media will be joining in as well. Other artists at the forefront of sculptural ceramics this year include Shalene Valenzuela, Jeff Downing, and Louis Marak.

In a side-by-side fashion, two artists will engage with one another in a discussion about the nuances of their work and their experiences of being a ceramic sculptor in the 21stcentury. They will also participate in a Q & A, with questions being sent in real-time by students from all over the world.

This conference is free to the public, and an incredible opportunity for students and interested parties to directly interact with and gain firsthand insight from renowned sculptural ceramic artists. Because many colleges and universities will continue to implement social-distancing regulations this coming Fall, over 50 professors and teachers have requested for this conference to be used as an educational tool for their curriculum. The conference will be available on Zoom and for live streaming on Facebook. We highly encourage educators to take advantage of this conference by inviting as many students to participate.

Over a hundred universities, colleges, and high schools will be tuning into our live stream to participate. To participate, please download Zoom and register in advance at: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_GR3xOBlLReqCibVDZP9iHQ.

Register Now

Schedule – Friday, September 18th

Side-by-side discussion

Time (PST):

10 am: Michelle Gregor & Lisa Reinertson

11:30 am: Shalene Valenzuela & Jeff Downing

12:30 pm: Lunch

1:30 pm: Lisa Clague & Arthur Gonzalez

2:30 pm: Louis Marak & John Natsoulas

Michelle Gregor & Lisa Reinertson

Considered a leading figure in the second generation of Bay Area Figuration, Michelle Gregor is a multifaceted artist who works in clay, bronze, paint and drawing media, handling each medium with a process-oriented and intuitive approach that results in painterly forms and images. She has a masterful, intuitive sense of color that unifies her productions in various media and endows all of her work with a painterly vigor that reflects her Bay Area roots and also her deep understanding of Abstract Expressionism.

Reinertson earned her Masters of Fine Arts degree at the University of California at Davis where she studied with Robert Arneson, and Manuel Neri. While she was directly and personally influenced by both of them, she has also been strongly influenced by the figurative traditions in painting and sculpture. Her work combines a realism rooted in the humanist figurative tradition in art with a contemporary expression of social and psychological content.

Shalene Valenzuela & Jeff Downing

Shalene Valenzuela was born and raised in Santa Barbara, California. She received a BA in Art Practice at the University of California at Berkeley and an MFA in Ceramics from California College of Arts and Crafts. In 2007, she moved from her longtime home of Oakland, CA to participate in a long-term residency at The Clay Studio of Missoula. She currently maintains a studio in the historic Brunswick Building and serves as the executive director at The Clay Studio of Missoula. “My ceramic sculptures reflect upon a variety of issues with a thoughtful, yet humorous and ironic tone. I reproduce everyday common objects primarily through slipcasting, and illustrate the surfaces with handpainted imagery. The narratives I create reference fairytales, urban mythologies, consumer culture, societal expectations, etiquette, politics, and coming-of-age issues. Beneath the shiny veneer of these relics hides a complex and sometimes contradicting truth of what things seem to appear as upon first glance.” – Shalene Valenzuela

In the evolving world of ceramic sculpture, San Francisco-based artist and teacher Jeff Downing is well established as a formidable artistic force, creating a steady stream of innovative and adventurous work that pushes boundaries and breaks new ground even as it vividly reflects the artist’s own path and the very personal touchstones that have marked his circuitous creative journey. “The surfaces of my sculpture are often embedded with coded messages and varied icons of maritime traditions. Vessels are representative of passage and transformation. Monumental figures symbolize guardians keeping a watch out for the hazards ahead. They act as spirit guides leading us to places of safe harbor and recovery. The portrayals in these works often operate as a device for finding solace in an uncertain world, imbued with a sense of mystery that enables the imagery to be interpreted in multiple ways.” – Jeff Downing

Lisa Clague & Arthur Gonzalez

The distinctive figurative sculpture by Lisa Clague hovers between fantasy and reality – playful, mysterious, contemplative. “My work evokes a place between the subconscious and the intangible,” she notes. “My masked figures are hybrid creatures, mistresses of ambiguity and disguise, of seduction and deception. These images, like dreams, are familiar but illusive.” The figures are rendered in white-ware and then treated with stains, oxides and wax. Metal, glass and/or wood are added components to complete the sculpture.

Dark, somber and foreboding, Arthur Gonzalez’s works encourage serious deliberation and reflection on the relationship between personal concerns and world issues. Raw in form, lacking in smoothness and rough in finish, the ceramic sculptures give glimpses of a conversation or a contemplation in progress. Gonzalez’s creations of ceramic and found objects reveal visions and feelings that are not polished but ongoing processes of gyrating thoughts and churning emotions that threaten to erupt into reality and consciousness to defy the fantasy of a peaceful experience.

Louis Marak & John Natsoulas

Louis Marak was born in 1942 in Shawnee, Oklahoma. In 1965 he received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Crafts from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. He earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in ceramics in 1967 from Alfred University in New York. His work has also been included in numerous group exhibits at museums in this country and abroad, including the American Crafts Museum in New York City, the Renwick Gallery of Fine Art in Washington, D.C., the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Hong Kong Museum of Art, the National Museum in Jakarta, Indonesia, and the Suntory Art Museum in Tokyo, Japan.

John Natsoulas, CEO & Founder of John Natsoulas Gallery, is an expert on the Beat Generation and Funk Art movement. He is also a curator, motivational speaker, and publisher of the John Natsoulas Press.