Curiosity Fuels Creativity: Ketchup Kiss by Patti Warashina

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Highly celebrated Funk artist Patti Warashina (b. 1940) continuously experiments with satire and whimsy in her work. She began her career as an artist at the University of Washington in 1958, where she enrolled as a science major pursuing a “useful” career as a dental hygienist. To her parent’s dismay, after taking a drawing class, Warashina became hooked on the arts. After peering into a ceramics lab and watching fellow students throw clay, she eventually persuaded some potters to teach her how to make a rice bowl. Ultimately, she says, “The material was really what drew me in.” Warashina went on to receive her MFA at the University of Washington, where she later taught for twenty-five years. Among her many accomplishments, the Smithsonian awarded Warashina the Visionary Artist Award in 2020, an honor presented to a living American artist who has demonstrated exceptional artistry, creativity, and vision in their sculptural art and design.

Warashina’s career is marked by radical shifts in interests and curiosities but always features her affinity for the peculiar. Originally trained as a functional potter making small bowls and plates, Warashina later began constructing sculptural works like Ketchup Kiss in the mid-1960s. The colorful multi-layered sculpture features a pair of ketchup-red lips, a peak resembling the twist of a soft-serve ice cream cone, and a sun and rainbow peeking out from its side. Ketchup Kiss has been compared to Milton Glazer’s famous Bob Dylan poster with its bright and psychedelic lines. Warashina points to Pop Art and the Beatles as major inspirations for her at this time.

Warashina created Ketchup Kiss during an experimental period in which she became bored with earthy tones and turned instead to low-fire glazes to create bright and lively vessels and sculptures. Ketchup Kiss belongs to Warashina’s Stacked Loaf Series, which evolved from her Loaf Series and Basket Series. These projects came at a time when Warashina was developing her hand-building skills in order to construct complex vessels. The prominent lips are also an early marker in Warashina’s interest in the human body, which has become a prominent subject in her later work. Ketchup Kiss is ultimately a product of Warashina’s continued progression and reinvention of her work as she explores new parts of her mind.

Speaking about her work, Warashina said, “As a child, I collected dolls, dreams, fantasies. As an ‘adult’ I still collect dolls, dreams, fantasies, and feel lucky that my work involves translating these collective observations from my psyche into a tangible form, which I may or may not comprehend.”

Ketchup Kiss is currently on view in Beyond the Blue, an exhibition showcasing life-affirming works from the Everson’s collection that are filled with joy, humor, and color. Beyond the Blue is on view through November 21, 2021.

Written by: Grace McCormick, Curatorial Intern

Sources:

  • Patti Warashina. YouTube. University of Washington, 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_gyh9c7Yb-s.
  • Sessions, Billie. “Patti Warashina: Wit and Wisdom A Retrospective.” Ceramics, Art and Perception no. 92 (Jun, 2013): 26-29, https://libezproxy-syr-edu.libezproxy2.syr.edu/login?url=https://www-proquest-com.libezproxy2.syr.edu/trade-journals/patti-warashina-wit-wisdom-retrospective/docview/1412583014/se-2?accountid=14214 (accessed June 1, 2021).
  • Upchurch, Michael. “BAM Hosts a Dazzling Patti Warashina Retrospective.” The Seattle Times. July 14, 2013. https://www.seattletimes.com/entertainment/bam-hosts-a-dazzling-patti-warashina-retrospective/.
Patti Warashina, Ketchup Kiss, 1969, porcelain, underglaze, glaze, and luster, 28½ x 19 x 19 inches, Everson Museum of Art; Museum purchase, Deaccession Fund, 2018.10