Object of the Week: Ceramic Forms No. 33 and No. 34 by Leza McVey

Leza McVey (1907-1984) was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. She attended the Cleveland Institute of Art from 1927 to 1932, where McVey experimented with sculpture and ultimately graduated with a degree in crafts. She met her husband and fellow artist William McVey at the Cleveland Institute; they married in 1932 and moved to a farm just outside of Cleveland. At the farm, McVey accidentally drank unpasteurized goat’s milk and contracted brucellosis. The disease caused unending lethargy, resulting in a two-year hiatus from sculpting, and gave McVey chronic eye problems that affected her vision for the rest of her life. [1]In 1947, McVey’s husband accepted a position in the sculpture department at Cranbrook Academy, giving her the opportunity to study weaving and ceramics at the school. In rebellion against the wheel-thrown, symmetrical works created by her peers, McVey began to sculpt unique asymmetrical ceramic forms. She typically finished her sculptures with muted, earth-toned glazes, occasionally applying surface decoration such as polka dots or geometric patterns. Perhaps McVey’s focus on form rather than surface decoration related to her declining eyesight, which she continued to struggle with throughout her life. [2]McVey sculpted Ceramic Forms No. 33 and No. 34 in 1951. The abstract stoneware vessels are bottle shaped with three short legs supporting each body, one short and stout and the other with an elongated neck. The vessels are covered in a gunmetal glaze, which creates a shining black surface that resembles the color of iron. McVey entered Ceramic Forms No. 33 and No. 34 into the 16th Ceramic National exhibition in 1951, where the pair won a Purchase Prize and were acquired for the permeant collection at the Everson Museum.

-Alexandra Sheridan, Curatorial Intern & Steffi Chappell, Assistant Curator

[1] Janet Koplos and Bruce Metcalf, Makers: A History of American Studio Craft (University of North Carolina Press, 2010), 223.[2] Caroline Cole, “Leza McVey’s Vital Forms,” Ceramophile 27, no. 1 (Spring 2016), 13.

Leza McVey, Ceramic Form No. 33 and Ceramic Form No. 34, 1951, stoneware, 16 x 6 x 6 inches and 10¼ x 7 x 6 inches, Everson Museum of Art; Purchase Prize given by Harshaw Chemical Company, 16th Ceramic National, 1951, 52.635.1 and 52.635.2