Object of the Week: Raccoon by Joan Hang Smith

Joan Hang Smith (b. 1928) was an American ceramist who primarily worked in Ohio and California. Smith graduated from the Cleveland Institute of Art in 1950 and frequently exhibited her work at museums in her home state of Ohio, including the Canton Museum of Art and the Cleveland Museum of Art. In the 1950s, she was a frequent contributor to the May Show at the Cleveland Museum, an annual juried exhibition of work by local artists, as well as the Ceramic National exhibitions at the Everson, where she showed work in 1952, 1954, and 1958. During this period, Smith specialized in creating animal figures in clay, such as zebras, cats, and birds, as well as various types of dishware. In 1952, Raccoon received an honorable mention for ceramic sculpture in the 17th Ceramic National (you can see the sculpture in the center of the installation photograph below). The figure is made of orange clay, glazed in brown, and has darker accents to indicate the raccoon’s stripes. Smith employed a textured effect across the body of the animal indicates its fur. With its turned head and arched back, the raccoon strikes a familiar pose to anyone who has ever caught such a creature rifling around in their own backyard. The animal’s startled pose is heightened by the shining glaze used for its eyes, which resemble the familiar beady eyes of raccoons. Richard V. Smith, a Trustee of the Everson, purchased Raccoon at the close of the 17th Ceramic National and eventually donated the sculpture to the Museum in 1983. Raccoon is on view in Key Figures: Representational Ceramics 1932-1972 through June 23, 2019.

-Maggie Teschler, Curatorial Intern

Image captions

1. Joan Hang Smith, Raccoon, 1952, earthenware, 9 1/2 x 18 x 7 3/4 inches, Everson Museum of Art; Gift of Richard V. Smith, 83.5.92. Installation photograph of the 17th Ceramic National exhibition at the Syracuse Museum of Fine Arts, 1952