Object of the Week: Untamed by Bernard Frazier

Born on a ranch near Athol, Kansas, Bernard Frazier (1906-1979) grew up raising cattle and horses and farming wheat. Frazier expressed interest in art at a young age, using local clays and stones to create modest sculptures without any training or guidance from an art teacher. He enrolled in a semester of art classes at Kansas Wesleyan University in 1924, before transferring to the newly established school of design at the University of Kansas to study painting. After graduating from the University of Kansas in 1929, Frazier apprenticed for the sculptors Lorado Taft and Fred Torrey in Chicago while also studying at the National Academy of Art, the Chicago School of Sculpture, and the Art Institute of Chicago. Frazier returned to Kansas in the mid-1930s and in 1938 received a grant from the Andrew Carnegie Foundation to work as a Sculptor-in-Residence at the University of Kansas, where he established the University’s first department of sculpture. Over the next three decades, Frazier’s reputation as a skilled sculptor grew and he received several important commissions, including sculptures for the Missouri State Office Building in Jefferson City and a massive ceramic mosaic wall for the First Methodist Church of Wichita. Frazier participated in two Ceramic National exhibitions at the Everson, in 1941 and 1948. Established in 1932, the Ceramic Nationals were a series of juried exhibitions that attracted ceramic artists from across the country to display their works in Syracuse, sparking a national interest in the ceramic arts and allowing the Museum to build an unparalleled collection of twentieth century American ceramics. Untamed is one of two entries Frazier submitted to the 1948 National, and it won a $500 purchase prize given by the IBM Corporation. Although smaller than many of his works, Untamed displays Frazier’s skill at capturing power and movement in a stationary form. Untamed is currently on view in Key

Installation photograph, 13th Ceramic National at the Syracuse Museum of Fine Arts, 1948

Figures: Representational Ceramics 1932-1972 through June 23, 2019.

-Kali Penoyer, Curatorial Intern


Bernard Frazier, Untamed, ca. 1948, stoneware with volcanic ash matte glaze, 26 x 36 ½ x 20 inches, Everson Museum of Art; Purchase Prize given by IBM Corporation, 13th Ceramic National, 1948, 49.562