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Object of the Week: Vase by Rick Dillingham

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Rick Dillingham (1952-1994) was born in Lake Forest, Illinois, and moved to California as a child, where he attended high school and junior college. In 1974, he received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, and he completed his Master of Fine Arts degree at Claremont Graduate School at Scripps College in Claremont, California in 1976. Dillingham then returned to New Mexico, settling in Santa Fe, where he spent the remainder of his life working as an artist, dealer of Native American pottery, curator, and author. Dillingham’s multiple career paths all related to his interest and expertise in southwestern Native American pottery. He was a respected scholar in the field, and he curated several exhibitions and published a number of books on the subject, developing personal relationships with many pueblo artists. Dillingham also briefly restored damaged pueblo pots at the Albuquerque Museum and the Museum of New Mexico in Santa Fe. Each of these experiences influenced his work as a ceramist. Vase exemplifies Dillingham’s unique artistic process, which began by hand building and firing a vessel. After firing, Dillingham purposefully broke the vessel into many pieces, creating the need to restore the pot to its original shape, similar to how he worked to restore pots at museums. He decorated the individual shards before reconstructing the vessel and then meticulously pieced the vessel back together, integrating the seams between each shard into the overall design. The white lines covering the surface of Vase show evidence of Dillingham’s repairs. Vase is currently on display in Earth Piece, an exhibition that examines artists who have combined clay and ceramics with performance art, photography, conceptual art, and land art. Earth Piece is on view through January 5, 2020.

-Steffi Chappell, Assistant Curator

Rick Dillingham, Vase, 1981, earthenware, 8½ x 8½ inches, Everson Museum of Art; Gift of the Everson Museum of Art Members’ Council, 82.5