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The Poetry of Clay: The Art of Toshiko Takaezu

August 7, 2004–March 6, 2005

This exhibition features ceramics, weavings, and a monumental bronze bell by the American artist Toshiko Takaezu. Born in Hawaii in 1922, Takaezu studied ceramics with the renowned artist and teacher Maija Grotell and weaving with Marianne Strengell at Cranbrook Academy in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. The creative spirit of Japanese art and its approach to material and decoration have been integral to her work ever since.

After experimenting with traditional ceramic forms—bowls, vases, and plates—in 1958 Takaezu made a dramatic change in her work: she closed the openings in these useful objects, denying their function, and creating the domed columns and spheres for which she has become famous. Takaezu has explored the expressive potential of these "forms," as she calls them, for more than forty-five years, subtly modifying shape and scale and painting on glazes in infinite variety, to produce ceramic sculpture of compelling mood and presence. As she has said: "You are not an artist simply because you paint or sculpt or make pots that cannot be used. An artist is a poet in his or her own medium. And when an artist produces a good piece, that work has mystery, an unsaid quality; it is alive."

The beauty of Toshiko Takaezu's ceramics and their significance as a revolutionary innovation in the art form was recognized early in her career. Her work is in numerous public collections, including the Smithsonian Institution, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the National Museum in Bangkok, Thailand; and she has received many honors and awards, among them the Gold Medal of the American Craft Council, being named a Living Treasure of Hawaii, and receiving the Human Treasure Award from the University of North Carolina, as well as several honorary doctorate degrees.

Takaezu concluded a distinguished teaching career at Princeton, where she taught for twenty-five years until her retirement in 1992. She maintains a studio and a famous garden in Quakertown, New Jersey.

Main Building


The exhibition and accompanying publication were made possible by Andrea Baldeck and William Hollis.


Dr. Felice Fischer, Luther W. Brady Curator of Japanese Art and Curator of East Asian Art; Kathleen A. Foster, Robert L. McNeil, Jr. Curator of American Art; Darrel Sewell, Curator Emeritus of American Art

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