Featured Artist Member

Featured Artist Member honors the artist members of Berkeley Art Center, highlighting the breadth and variety of mediums, processes and concepts engaged by our community. Only artists whose memberships are current will be considered. To become a member, please sign up HERE. To fill out our Artist Member Informational Survey , click HERE.

Featured Artist February 2016

Barbara Stevens Strauss

Since her early introduction to studio training with painter Vera Klement, Strauss realized her commitment to creating art.  Finding over time that clay was her medium, she became a ceramic sculptor embracing the raku method of firing used in the majority of her work. Strauss has immersed herself in the world of Japanese arts through the study of ikebana with Bay area master Soho Sakai, tea ceremony with Yoshi (of  jazz club fame) , and Zen practice with Soto bishop Gengo Akiba, and recently calligraphy as well. These intensely formal practices offer an unparalleled opportunity to forge a deep connection with Japanese aesthetics and merge it with her own.

Strauss applies that understanding in the creation of her sculpture, allowing the making of art to be a practice of being wholly in the moment.  Strauss’s pieces feature live-edged, textured slabs and are often draped.. The work, sometimes deliberately teetering, often resembling metal or fabric, uses the unpredictability of raku and soda firing to relinquish control.. Her recent work incorporates iron oxide, copper and Japanese glazes on wall pieces and non-functional forms. 

In  2012, Strauss was given a solo exhibition, Under the Cinnamon Moon, at the Japanese Consulate in San Francisco. Her work has been included in many group shows in California, among them Feats of Clay in Lincoln, Kellogg Gallery’s Ink & Clay, the Artery’s California Clay Competition, and was featured in a three-person sculpture show at the Atrium in SOMA.  Her piece Tanabata was included in Lark Book’s 500 Raku (2011).

Strauss takes advantage of every opportunity to open her studio and share her ideas and enthusiasm for collective expression. She established the Berkeley Art Party in February of 2014.  A version of a pop-up gallery, it is held every second Friday at her studio in the Sawtooth Building, featuring four different artists each month.

Professional affiliations: Association of Clay and Glass Artists, Pacific Rim Sculptors-ISC, Nordic 5 Arts, Berkeley Art Center, Sogetsu Teachers Association, Omotesenke Domonkai  SF.

Artist Statement

These sculptural pieces owe their existence to exposure, to crosscurrents of cultural aesthetics – both Western and Asian. Through study of traditional Japanese art forms, I developed a deep appreciation for the use of space as the definitive design element. The principles that govern the meditative spirit of ikebana and tea appear in my work: both disciplines depend as much on what is absent as what is present – in effect, ‘bordering’ the emptiness.

This concept aligns with a disposition toward acrobatic lines, fluid and amorphous expression, and an unfettered approach to the clay. Raku firing provides the perfect medium to express these concepts – surrendering to this technique's unpredictability is an essential part of animating the work. Using this method is a radical way to ensure the least amount of conscious interference in the work’s emergence.

Found objects are used to impress designs and sculptures are slab-built to facilitate spontaneous, unmediated effects. Other pieces are fired with oxides and subtle, muted glazes, meeting the edge of creative energy without conscious control and, most importantly, with minimal restraint.

Click here to visit the artist's website.

Click on images to enlarge.

Rooftop Omphalos
14" h x 11" w x 4" d, raku fired ceramic with extrusions

3.5" h x 14" w x 11" d, raku fired ceramic with glazes  

Tatsujin (2014)
15" h x 5" d x 11" w, raku fired ceramic with glazes