James Watral

San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts Catalog

Accession no: 1999.1.14 A-C Type of work: ceramic

Permanent collection

Artist/creator: James Watral

Artist biography: James Watral participated in summer seminars at the School of Crafts in Penland, North Carolina from 1962-1965. Watral received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1966 from the Cleveland Institute of Art, where he majored in ceramics and minored in printmaking. The artist furthered his education at Tulane University in New Orleans, receiving his Master of Fine Arts in 1968, with a major in ceramics and a minor in art history.

Watral has served as an instructor and lecturer at schools throughout the United States. He is currently a professor of ceramics at Eastfield College in Mesquite, Texas. The artist has had his works exhibited in numerous solo and group shows including “El Corazon,” a 2001 group exhibition at the Bath House Cultural Center in Dallas, Texas and the 2000 “National Ceramic Invitational at the Texas A&M University campus in Commerce. Watral’s works are included in many corporate, public, and private collections.

Title of work: Cone #7

Date of item: n.d.

Date acquired: 1999

Signed: No apparent signature.

Dimensions: 15” l x 12” w (38.1 x 30.48 cm)

Description: a cone shaped ceramic object rests on 2 small metal stands. The ceramic cone is charcoal grey/black clay and has a thin stripe encircling the cone near its widest area that is made of red clay. The point of the cone and about 3” up from it is painted a copper color. The flat wide area of the cone has in its center a smaller cone-shaped protrusion that is shiny black in color.

Material: clay, metal

Medium: ceramics

Country of origin: U. S.

Descriptors: Womack Collection

Artist’s statement about work in 1995: "My work alludes to a number of stylistic sources: Egyptian art, Greek art, Croatian folk art, oriental art, garden design as art, Etruscan art, Coptic art, and contemporary art concepts and aesthetics. My work has investigated possibilities within this framework in order to extend a traditional sensibility into a contemporary visual statement that carries a point of view that is meaningful for me. The use of line and volume (form), in both two and three-dimensional relationships, function as visual equivalents for my concepts. Drawing is also a major aspect of my work for its sense of documentation, reflection of the thinking process, and its ability to bring into focus conceptual issues of a personal significance.

The work for the “Neo-Apulian Series” reflects my long-standing fascination with the classical vessel form. Surface considerations (glaze patterns, etc.) for the series extend the intent of the work. I often put together a number of unrelated surfaces that share a common system of visual order, so that, when experienced in juxtaposition, they may amplify and unify the vessel’s content. The most recent work is the “Hero Series,” an acknowledgement and remembrance for the dead in Croatia (my grandparents’ homeland) and for a number of my friends lost during the last six years. The main theme of the series is the tragic circumstance of incompletion: the persons whose lives have been interrupted by the uncontrollable forces of war, AIDS, and singular tragedies; the people who have been denied the opportunity for greatness and whose stories remain incomplete. The “Hero Series” is currently in progress. The main element in the series is a form called the “Key,” based in an ancient bow fibula unearthed in Croatia. This is the pivot of the series, and all visual issues are addressed through this form. I drew the term “Hero” from a passage in Hiram Williams’ book, Notes for a Young Painter, which designates the main form in a composition as the “hero.” This seemed most appropriate to me. At the same time I discovered the image of the Croatian bow fibula and these two ideas formed a relationship that continues to compel me to research and work in the studio. The ceramic pieces are made with a red earthenware body. Construction techniques are throwing, slab-building, extrusion, hand building, and a combination of the above techniques for various pieces. The surface decorations of the pieces employ glaze, terra sigillata, copper leaf, and mixed media. All of the work is fired in an electric kiln to cone 05. “I have seen yesterday and I know tomorrow.” This statement contains the two basic tenets of ancient Egyptian religious philosophy, which bind the soul to eternity. This exquisite concept was the inspiration for the series “Yesterday and Tomorrow,” conceived as a testament for my friends who are now deceased, and who will never have today, but will always have yesterday and tomorrow. The Djed column is a symbol of renewal and stability in the ancient Egyptian sensibility. Its visual image and concept serve as a strong element in my work. Terra sigillata is a fine clay slip used by the Greeks, Etruscans, and Romans to coat their pottery. This technique is important to my work as the slip is applied to the piece while it is still wet, thus allowing me to remain close to my primary feelings about the work. The terra sigillata surface can then be buffed to a sheen or left matte. After firing, I apply a light coating of wax to seal the surface and enhance the color. A special thanks to my friends here in Dallas and across the country whose constant attentions, encouragements, and gifts of time and labor have kept me focused. To my friends who are not with me, who belong to yesterday and tomorrow, and for whom this exhibition is my testament, my thanks for enhancing my life and illuminating my mind and spirit." 

Condition: Good from Condition Report March 17, 2005

Provenance: Jack and Marian Bleakley of San Angelo provided funds to the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts to purchase 15 works of art from the Bill M. Womack collection. Mr. Womack was an executive of the Commercial Metals Corporation in Dallas and also an avid art collector. He and Jack Bleakley were roommates at the University of Texas both before and after World War II. Mr.Womack was a West Texan—he was born in Brady—and wanted part of his collection to be exhibited there.

Donor information: Jack and Marian Bleakley
Restrictions: None

Cataloger name: Karen Zimmerly
Date: August 8, 2005
Sources used: AAT
Museum file