Betty Woodman in The Miami Rail
Flat or round, round or flat? At times, Betty Woodman seems like Magellan, sailing toward the edge, but sure that a curve will appear soon. For over half a century, the artist has explored ceramics’ boundaries and borders, not just the formal ones—as in how could this also be a painting?, but how the vessel reappears around the globe, from Italy to the Yucatan to Japan. The vase is the starting point, the destinations far flung.
Woodman, who has worked with the vase since she enrolled in Alfred University in 1948, has commented on its universal appeal, the fact that it has been used for millennia to contain everything from our wine to our ashes. But, she eschews its vaseness (excuse that awful word, I just mean that vases are primarily structures used to hold liquids, granular materials, or Gerbera daisies, and here they don’t hold those things), and instead breaks it down to a series of picture planes on which she paints.