Southeast Texas Artist’s Ceramics Connect to “Sacred Silence”


Linnis Blanton’s latest works literally turned his creative process upside down. The Beaumont ceramist drew on his Native American heritage to transform his pots into sculptural landscapes that are both intimate and epic.

Blanton once said he was working on the wheel on a pot, pushing from the outside to twist the wet clay and create his iconic organic shapes, when a friend and local sculptor David Cargill looked inside. and said, “It’s better inside. ”

“What blew me away was that I knew it, I was always aware of it,” said Blanton. “But to hear David say it, it’s like, ‘Whoa! So I turned my pots over and it allowed me to reconnect with sculpture rather than pottery. I’m not at all ashamed of pottery, but it’s like going one step further, and it was so exciting.

The upside-down sculptures resemble deep canyon walls, like those found in the West. Blanton, who has Cherokee and Osage ancestors, said during a visit to the Ancestral Pueblo ruins in the Four Corners area, he found a similarity in the marks on the canyon walls and the marks on his carvings.

“It’s a kind of thread that goes to the clay that runs through my body, my soul and my mind that connects it to my work,” he said.

Ancestral Pueblo was previously known as Anasazi. However, the term is now largely unused as the word is of Navajo origin and means “ancient enemy”

The Beaumont Art League will host “Sacred Silence: The Artistic Vision of Linnis Blanton,” which opens with a free reception from 7 to 9 pm on November 13. The show will run until December 17. The title reflects what Blanton strives for when he works.

“I find this calm in me and it becomes a meditation,” he said. “You go into that waking dream state, and then the real work begins. I like the silence. It’s my favorite sound.

Blanton has been working with clay for almost 50 years. He developed a clay program at a college where he taught for 30 years, and he taught at Lamar University for almost 20. The Art League exhibition is his second in just over a year, but few have seen the latest as COVID has shut it down. Despite his longevity, Blanton has the enthusiasm of a young artist who is just beginning a journey of discovery. He’ll spend 15-20 minutes tossing the pot, then three weeks figuring out where the sculpture should go. Part of that takes into account the unexpected.

“A mistake is a great opportunity to do something that I’ve never done before,” he said.

“Sacred Silence” is not just a cover of his previous show, because his new work demands a different look.

“It’s still new what’s exciting – that’s what makes it interesting, keeps me motivated,” he said. “I can’t wait to do it.”

In addition to the canyons, other shapes are revealed in the artwork, with recurring bird shapes that remind him of Native American Thunderbirds myths, Blanton said. It uses ferric oxide and raku glazes, but the parts are not raku fired, but by oxidation, which affects the reaction of the glazes. Ferric oxide has a red tint, which Blanton often contrasts with the greens. He works on a wheel – constantly turning the parts and working from all sides.

As clay goes through the cycle of creativity, it changes shape, Blanton said. When it is first worked, the clay is wet, which he says is the state all ceramicists love the most. Then the clay dries and becomes brittle before being fired.

“They lose their lives when they dry out,” he said. “They are successful when they come back to life.”

Blanton looks like a man who knows his place in the world. It’s a world of clay and it doesn’t need anything else.

“I’m sorry for the people who never find it, never find out what their niche in life is,” he said. “I feel so lucky to have found something that I can really really connect with – and it’s just the feel of clay. When I make marks on clay, it’s like a feeling of comfort, that I know I’m doing the right thing. This is what I’m supposed to do.

Fired pottery can last for eons. Inside it will last forever, outside maybe a million years, Blanton said. This permanence gives him a feeling of immortality.

“I really want my pieces to have a life of their own, because I’m not going to be here,” he said. “They’re going to stay here a lot longer than me. I would like them to be heirlooms passed down from generation to generation.

“You know, you were successful when you hit the garage sales. I think that’s a compliment, because it’s like the old generations are getting rid of it and the new generations are getting rid of it. And, with any luck, someone will see it and want to keep it, you know? ”

“In a thousand years, someone might pick it up and they won’t know who you are. But maybe it is possible, if he stayed in the family even for 100 years, you feel like a family friend. “Oh, yeah, there was this guy, he was the head of Lamar’s art department – all this mythology built around you that contains elements of truth. But that’s art, just telling us a story.

When Blanton works in clay, he tries to be in the moment. Yet he’s also very much aware of how those moments form a narrative that connects the past, present, and future. With that in mind, he takes pride in doing whatever he can.

“I don’t want a bad piece to come out,” he said. “I always do something again if I’m not happy with it.

Blanton has no intention of changing what he does. After almost half a century, he knows exactly what he wants. Or rather what he doesn’t want.

“One thing I don’t want to do is live an average life,” he said.

The Beaumont Art League is located at 2675 Gulf Ave. at Beaumont. Call 409-347-6166 to see the show after the opening date.

Andy Coughlan is a freelance writer with The Beaumont Enterprise.

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