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The Gift and Mystery of Art

Canopic Jar, 2014
Canopic Jar, 2014
Industrial Ruin Vessel #3, 1996
Industrial Ruin Vessel #3, 1996

By Krishna Adams, Director of Visual Arts, Craft, Media and Design –

The Tennessee Arts Commission is pleased to have been gifted two wonderful works by professional clay artist and professor, Vince Pitelka. Through his esteemed career, he has taught at the University of Massachusetts, Northeastern University in Boston and North Dakota State University. For the past 23 years, he has been a professor of art and head of the clay program at the Appalachian Center for Craft, a satellite campus of Tennessee Technological University in Middle Tennessee and part of their School of Art, Craft and Design.  He was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and has taught clay workshops across the U.S. as well as internationally. Pitelka’s work can be found in the collections of the Cooper Tea Company, Tennessee State Museum in Nashville, Appalachian Center for Craft, Southern Connecticut State University, Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, and at the Karacasu Foundation in Izmir, Turkey among others.

Inspired by abandoned factory structures, the sculpture Industrial Ruin Vessel #3 was fashioned by artfully forming and stacking six separate and distinct shades of brick colored clay that build the distressed and off-kilter walls. The broken, derelict areas between the brick allow for dark shadows as well as outside light to fill the exposed spaces adding to its three dimensionalities.

As the name suggests, the design of Canopic Jar was motivated by covered vessels that are traditionally sealed shut either permanently or temporarily such as time capsules and ossuaries. And yes, this sculpture contains a mystery object or two as evidenced by the internal, echoing sound of rattling when the object is carefully moved. (You can look, but please don’t touch.)

Vince Pitelka
TTU Photo/Dean Carothers

“I have a fascination for covered vessels and their inherent sense of mystery when you do not know their purpose or contents. That sense of mystery is compounded when the lid is sealed.”– Pitelka

The Tennessee Arts Commission Permanent Collection encompasses a diverse range of art representative of artists from across the state. From contemporary works and fine craft to traditional folklife artistry, Tennessee is fortunate to have an enduring history of strong artistic expression. Find out more about the Permanent Collection at http://tnartscommission.org/permanentcollection/ Pitelka’s two works are on view in the offices of the Tennessee Arts Commission.


Canopic Jar, 2014
Coil-built stoneware clay, wood ash glaze, soda fired to cone-10, stainless steel cable, copper swage sleeves, mixed media, gift of the artist

Industrial Ruin Vessel #3, 1996
Slab-built earthenware, laminated colored clay patterns, black underglaze shading, clear glaze, oxidation-fired to cone-04,

gift of the artist

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