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"Babyloni Pi", a mixed media installations by ceramic sculptor Steve Rucker

Telling Tales in Clay by Chris Waddington

From the start, Steve Rucker pushed the limits of ceramics. His first show featured unglazed clay and willow sticks; later he torched large-scale wood and clay sculptures - "site specific burns" - on levees around New Orleans. So it's no surprise that his current installation at Arthur Roger Gallery covers the floor with hundreds of brightly painted dice, snakes, forks and "slices of pie" - a ceramicist's dream vision of gambling in New Orleans.

"l was never interested in tile preciousness of traditional ceramic arts. My heroes were painters and earth artists who worked on a big scale. When that came together with a Southerner's interest in narrative, my installations began to be filled with recognizable imagery," Rucker said.

"l couldn't make these pieces without my ceramic training. Clay is the quickest way for me to make things - and I never slow down as I try to capture my ideas. I'm looking for overall impact - not pure craftsmanship."

Rucker's installations and attitude couldn't be further from the work of Japanese potter lkuta Susumu. The latter mixes his own clay, ages ít for a year and generally sticks to the labor intensive processes he learned during a five year apprenticeship in his homeland.

Each of his functional vessels stands alone: hand-painted, unique objects that radiate their maker's personality as surely as Rucker's theatrics. Between them, these two artists stake out the distant poles of today's ceramics, but lkuta seemed to speak for them both - and all their colleagues in New Orleans galleries: "Clay is alive," he said. "Clay is magic."

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