From the ground to the gallery

Adam Silverman gets chummy with the earth when he works.

The ceramist's contentment is obvious when his wet hands are immersed in clay, kneading, smoothing and glazing pots.

But he almost didn't follow his instincts.

With experience in architecture and the garment industry, Silverman decided to put his days as a hobby artist behind him and become a full-time potter in September 2002. He gave himself one year to work earnestly and discover if he could make a go of it. Fast forward 11 years, and he remarks that the experiment was a success, emboldening him to make the switch.

"It's fundamental and primitive," he said about the art form. "There's chemistry, art and design involved. It's challenging, and I really enjoy that."

The Rhode Island School of Design graduate will be spotlighted at the Laguna Art Museum from Sunday to Jan. 19. While his pieces and installations have been featured elsewhere, "Clay and Space" is his first one-man show and the one he deems his "most ambitious."

Silverman's exhibit will share space with the site's fifth installment in its ex•pose series, highlighting interdisciplinary artist Richard Kraft, and "Sea Change: Tanya Aguíñiga's Bluebelt Forest." An opening reception will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday.

These displays are in keeping with the museum's recently announced Art & Nature initiative, scheduled for Nov. 7 through 10. Marinta Stupin, the venue's director of education, says the conference and festival will celebrate facets of Laguna Beach.

"The Laguna Art Museum traces its roots to a group of artists whose subject was the natural environment," she said. "They were incredibly accomplished Impressionist landscape painters, and their legacy to us lies not only in the paintings they left behind, but in the very existence of the museum. Art & Nature will be an opportunity for the museum to showcase the much-loved paintings of those early Impressionists, as well as the work of contemporary artists who make nature a central part of their work in new and exciting ways."

While art and cultural historians, scientists and environmentalists will be on hand early next month, local businesses and organizations, including Artists Republic 4 Tomorrow, JoAnne Artman Gallery, Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach, Festival of Arts and others, will simultaneously host gatherings focused on the outdoors.

According to museum Executive Director Malcolm Warner, the upcoming exhibitions by three Los Angeles-based artists, and new items from the museum's permanent collection, are inspired by or touch upon art and nature, though in different ways.

Warner first encountered Silverman at the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas a few years ago, when the former worked at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth. He recalled being immediately stimulated by the potter's "combination of old-fashioned craftsmanship with imaginative freedom."

Silverman, the subject of Skira Rizzoli's latest book, "Adam Silverman Ceramics," spent last week placing his 17 pieces and two installations in four galleries throughout the museum. Rooms are outfitted with pots in plexiglass boxes cascading down the walls, photographs and pots — fired in Laguna's bonfire pits — marked with seaweed and salt from the Pacific Ocean and clay from the canyon. The exhibit also features two videos that create illusions.

"His materials come from nature, and the forms and surfaces of his pots suggest everything from plants to planets, barnacles to craters," Warner remarked.

Another exhibition containing barnacles, kelp and coral is Aguíñiga's fabric rendition of oceanic life. It has been open to the public since June 2. A newly restored 1930 creation by Conrad Buff called "Late Winter Western Landscape" has been chosen for presentation, as well as Don Suggs' "Red Mountain/Green Mountain," created in the mid- to late-1980s and on loan to the museum.

Kraft's part of the soon-to-be-unveiled program is not meant to fit exactly with the art- and nature-inspired theme. But it works — capturing environments, moments and people from New York City to the Sandhill cranes in Kearney, Neb., and the banks of the River Ganges in Varanasi, India.

"Richard works in many different forms: collages, photography, performance," said Grace Kook-Anderson, the museum's contemporary art curator. "Overall in Richard's work, there is a sense of nonsense. That Dada sensibility is still very relevant today, and I think Richard executes his work quite thoughtfully."

His contribution is in two parts — one filmed and titled "Which is to Say," and a series of collages selected from "Here Comes Kitty: A Comic Opera."

In the first, 10 looping videos will be projected on different spots on the gallery's walls. Viewers will be surrounded by constantly moving images, making it virtually impossible to follow each one from start to finish.

"It's purposely designed so that there are hopefully infinite possibilities of what people might experience," said Kraft, an Orange Coast College professor. "I wouldn't be opposed to them seeing everything, but I don't think it's important. It's not about the places. It's about looking; it's about wonder."

The idea for this project first dawned on Kraft as he watched a kite festival in Jaipir, India. He used a stationary Canon XA10 HD Professional Camcorder to shoot scenes, some beautiful, a few comical and others contemplative.

Crazy ideas don't daunt Kraft. If anything, he embraces the possibilities that abound, utterly enamored of the unpredictability of his field.

"It's more interesting than being a lawyer, businessman or doctor," he said. "No one can tell me what I can or can't do. The lovely thing about being an artist [is] the crazier the idea, the more potentially intriguing it is."

If You Go

Where: Laguna Art Museum, 307 Cliff Drive, Laguna Beach

When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday through Tuesday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday. Adam Silverman: "Clay and Space" and ex•pose: Richard Kraft run from Oct. 27 to Jan. 19; "Sea Change: Tanya Aguíñiga's Bluebelt Forest" runs until May 18

Cost: $7 general admission; $5 for students, seniors and active military; $3 per person for groups of 10 or more; free for museum members and children younger than 12 and from 5 to 9 p.m. on the first Thursday of each month

Information: or (949) 494-8971

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