MARA SUPERIOR

CURRENTLY ON VIEW


“Espirits libres, Ceramiques un resistence
(Free Spirits, Ceramics in resistance)”

The Fondation d’entreprise Bernardaud, Limoges, France
June 2022-March 2023

AVAILABLE SERIES


ENVIRONMENTAL


HOUSE & GARDEN

POLITICAL/HISTORICAL

BLUE PERIOD

American, b. 1951, New York, NY
lives and works in Williamsburg, MA

Mara Superior is an American visual artist who works in porcelain. Her ceramic high relief platters and sculptural objects reflect the artist’s passion for art history and the decorative arts, and her painterly motifs range from the pleasures of the domestic to serious political and environmental issues as points of departure to comment on contemporary culture and its relationship to history. Superior has received numerous awards including a National Endowment for the Visual Arts Fellowship, the prestigious Guldaggergård Residency in Denmark, and numerous individual artist grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

Superior has exhibited at the American Museum of Ceramic Art, (Pomona, CA), Scripps Women’s College, (Claremont, CA), and the Fuller Craft Museum, (Brockton, MA) among many other institutions. Her work can be found in the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, (Washington, DC), the Museum of Arts and Design, (New York, NY), the Peabody Essex Museum, (Salem, MA), Philadelphia Museum of Art, (Philadelphia, PA) the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, (Los Angeles, CA), White House Collection of American Craft, (Little Rock, AK). In 2018, through the generous support of the Kohler Foundation, gifts of art by Mara Superior were made to fifteen museums throughout the USA, increasing the public holdings of Superior’s artworks  and including an in depth collection acquired by the Racine Art Museum, (Racine, WI) and shown in 2020 in Collection Focus: Mara Superior. In 2010 she was interviewed for the oral history program of the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art, (Washington, DC).

Superior studied at the Pratt Institute and Hartford Art School, completing her BFA in painting from the University of Connecticut followed by a MAT in ceramics from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. She is represented by Ferrin Contemporary.

Portrait of the Artist with ”The Nymph of Spring (After Lucas Cranach)”, 2021,
high-fired porcelain, ceramic oxides and underglazes, gold leaf, epoxy, digital print, 12.5 x 18.5 x 1.5″.
Photo by John Polak Photography

STATEMENTS FROM THE ARTIST

ON ART HISTORY

“My passion for Art History and the History of the Decorative Arts has informed my work throughout my career. I seek to create beauty through the reinterpretation of historical inspirations synthesized with my own visual vocabulary and contemporary views. The resulting objects are rooted in the historical continuum.”

ON HER PAINTING BACKGROUND

ON PORCELAIN

ON HER AESTHETIC

ON HER CAREER

Mara Superior, “Only One Planet Earth”, 2019, high-fired porcelain, ceramic oxides, underglaze, glaze, gold leaf, 16 x 16 x 1.5”.

ON NATURE/NURTURE

“I was nurtured and encouraged to develop my imagination by my family and art teachers all the way through graduate school. Further enrichment came by way of my extraordinary good fortune to have been married to Roy Superior, a wonderful Artist and Professor of Art.

Over the course of my career, ceramics, art schools, museum curators and society have evolved to become more inclusive. Barriers have disintegrated, and currently, it feels as if ceramics is female-empowered given that so many of the magazine editors, gallerists and many curators are women.

For my entire professional career, I have been blessed to have only one brilliant and visionary female art dealer, Leslie Ferrin, of Ferrin Contemporary. Leslie has always encouraged my best work, offered me opportunities, and given me valued professional advice.

The choices that I employ regarding my own work for materials, content, palette and ornament might, by historical standards, be considered feminine work by nature. That label has never been a hindrance to me. I have had a very privileged life and career as an artist and am grateful for it all.

My piece in Ferrin Contemporary’s exhibition Nature/Nurture, Only One Planet Earth, is a commentary on the current predicament mankind is facing — Climate Change — and what to do about it. I can only hope that this universally shared crisis will bring out the best in us and bring humanity together to find remedies.”

Mara Superior, “2020/USA/Vote/America”, 2019, high-fired porcelain, ceramic oxides, underglaze, glaze, ceramic decals, gold leaf, 13 x 16.25 x 2″.

ON HER POLITICAL & ENVIRONMENTAL SERIES

Artists can actualize tangible objects which address the frustrations that we commonly feel. In ceramics, there is a long, historic tradition of political commentary. Themes that pique our visual outcries range from canaries in the coal mine to thinking about citizenship, American and world history, power, democracy and the value and vulnerability of freedom. Since the invention of the printing press, drawings of political satire and humor have been used to inform and get a message out to the population. 17th and 18th century British and French political satire, as well as comic art and prints by James Gilroy and William Hogarth changed thinking with brilliant wit equaling high art. Goya, Daumier, Picasso, the Gorilla Girls, and today’s New Yorker Magazine covers by Barry Blit come to mind as artists make political-commentary in reaction to their times.

Mara Superior, “Mother Nature Says, ‘Wake Up'” 2010, porcelain, glaze, wood, pearls, gold leaf, 17 x 22 x 2″.

DIRECTOR NOTES ON MARA SUPERIOR

In the works presented in Nature/Nurture, Superior’s political views are expressed front and center. The large-scale porcelains use the format of Renaissance-era storytelling platters with wide-rimmed borders functioning as frames. Carefully placed medallions and miniature objects in relief are emblazoned with messages delivered in delicately, hand-painted, calligraphic, heavily-laden serif fonts. Whether she is channeling mother nature or calling on higher powers to impact the coming election, Superior speaks loudly in large, all caps type, using the language of decorative arts to shout her beliefs in beauty and humanity’s inherent goodness.

Originally a New Yorker, Mara has been living and working in Western Massachusetts since the 70’s. Her life and work are an ode to Western culture. While embracing traditional values of home and beauty, her work is from a modern perspective with a feminist nod to sensuality and pleasure. Whenever possible, she spends leisure time wandering the museums of the world in person. But, now, quarantined at home, she is touring these museums virtually, attending online classes, watching zoom lectures, and enjoying her vast library of gorgeous art books. She shares these moments along with the slow progress of painting her next work All American on her Instagram feed.

Superior met Leslie Ferrin at the beginning of her career. Both were in school, Mara at UMASS in the MAT program, Leslie at Hampshire College. Mara’s husband, Roy Superior, was Ferrin’s professor. They shared studios as artists, founding Pinch Pottery in Northampton, followed by East Street Clay Studios (Hadley, MA). Their intertwined, four-decade-long careers have weathered many changes and challenges over 40 years. Roy passed away in 2013, truly a renaissance man, an artist, sculptor, musician and beloved professor for 40 years spending 16 years at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Mara continues to live in the New England farmhouse they slowly renovated together, surrounded by the furniture he built to hold her works, his drawings, their library and his “wunderkammer” collections. The studio filled with hand made, hand tools, is still intact.

Superior’s artwork features ideas gleaned from research and travel, uniting all her interests in thematic approaches to specific content. Like her exuberant country garden, her work is always a beautiful mix of heirlooms and hybrids, free-ranging and grafts that come from strong rootstock. Her mashup mix of source material is delivered as stylized interpretations through images and didactic text. Using a combination of folk traditions, references to the classics of Western art, she infuses not so veiled socio-political messages from a contemporary perspective. Her deep love of ancient Greek, Roman, Asian antiquities, European and Early American pottery and ceramics – these objects become the subject matter of collection platters that feature miniature versions of her coveted favorites.

MUSEUM NEWS | Mara Superior

MUSEUM NEWS | Mara Superior Mara Superior is an American visual artist who works in porcelain. A native New Yorker, Superior made good use of her proximity to the Metropolitan...

NCECA PITTSBURGH

REVIVE, REMIX, RESPOND The Frick Pittsburgh 7227 Reynolds Street, Pittsburgh Group show of contemporary artists who are breathing new life into the ceramic medium by reinvigorating age-old motifs, processes, and...

The Women

Ferrin Contemporary presents selected works by women artists whose primary medium is clay. On view in the gallery and online, we introduce new works by emerging and established artists along with masterworks available from private collections and artist archives.

Collection Focus: Mara Superior at RAM

Blending past and present-day concerns, notions of Americana, and personal experience, Mara Superior playfully both challenges and adds to a history of porcelain decorative objects and tableware. With a singular aesthetic that feels reverent yet unique, Superior builds narratives that unfold through images, words, and form.

Comprised entirely of work from RAM’s collection that span over three decades, this exhibition showcases several of the artist’s core interests. They emphasize Superior’s personal history—her connection to art and ceramic history, her appreciation for “home” and ideas about the domestic, and her love of travel. While these are not the only topics she addresses in her work, they are foundational ones and provide a layered and nuanced accounting of the artist’s approach to working with porcelain. Engaging scenes play out across a range of objects, including platters, teapots, vessels, and a collaborative piece with the artist’s late husband, sculptor and furniture maker, Roy Superior.

Significantly, this exhibition debuts a multi-piece gift from the Kohler Foundation, Inc., that catapults RAM’s holdings of work by Superior from two pieces, already gifted by other donors, to 33. In doing so, this gift establishes several milestones for Superior at RAM—making her an archive artist as well as the most collected female ceramic artist and the second most collected ceramic artist regardless of gender.

Preview the Exhibition Catalog  •  HERE  •

Exhibition Notes (PDF)

A Conversation with Mara Superior and Bruce W. Pepich, Unabridged (PDF)

Further information about the artist:

Mara Superior’s Website

Review by Angela Fina from the Exhibitions section of American Ceramics, Volume 7, Number 2, 1989 (PDF)

Oral History Interview with Mara Superior—Archives of American Art

Artist Spotlight from a 2018 Exhibition at The Frick Pittsburgh

Collection Focus: Mara Superior at RAM

Collection Focus: Mara Superior at RAM

Buy Here

Mara Superior: A Retrospective

Published in 2006 by New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain, CT

Forward by Douglas Hyland, Director, New Britain Museum of American Art.

Essay by Bruce W. Pepich, Executive Director and Curator of Collection, Racine Art Museum, Racine, WI.

32-page, full-color exhibition catalog

Mara Superior: A Retrospective

Mara Superior: A Retrospective

Buy Here

413: Pioneering Western Massachusetts

This catalog accompanies the exhibition “413: Pioneering Western Massachusetts” on view at Fuller Craft Museum, Brockton, MA, August 20 – November 27, 2016. The exhibition and catalog explore the works and careers of five makers who have been responsible for the development of Western Massachusetts’s internationally renowned craft community: Josh Simpson (glass), Mark Shapiro (ceramics), Silas Kopf (woodworking), JoAnn Kelly Catsos (baskets), and Mara Superior (ceramics). The creative community and rural environment of Western Massachusetts offers opportunities for makers that are unlike those found anywhere else, and those featured in (413) have played a significant role in the region’s creative development. The bucolic setting and open creative community offer a distinct sense of place that is evident in their work.

SELECT WORKS BY MARA SUPERIOR AVAILABLE IN OUR ONLINE STORE

FEATURED PLATTERS

La SwanLa Swan”, 2015
high-fired porcelain, ceramic oxides, underglaze, glaze
13.5 x 18.5 x 1.5″

Buy

FertilityFertility”, 2018
high-fired porcelain, ceramic oxides, underglaze, glaze,
3.75 x 8.5 x .5″

Buy

Mara Superior, "Vivere/Rabbit"Vivere/Rabbit”, 2020
high-fired porcelain, ceramic oxides, underglaze, glaze, gold luster, 10 x 20.5 x 1.5″

Buy

Mara Superior, "July 4th"July 4th”, 2016
high-fired porcelain, ceramic oxides, underglaze, glaze, gold leaf, 12.5 x 12.5 x 1.5″

Buy

Mara Superior, "Western Lady Dream Platter"Western Lady Dream Platter”, 2018, high-fired porcelain, ceramic oxides, underglaze, glaze, gold luster,
12.25 x 15.5 x 1″

Buy

Mara Superior, "Trout Season"Trout Season”, 2020,
English porcelain, cobalt oxide, gold luster, glaze,
6.75 x 9.5 x 1”

Buy

VIDEOS FEATURING MARA SUPERIOR

Virtual exhibition tour with RAM Executive Director and Curator of Collections Bruce W. Pepich and RAM Curator of Exhibitions Lena Vigna
Video produced by Matt Binetti, Reservoir Video Co.

Join Racine Art Museum’s (RAM’s) Executive Director and Curator of Collections Bruce W. Pepich as well as Curator of Exhibitions Lena Vigna for a 14-minute virtual tour of the exhibition, Collection Focus: Mara Superior

For more about Superior and the exhibition at RAM, please visit: RAM Art: Mara Superior

Conversation with Jamie Franklin, curator at the Bennington Museum of Art continues his online series, “Chats with Jamie” with Ferrin Contemporary artist MARA SUPERIOR to discuss her dynamic practice and new works while in quarantine.

For more about Superior and the exhibition at Bennington Museum of Art, please visit: Bennington Museum