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Luce Foundation Center for American Art

Craft: Clay: Akan
Robert Turner

Robert Turner

(born Port Washington, NY 1913 -- died Sandy Spring, MD 2005)

“Although I haven’t consciously tried to keep my pottery simple, it seems to come out that way when I succeed in making the most complete statement that I am capable of.” Turner, quoted in Rhodes, “Robert Turner: Pottery that is contemporary, personal and at the same time classical,” Craft Horizons, May/June 1957

Robert Turner started his career as a painter and attended the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts before traveling to Europe to study the old masters. In the late 1940s he made the switch to ceramics and earned a master’s degree in industrial ceramic design from New York’s Alfred University. He taught at Black Mountain College in North Carolina, a center for avant-garde art, music, and drama during the 1940s and ’50s. In 1951 he left Black Mountain and moved to a remote farm in Alfred Station, New York, where he worked in a pottery studio converted from an old barn. Turner traveled the world, exploring the art of different cultures, from Nova Scotia and Cape Cod to Italy and Nigeria. His pots explore the idea of enclosed space, which he equated to the “inside of a crater” or “in between the walls of a canyon.” (Turner, “Born Remembering,” The Studio Potter, June 1982)

Image Credits: Robert Chapman Turner, about 1965. Unidentified photographer, from Robert Chapman Turner papers, courtesy Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.