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'Costa Rica to Lubbock – Drawings by Tom Spleth'

UD Welcomes Renowned Ceramist Tom Spleth

Haggerty Gallery Features ‘Costa Rica to Lubbock — Drawings by Tom Spleth’

Tom Spleth

 Date published: Sept. 30, 2019

UD's Beatrice M. Haggerty Gallery is pleased to announce the opening of “Costa Rica to Lubbock — Drawings by Tom Spleth,” a solo exhibition of recent work by nationally renowned North Carolina-based ceramic artist Tom Spleth. A recent trip to Costa Rica as well as reflections on a lifetime of travel to Lubbock, Texas, for family reunions serve as the chief driving inspirations for the artist’s featured showcase. This exhibition marks the artist’s first solo exhibition in Texas, and includes digital drawings, printed drawings on T-shirts, video and ceramic pieces.

An opening reception will be held Wednesday, Oct. 2, from 6-8 p.m., with an artist’s talk taking place beforehand at 5:30 p.m. in the Art History Auditorium. Spleth will perform a casting demonstration on Thursday, Oct. 3, from 1-5 p.m. on the University of Dallas’ Irving campus in the Ceramics Department. The exhibit will remain open for viewing through Sunday, Nov. 4.

Spleth is a lauded ceramist known as the grandfather of American studio slip casting, a ceramic technique where liquified clay is poured into a plaster mold. “Throughout his ceramics career, Tom has always been drawing and painting,” said Spleth’s wife, Jean McLaughlin, former director of Penland School of Craft. “In the late 1980s, he began experimenting with an early version of Photoshop to make his first computer drawings; now he uses his iPad and Procreate software, a highly flexible and fluid program with a strong color palette, a wide range of marks and brushes, and a sophisticated layering system.”

Last year, Tom Spleth brought his iPad along with him on two trips: Costa Rica in the spring, followed by a family reunion in Lubbock, Texas, over the summer. In Costa Rica, the forms and structures of the tropical island-like paradise resulted in a series of botanical drawings. The artist, who credits the work of the late American painter Martin Johnson Heade for his influence, spent weeks in his North Carolina studio reworking each digital drawing before printing them on high-gloss metal. After his Lubbock trip, Spleth then began populating his drawings with people; his family portraits are abstracted representations of his family’s shared stories, and will be presented in a slideshow on television at the exhibit. 

Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1946, Spleth received his BFA from the Art Institute in Kansas City, where he added ceramics to his repertoire. He received an MFA at the College of Ceramics at Alfred University in New York, where he later taught. Since 1985, Spleth has displayed his work nationally from coast to coast as a full-time artist. He attended artist residencies at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, and the Golden Foundation in New Berlin, New York. Spleth has been a prolific producer of figurative and abstract sculpture, furniture, tiles and lightboxes, as well as paintings, prints and drawings. His work is in the permanent collections of the Gregg Museum, John Michael Kohler Arts Center, the Louise Wells Cameron Museum and the Museum of the Rhode Island School of Design. Recent exhibitions include a one-man painting show in 2016 at Light Art & Design, a gallery in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and at the same venue, most recently, he displayed his ceramics work paired in collaboration with Israeli painter Moshe Gershuni.

Image Credit: Tom Spleth, Tropical Plant with Shadow / Gerry and Ruth, 2018, both drawings on iPad using Procreate