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Resonance and Inspiration: New Works by Magdalene Odundo

Hood Quarterly, summer 2007

Magdalene Odundo is an internationally acclaimed ceramic artist whose handbuilt vessels have become the fulcrum of a world of pottery traditions. Born in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1950, Odundo is presently professor of ceramics at the Surrey Institute of Art and Design University College in Farnham.

Odundo’s thin-walled vessels embody a farflung ceramic history that ranges from her native Kenya to Greco-Roman antiquity. Blending an exceptionally large list of “ancient and contemporary ‘heroes,’” Odundo’s symmetrical and biomorphic pots reflect her own unique relationship with clay, fire, and form. As she explains,“Clay is a simple substance with a complex structure playing havoc without and within our kilns, keeping us guessing and daring to change its natural composition. Yet, like an alchemist seeking to make gold, I continue to seek to create that ultimate elusive simple vessel which will hold magic for me.”

Odundo’s vessels suggest both animated and vocal beings rooted equally in cross-cultural techniques and forms and in modern and postmodern sculptural sensibilities. Beyond its aesthetic resonance with multiple artistic traditions, her work reflects a unique insight into the transcultural roles and meanings of ceramic vessels, both sacred and secular. Resonance and Inspiration features her most recent body of work, supplemented by preparatory drawings.

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