John Toki has maintained a studio in Richmond, California, since 1974. His public commissions include a mural for Oakland City Hall, and works installed in San Francisco, Orinda, Sacramento, and Pomona. Blue Back, a twenty-foot tall ceramic sculpture is on view at the Oakland Museum of California, and Spring Majesty, a twenty-four foot tall sculpture is on view at the California Shakespeare Theatre, Orinda, California. Exhibitions include the Contemporary Art Center, Cincinnati, Oceanside Museum, Richmond Art Center, CA, and the American Museum of Ceramic Art. In 2017, the sculpture ‘s-Hertogenbosch will be installed at the new University of California, Berkeley, Art Museum.
An educator for over twenty-five years, Toki retired as a faculty member from the California College of the Arts. He has conducted workshops and lectured widely: Including Kent State University, University of California, Berkeley, San Francisco Art Institute, and at colleges in Holland, Taiwan and Turkey. He has served as a workshop leader at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center Arts Industry Program, Wisconsin, and as a consultant and staff member at the European Ceramic Work Center, Holland. Toki has also co-authored three books on ceramics: Hands In Clay, 5th edition, Make It In Clay 2nd edition, McGraw Hill, and Fired by Ideals, Arequipa Pottery, Pomegranate Press.
Toki has been a juror for more than thirty-five exhibitions and competitions, including the California Arts Council, California State Fair, Marin County Fair, San Francisco Women Artists, Pacific Rim Sculptors, Richmond Art Center, Bedford Gallery, as well as for the Berkeley and Alameda County Art Commission.
In addition to his art practice, Toki teaches at Diablo Valley College and is the Associate Director of the Mission Clay Art & Industry and Program, Corona, California - an artist residency program at Mission Clay’s - Building Product’s factory, Phoenix, Arizona. In 2010, Toki was named Contra Costa College, Distinguished Alumnus of the Year, and in 2012 was the recipient of the Outstanding Achievement Award at NCECA - the National Council on the Education for the Ceramic Arts. Toki supports the arts as a board member for the American Museum of Ceramic Art.
There was an impressive number of creative ceramic works submitted to the Visions in Clay, 2017 exhibition from throughout the United States. 280 entries included traditional vessel work, figurative sculpture, and abstractions. From these three general categories, I derived subsections that assisted in my evaluation of each works’ content, makership, originality, and creative vision. From this initial group, I chose 59 to include in this year’s annual display.
Artists presented works in a vast array of styles – some dealing with conceptual ideas like vulnerability as found in Man-Ho (Billy) Cho’s Connection/Disconnect Series, No 3; or Anthony Maki Gill’s Mindful Maker Matrix Mapping which alludes to imbalance and searching in a post-truth world. Many figurative sculptures express elements of the human condition. Gender topics found in G.V. Kelley’s In Training, and Ahrong Kim’s, Calm Me Down, reveal a personal message based on psychological observations of self. In contrast, Daniel Hunter’s piece titled Duck Duck Goosestep addresses present-day violence; in Give Me Liberty, citing Paul Revere’s Revolutionary War era ride, Linda S. Fitz Gibbon portrays the persistence of conflict in society through an oversized tea cup strewn with toy warriors from the ages. Through humor, Kai Hong’s sculpture, Go Get It! conveys environmental concerns as his polar bear drinks Coca Cola while eating a hamburger.
Other works touched on issues related to science or ethnography. Kristin Landowski’s abstract piece titled BRCA 1 + : Conception references genetic codes; and Mari Emori’s Homage to the Pima, is inspired by baskets made by the Pima Tribe of Arizona. Furthering the exhibit’s vessel representation are salt and wood-fired tea bowls by Rich Brigg’s like Tea Bowl #4; and the extreme trompe l’oeil industrial can titled Pan Co. Large Safety Can by Vijay V. Paniker. Finally, Maree Cheatham charming folk-inspired Georgette, A Victorian Lady Teapot, reflects her appreciation of period costumes via functional ware.
As the juror, I responded to art works that showed a sense of honesty, demonstrated a heightened level of skill by the maker and fostered a personal connection. One piece that satisfied these notions is Coiled Vessel by Karen Roderick-Lingeman. Her white porcelain strands, made by using a 3D printing machine, are shaped into a boat-like form. For me, this piece reveals how the best works in ceramics combine strong concepts with skillful building, especially when it comes to finding the right tools to achieve artistic goals. Such pieces offer rewarding object presence that is laden with reverberating meaning. New tools continue to help artists manifest their ideas, but what will be most important in this next century is fueling the artist’s creative spirit, which is the essence of fine makership.
— John Toki