Wilton Symposium

Stay tuned for news on our 2018 Symposium ….


You & i are… Earth

Saturday, October 1, 2016

9:00AM to 4:00PM

VirginiaYou & i are . . . Earth, featuring internationally recognized ceramic artist Michelle Erickson, inspires Wilton House Museum’s next symposium. Building on the themes explored in the exhibition, the day’s presentations will reconsider: the on-going dialog with the Colonial past, the discovery and conservation of ceramic objects, the display and exhibition of the decorative arts, the meaning of our historic sites, and the traditional use of ceramics to call for social justice and political stability. The day will include a demonstration by Michelle Erickson, allowing attendees to share in the process of creating her ceramic artwork.

Please join us for the concluding program of this celebrated exhibition.


Registration Opens

Welcome and Outline of the Day

Rob Hunter, Editor, Ceramics in America 
Playing with the Past: The Ceramic Art of Michelle Erickson
This lecture will discuss the works of internationally recognized ceramic artist Michelle Erickson. Known for her mastery of historical ceramic techniques, Erickson creates satirical, playful, and poignant statements about contemporary social issues. At first glance, her ceramic works often appear whimsical but innocuous concoctions drawn from a rich imagination. However, using a materials ranging from Wedgwood’s jasperware to locally dug clays, her audience is treated to layers of multiple meanings in confronting topics such as global warming, corporate and political corruption, and child slavery.

Her work is replete with visual puns that provoke and amuse at the same time. She often channels William Hogarth through the use of humor, caricature and exaggeration in her clay art. Garth Clark has mischievously dubbed Erickson a “Post Modern Chameleon” and Glenn Adamson described her as “magpie flitting through ceramic history.” In The Pot Book, Edmund de Waal included her “Pectin Shell Teapot” in his top 300 world’s pots. Her art has stood apart from much of the contemporary ceramic and craft community by its historical depth and technological virtuosity. As a consequence, those with decorative art backgrounds have been most receptive to her work.
Scott Nolley, Fine Art of Virginia Conservation, Fascination, Fever and Fabrication
The course of human culture unfurls in unexpected ways – none so seemingly odd as those moments that punctuate history, instances where whole populations have whipped themselves into states of frenzied obsession – a collective fervor over volatile trends. Whether you consider the search for the philosopher’s stone, Tulip Mania or the Kardashians – popular obsession has the power to make an ongoing impact on literature and the arts. One notable historic instance is the Western hemisphere’s fevered search for the formula of true Chinese porcelain. The arrival of this rare and mysterious ceramic export in Europe set fire to what was to be a centuries-long quest for the secret to its making, a journey that would meet with varied successes and result in the development of the extremely varied array of methods and materials that continue to interest industrial engineers and contemporary ceramic artists to this day.

Carter C. Hudgins, Jr., Ph.D., President and CEO, Drayton Hall Preservation Trust
Forming and Transforming a Masterpiece: The Past and Future of Drayton Hall
Within studies of American architecture and material culture, Drayton Hall (c.1738) is regarded as an icon of colonial identity that reflects an intimate connection to popular European design, sophisticated craftsmanship, and the wealth of South Carolina’s plantation economy. Complementing Drayton Hall’s architecture is a remarkable collection of surviving furniture, ceramics, artwork and artifacts that exhibit distinctive patterns of 18th century consumption, taste and intellect. Drawing from surviving resources, this presentation will explore the 18th century formation of Drayton Hall and the values that led to its survival.  This will be followed by a discussion of Drayton Hall’s future, including a vision to transform the site by improving the visitor experience and expanding our stewardship of the past.

Lunch and Self-Guided Exploration of the Exhibition

Jon Prown, Chief Curator, Chipstone Foundation, Curating in the 21st Century: The Chipstone Experiment
A common talking point in American decorative arts museums is that it is safest to stick to traditional modes of display and interpretation. This means keeping intact very select historical narratives, rigidly linear art historical or stylistic chronologies, and a labeling strategy in which the curator engages in a one-way conversation with the museum visitor. In fact, sticking to a century-old curatorial model may be the least safe thing that we can do in our museums. In a 21st-century globalized and digitized world we are regularly accessing information and thinking about things in new ways, and these, in turn, can often point the way towards more innovative and more engaging modes of museum practice. For fifteen years, the Chipstone Foundation has been actively collaborating with a wide range of thinkers, designers, and makers to explore the past and present in new or unexpected ways. This talk will explore some of the particular strategies that have been used to rethink decorative arts curation and the trajectory of material culture research.

Sylvia Yount, Lawrence A. Fleischman Curator in Charge of the American Wing, Metropolitan Museum of Art
You’ll Be Back: Reviving and Rethinking the Colonial
America’s most enduring cultural phenomenon—the Colonial Revival—is once again in vogue. In both “high” and popular forms—from Michelle Erickson’s evocative You and I are . . . Earth exhibition to the Hamilton: An American Musical —as well as various socio-political debates, the relevancy of the 17th and 18th century for contemporary America is inescapable. This talk explores how our nation’s tendency to understand its historical past through the present has shaped our visual and material landscapes, ideologies, and values for the last four centuries.

Michelle Erickson, You & I Are Earth Demonstration
Michelle Erickson is a ceramic artist who brings tremendous scholarship to the field.  Internationally recognized, Erickson’s career long work in experimental archaeology connects the history of colonialism to 21st century issues of globalization, social injustice, and environmental geopolitics. By demonstrating her practice in the rediscovery of lost ceramic arts, including slipware, agateware, delftware and life casting, Michelle will illustrate how the context of history finds new relevance through the experimental process of recreation. Her contemporary narrative explores such unlikely parallels as the 18th century Staffordshire pottery industry and global design giant Nike or 19th century abolitionist ceramics to protest modern child slavery. Perhaps most relevant are her works referencing the enlightenment era obsession with the discovery of fossils to our modern perilous addiction to fossil fuels. Michelle will reveal new work that developed during her artist residency at the Visual Arts Center spring 2016. In collaboration with VCU’s Virtual Curation Lab the project incorporates the technology of 3D scanning and printing of objects from Wilton House Museum collections.