A Thousand Throws – Daniel Johnston

Row of ceramic columns, Daniel Johnstons installation at NCMA

“Untitled”, by Daniel Johnston. In the NC Museum of Art Sculpture Park. Also seen: “Rings” by Thomas Sayre.

On View at the Gregg
November 2020 – July 18, 2021
J. Norwood and Valeria C. Adams Gallery

Daniel Johnston combines his interest in architecture, engineering, installation art, and various traditions of making pottery to create works that control space and environment. By changing the way people interact with the pots by altering light, position, and how the pots exist in the spaces he creates, he intends to evoke emotion, and feed the viewer enough information so they might take a journey. He speaks of activating the mind in order to create a fuller experience, rather than allowing viewers to make assumptions or approach the work with preconceived notions. His installations often use visual metaphors as an emotional backdrop for the installations. Johnston also notes that his response as an artist is to think about what he does and what it means, and to create something that transcends knowledge, which he then communicates to other people.

“I do not try to control my materials; rather, I try to understand them”, says Johnston. “When I look at a line of pots, what I see is (their) pure potential, (their) purity. There is no marked path. Some could last weeks, some could last hundreds of years.”

After studying under such masters as J.B. Cole and Mark Hewitt, Daniel Johnston traveled from his home in Randolph County, NC to England and Thailand, studying techniques such as large vessel making and working among master potters and long held traditions. As he explored his skills and mastery of the craft of pottery, he also began also to develop his appreciation of different ways of looking at his work and how he might realize their conceptual possibilities, by using these vessels to manipulate light, scale and space.

At his studio in Seagrove, NC, Johnston uses local clay to make his pots, and fires them in a 900-cubic foot kiln that reaches temperatures of 2400 degrees. In 2008, he began numbering his large pots – often 4 to 5 feet tall and 2 to 3 feet in width – in an effort to keep track of the progression of his work over his career. The installation at the Gregg will include his one-thousandth large pot, reflected in the title of the exhibition.

“I am trying to broaden the view. I am trying to place people at a sort of ‘ground zero’, so that when they see the work, they can actually see it for the first time. Each pot is like a word in a poem. Removing even one pot would change the experience, and the combination of the pots offers a greater experience than any one pot alone.“

Watch the installation process, as recorded live on November 12, 2020 (pending)