By Lennie Bennett
Times Art Critic
Fellow gallery hoppers: Are you getting overwhelmed with ceramics shows? Hope not. This is probably the last time in a long time we'll have such an intense concentration and wide variety of all things clay.
They're in homage to "Tidal Forces," the annual conference of the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts. From Wednesday through April 2, the Tampa Convention Center will become the center of the ceramics universe, with an estimated 5,000 artists, educators, collectors and other interested parties attending. This is the first time in its 45 years the conference has been held in Florida. Its arrival has set off a chain reaction of participation, with more than 100 exhibitions in almost every arts venue in the Tampa Bay area, from big museums to small galleries.
The conference itself requires reservations and fees but these are among the NCECA-sponsored public events:
• Ceramics exhibitions from galleries throughout the United States are free to the public Wednesday through April 1 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Tampa Convention Center, 333 S Franklin St. One area will house ceramic artists creating work based on the theme of migration and some are performance-based. Other shows with leading artists will have works for sale. nceca.net.
• The NCECA 2011 Biennial Exhibition is at the Tampa Museum of Art, 120 W Gasparilla Plaza, a juried show of 45 works by top ceramic artists chosen from 900 applicants. Through April 24. Part of regular museum admission. tampamuseum.org.
• Immigrant Impact at Duncan McClellan Glass, 2342 Emerson Ave. S, St. Petersburg, is an NCECA-sponsored exhibition presenting ceramic artists from Brazil, Nicaragua, Japan and the former Yugoslavia who use their art to express their immigrant experiences. Opening reception March 31 and running through April 9. Free. dmglass.com.
We can't list all the independent exhibitions surrounding the NCECA conference. (For that, go to nceca.net.) The four highlighted here, in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Safety Harbor, will give you some idea of the vast creative possibilities waiting to be released from a humble lump of clay.
. Bleu Acier
109 W Columbus Drive, Tampa (813) 215-0622 or bleuacier.com
"Celebrations: Neil Bender, John Byrd, Andy Nasisse" is a collaboration between Bender, a painter who frequently goes beyond canvas for his provocative narratives, and ceramicists Byrd and Nasisse. Opens March 31, through April 9.
Syd Entel Galleries & Susan Benjamin Glass
247 Main St., Safety Harbor (727) 725-1808 or sydentelgalleries.com
"Susan Livingston/Clay & Fossils" is a collection of Livingston's elegant sculptures that integrate fossils and bone she finds along the shoreline with clay. Through April 16.
n Florida Holocaust Museum
55 Fifth St. S, St. Petersburg (727) 820-0100 or flholocaustmuseum.org
"Peace/War, Survival/Extinction: An Artist's Plea for Sanity" features Richard Notkin's intriguing vessels and installations as metaphors for violence and inhumanity. Through May 30.
Florida Craftsmen Gallery
501 Central Ave., St. Petersburg (727) 821-7391 or floridacraftsmen.net
"Clay X3" is composed of three strong individual shows: Sang Roberson's beautiful, boxy vessels, a group show with Florida ceramicists, and a group show of contemporary artists exploring the ancient practice of celadon glazing, such as this vessel by Steven Godfrey. Through April 30.
Lennie Bennett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8293.