If you have lived in West Chester for any length of time, you may be familiar with the ceramic work of Rhoda Kahler. The clay tile pieces she calls “Alphabet” cities or cityscapes include a West Chester series created from a mold of an old street plate stamped with the words “West Chester, PA.”
She creates the “alphabet” by pressing letterpress letters into the clay but most of image-making forms she uses are hard to identify. I find myself wondering, for instance, whether she took a torn cabbage leaf and wrapped clay around its curling edges, or caught a batch of flowing lava in a cup to pour over her piece.
It’s no wonder that the owners of the Barnstone Gallery in Phoenixville, where Kahler’s solo show runs through the end of May, has asked her to give a public talk about the way a piece evolves and develops. As she describes it in her artists statement, her work “usually starts with a fortuitious glimpse of some random point of inspiration” catching her eye.
Her work, in fact, is so diverse – it ranges from ceramic vessels “folded” into shapes, and huge sculptural forms constructed like building blocks – she straddles the divide from being an artist of narrative works such as a muralist, and being a sculptor who works in clay and stoneware.
Nature is one underlying theme and also the subject of her solo exhibit, titled “Slip Between the Cracks,” a play on words but also the real impression one gets when you ponder Kahler’s work and find amusement (a common reaction) in the way she puts things together.
Some recent career highlights: Her exceptional creativity and care in craftsmanship was the focus of an important group show at West Chester University titled “Paint,Paper, Clay, Wax, and Wood: the poetry of craftsmanship.” This year, she was asked to create a special tile to promote the centennial celebrations at the Delaware Art Museum in Wilmington where she has taught in the past.
Perhaps the real testament of her ability to create forms from that single idea or “glimpse” is her work with the Chester County Art Association’s annual displays at the Philadelphia Flower Show. Kahler has replicated objects in famous paintings such as chairs in Van Gogh’s “Café Terrace at Night” work, earning blue ribbons over the years.
Come to tomorrow’s talk and see how nature inspires her.
West Chester ceramic artist, Rhoda Kahler, to speak about her latest work
• Where: Barnstone Gallery, 388 West Pothouse Road between Kimberton and Phoenixville, PA. 19460
• Date: Saturday, March 31st
• Time: The gallery will be open this Saturday only from 12 to 4 p.m. The gallery talk will be held at 2:30 pm.
Features: Kahler’s opening reception drew large crowds on March 2nd. At the request of many, the Barnstone Gallery will host Kahler’s talk. The public is welcome to see her work and to hear her speak about her artistic process and her inspirations including nature imagery, fabrics, and Japanese prints.
Kahler’s exhibit “Slip Between the Cracks” continues through May 25th. Hours: Tuesday thru Thursday, 12 noon to 6 pm. Fridays open from 10 am to 4pm.
• Price: Free