Arthur Handy was a Canadian sculptor who started his long career as an artist and teacher in ceramics before mastering the capabilities of other mediums. He would always return to clay periodically though, in his exploration of abstract impressionism.
I was fortunate enough to acquire some pieces of his work some time ago, initially knowing very little about him. The pieces were magnificent - powerful and unlike anything else I have in my collection. With a little digging however, I came to be immensely impressed by the man, his accomplished career and of course by his art. And while I primarily focus on the work of BC artists, exceptions have to be made, and Arthur Handy’s work justify this.
Born in New York City in 1933, Handy grew up under the influence of the dynamic American art of Jackson Pollock and the improvisational prowess of Miles Davis. Handy graduated Magna cum laude with a BFA from Alfred University in 1959, and again with a MFA in Ceramics in 1960 and upon completion, immediately took a job as the Head of Ceramics at the Ontario College of Art where he stayed until 1966.
His final couple of decades were spent teaching, exhibiting, and returning to clay now and again. When Arthur Handy passed away in 2004 he was remembered fondly for his gentle manner and his humility. Of his sculptural work it was said “his response was deft and light. His handling of form was immensely sophisticated, informed by deep knowledge of the history of ceramics and his love of looking at art.”
Arthur Handy’s work is in the collection of the Canada Council Art Bank, Alfred University, and the Royal Ontario Museum.
Canadian Ceramics 1961: April 4-May 7 Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto ; May 26-June 26 Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. (1961). Montreal: Canadian Guild of Potters.
Canadian sculpture today. (1964). Toronto: Dorothy Cameron Gallery.
Thompson, D. (1965, February 23). Display of Ceramics Sparks Craftsman - Artist Comparison. Calgary Herald.
Hale, B. (1977, April 23). The Physical Art. The Ottawa Citizen.
Arthur Handy: Ceramic sculpture, 1962-65 and 1985. (1985). Macdonald Stewart Art Centre 22 June - 4 August 1985. Guelph, Ont.: Macdonald Stewart Art Centre.
Flinn, S. (2004, December 4). The Magnificent Mystery of Mickey Handy. Halifax Chronicle Herald.
Every once in a while I come across a truly special piece of ceramic art that deserves its own post... This ceramic sculpture, shown below, was made in the early 1960s by Santo Mignosa. It stands an impressive 765 mm (30") tall and is 460 mm (18") wide across the top. Santo is known for his large sculptural pieces, a technique he learned in his native Italy before leaving his teaching job at the Institute of Art in Siracusa, and immigrating to Canada in 1957 to become a ceramics instructor alongside Olea Davis and Thomas Kakinuma at the UBC pottery hut in 1959.
Santo was featured in a February 1963 edition of Ceramics Monthly and was interviewed on his techniques and ability to create such large sculptural pieces. He explained that his method "consists of just building anything you want by adding a piece of flat clay on top of another and, in doing that, giving a specific direction to the line of the sculpture." He went on to say that "it is necessary that the artist have a very clear picture in his mind of the finished work, as second thoughts are not allowed. Of course, experience makes everything easy..."
The clay he chose was also unique as it was "a cone 8 dark- brown-burning clay which is used commercially to join sections of sewer pipe."
The Etruscan motifs on this piece are clearly evident and in line with other sculptural works he made during these years. In fact, he wrote "Etrusco" on the bottom where he signed it to leave no question of his intent.
At the time of it's creation in the early 1960s, Santo was teaching at the Kootenay School of Art in Nelson BC, with Zeljko Kujundzic. I've seen photos of other sculptural pieces Santo created during that time frame and can see Zeljko's byzantine-style influence in some of it. This one though is entirely Santo and may have been finished earlier when he was still teaching at UBC.
Always eager to show his work internationally, the sculpture, titled "Impressions of Vancouver, B.C." was accepted for the 22nd Ceramic National Exhibition in Syracuse New York. The show, held in 1964, was a survey of American and Canadian contemporary art pottery held annually and featured the best work on the continent.
"Impressions..." had long been in the possession of an art collector since purchasing it directly from Santo in Nelson in the mid 1960s. There it sat alongside world class pieces by Hans Coper and Toshu Yamamoto. It was important to the family of this gentleman that the Mignosa piece would find its way and end up in a collection where it would be fully appreciated and admired. It is, and now sits among works created by his friend Zeljko, perhaps some of which were thrown or fired at the same time...
Studio Pottery Canada
Pottery enthusiast learning about the history of this Canadian art form and curating samples from the best in the field pre-1980.