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 1962, 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...
I recently uncovered this photograph of "Impressions" in the installation at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse. The photo dates to between November 4 - December 30, 1962 just before the show went on a two year long tour of the United States. According to the exhibit catalog, Santo listed the piece at $335 USD (approximately $3500 in today's currency).
The Pottery and Sculpture of Santo Mignosa. (1963, February). Ceramics Monthly, 11(2), 24–27.
Installation view, Everson Museum of Art. American Craft Council. (n.d.). Retrieved June 6, 2022, from https://digital.craftcouncil.org/digital/collection/p15785coll6/id/5023/rec/1
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.