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"Pioneers of American Ceramics"
Ezra Shales, Ph.D.

Fourteenth Dorothy Wilson Perkins Lecture
Alfred Ceramic Art Museum
September 10, 2015 4:30 pm, Nevins Theater, Powell Campus Center
Alfred University Campus
Alfred, New York

Ezra Shales

Ezra Shales, PhD is a Professor in the History of Art Department at Massachusetts College of Art and Design. His Ph.D. is from the Bard Graduate Center and M.F.A. from Hunter College.

He has authored essays on diverse topics, from Victorian toys and the role of artisans in building the Empire State Building and writes about contemporary practices, too. His book, Made in Newark (Rutgers University Press, 2010), explores craft as an anchor of regional identity in Progressive-era New Jersey.

Shales is currently working on a book exploring the ways drinking vessels in North America are culturally-loaded talismans that brim with political and social power and completing a manuscript titled "Common Craft" that will be published by Reaktion Books.

He was the originating curator of Pathmakers: Women in Art, Craft, and Design, Midcentury and Today for the Museum of Arts and Design, New York City, which drew on the scholarship of O Pioneers! Women Ceramic Artists, 1925-1960, an exhibition at the Alfred Ceramic Art Museum. He developed this body of research over the eight years he taught art history at Alfred’s School of Art and Design while teaching classes devoted to ceramic history, discussing art with students, alumni, and colleagues, and conducting research in the Scholes Library archives.


The Dorothy Wilson Perkins Ceramic History Lecture Series
The Alfred Ceramic Art Museum established the Dorothy Wilson Perkins Ceramic History Lecture Series in 1998, thanks to a generous endowment gift to the Museum by Dr. Lyle Perkins (BFA Alfred '39; MFA Alfred '47) in memory of his wife, Dr. Dorothy Wilson Perkins (BFA Alfred '39).
The Dorothy Wilson Perkins Lectures
Click on Lecturer Names to View Lectures
13th Annual Lecture:
Towards a highest standard for ceramics"
12th Annual Lecture:
"Greek Vases: Wine and Humor in the Age of Tragedy"
11th Annual Lecture:
"Out Of The Studio, or, Do We Make Better
Work In Unusual Conditions? "
10th Annual Lecture:
"Making A Mess: Ceramic Sculpture Now"
9th Annual Lecture:
"Once a Potter, Always a Potter"
8th Annual Lecture:
"The Aesthetic of Process - and Beyond"
7th Annual Lecture:
"Marginal Powers: Ceramics and the Art World"
6h Annual Lecture:
"Crawling through Mud: Avant-garde Ceramics in Postwar Japan"
5th Annual Lecture:
"Marguerite Wildenhain: Inspirational and Passionate About Her Craft"
4th Annual Lecture:
"Social Complexity and the Historiography of Ceramic"
3rd Annual Lecture:
"Ceramic Paradigms and Paradigms for Ceramics"
2nd Annual Lecture:
"Faux and Real Folk Art: the Story of Mingei"
1st Annual Lecture:
"Between a Toilet and a Hard Place: Is the Ceramic Avant Guard a Contradiction in Terms"
Dorothy Wilson PerkinsDorothy Wilson Perkins

Born on September 20, 1917 in Hammond, Indiana, Dorothy's family eventually settled in Wellsville, New York where she graduated from high school with honors in 1935. The following year she enrolled in Alfred University taking courses at the New York State College of Ceramics, where she completed her B.F.A. degree (again with honors) in 1939. Offered a scholarship at the Ohio State University, Dorothy took graduate courses with Arthur E. Baggs, who had been a former student of Charles Fergus Binns at Alfred. She received her M.A. degree from O.S.U. in 1940. Returning to Wellsville, Dorothy married her Alfred classmate Lyle Perkins in the University's campus chapel. They moved to Hershey, Pennsylvania where her husband was teaching. After a period of Navy duty for Lyle and teaching for Dorothy, Lyle completed his M.F.A. at Alfred in 1947. They next moved to Providence, Rhode Island. During the 15 years that Dorothy taught at the Rhode Island School of Design she made the majority of her creative pottery. At this same time she also wrote numerous articles for Ceramic Age and Ceramics Monthly; produced pottery for exhibition here and abroad; taught two consecutive summers for Charles Harder at Alfred; and traveled extensively. In 1951 both Lyle and Dorothy started programs at O.S.U. leading to doctorates in 1956. When Lyle and Dorothy began their lengthy commitment to the programs at the University of Massachusetts in 1962, Dorothy was barred from taking a faculty position due to nepotism rules in place at the time. Nonetheless her many accomplishments in life included exerting a strong influence in the ceramic world which lasts to this day. Her ceramic work can be found in numerous collections, including those at O. S. U. and the Alfred Ceramic Art Museum.

Dorothy was the first slide librarian at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst (1971) and upon her retirement in 1981, that facility was named in her honor. Dorothy Wilson Perkins died of lung cancer on August 17, 1996. Her memory will live on through those who knew her, her splendid ceramic pieces, and through this Dorothy Wilson Perkins Ceramic History Lecture which will be held each fall. Lyle Perkins died June 20, 2005.

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