Beth Forer

Beth Forer is a ceramic artist. She received a Master of Design degree from Pratt Institute. Her works have been exhibited in Japan, Europe, and throughout the States. Forer's pieces figure in a number of public collections including those of the Cooper-Hewitt Museum in New York, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and the Arizona State University Museum. She lives in New York City.

Selected Objects

  Celestial Entertainer
India, Rajasthan or Uttar Pradesh
11th century
H. 21 1/4 in. (54.0 cm); 1979.33

I love how unselfconscious this dancer is, how at ease she is with her sexuality. Ornately bejeweled, provocatively posed, she spirals dynamically yet is balanced and in command of her movements. Everyone should be as self-assured as she.

Imagine how different she would appear if her eyes were pieced like those of a haniwa. Not for her is the emptiness of hollow eyes; she is too vital a being for that. Her eyes are for seduction, their demurely averted gaze playfully mocked by those other orbs staring intently at the viewer.

  Female Figure
Angkor period, Baphuon style, early 11th century
H. 38 in. (96.5 cm); 1979.65

It is difficult to create something as pure and unadorned yet as visually arresting as this elegant figure. The simplicity of this sculpture is not the work of a beginner but rather the mature distillation of a master. Just as a haiku expresses meaning with few syllables, this piece conveys power with few gestures. Her beauty is timeless. The graceful silhouette is echoed in objects ranging from ancient Chinese bronzes to the classic Coca Cola bottle. Could I make a piece as simple yet as strong? Do I need the technical difficulty and profuse patterning that is so much a part of my work in order to prove my mastery?

  Wine Vessel: You
North China
Western Zhou period, about late 11th-early 10th century B.C.E.
H. 12 4/8 in. (32.1 cm) including handle, W. 9 1/2 in. (24.1 cm) across handle attachments; 1979.100a,b

Chinese bronzes were my first serious introduction to Asian art. When I began working with clay, I copied them extensively and discovered how difficult it is to coordinate the many parts of a vessel: lid, foot, handle, flange, finial, surface decoration. This piece is nothing if not dynamic. Animal heads with ears swept back in perpetual pursuit anchor the handle. In turn, the handle whips energy over the lid in an endless circuit. Bands race horizontally around the form, trapping each tao t'ieh in its respective tier. Flanges erupt from foot, body, and lid. The entire piece is wrapped in energy yet never appears chaotic, a tribute to the graceful shape and masterful proportions of this powerful object.

  Figure of a Man
Japan, Ibaraki Prefecture
Tumulus period, 6th-7th century
Earthenware with traces of pigment
H. 56 in. (142.2 cm); 1979.199

Haniwa appear easy to make, simple assemblages of basic geometric forms: sphere, cone, cylinder. The cutout eyes and mouth are as basic a rendition of facial features as is possible. The result, however, is a hauntingly vacant expression drawing the viewer into a dark void. There is no sense that this form contains anything. The hollow eyes suck out any possible life. The figure is as devoid of breath as the corpse it is intended to serve. Yet are these eyes non-seeing or all-seeing? They mesmerize the viewer with their blankness, quite a powerful result from merely fettling out small ovals from a slab of clay.

  Water Jar for Tea Ceremony
Japan, Mie Prefecture
Momoyama to Edo period, late 16th-early 17th century
Stoneware with impresses design under glaze (Iga ware)
9 1/2 x 7 1/4 x 7 1/4 in. (24.1 x 18.4 x 18.4 cm) with cover; 1979.224a,b

This water jar is one of the few ceramic pieces in the Rockefeller Collection that acknowledges that clay starts out malleable. We see the potter's fingers in the throwing rings and in the soft walls transformed from round into square. We see the distortion caused by the stamped impression on the still wet wall. On other pieces in the collection, just as the potter's hand is hidden, traces of the fire are also missing: no drips, no ash, no iron spots to mar the well-controlled surface. In this example, however, the fire is an active collaborator. A potter sets up the conditions for clay to burn or glaze to flow yet cannot control the precise results. The fire alone pulls out variations of surface, texture, and color from the clay and glaze. This piece is as much about process as result.