About Dean Coffman

The ceramic creations of Dean Coffman are a study in eclecticism and experimentation. This is due at least in part to the diversity of influences that have come to shape his artistic vision. These contributions run the gamut of aesthetic sources. Coffman is inspired by sculptors such as Michelangelo And Nakian. He is also moved by fellow ceramicists Voulkos, Levine, Soldner and Rhodes. Not all of that which has affected his work lies in the mainstream of Western Art though. Coffman also credits the Tang Dynasty (618 906 A.D.) and the Sung Dynasty (960-1279 A.D.) in China, and various Japanese potteries as having donated to his vision. It is also not difficult to see the effects of his own training in industrial design.

"I sometimes like to use humor in my work. In general this makes life more enjoyable. "

All of these various wellsprings of inspiration have created an art that is diverse in design, concept, and decoration. The elements that run through the various expressions are ones that the artist has identified as unifying the various contributing sources. The first is a tight style. There is unity in having a clear purpose and concept, which is present in all of these various influences. The second is control. In this respect there is an ambiguity in the ceramics of Dean Coffman. Much of the overall form is tightly controlled and determined. Even this can be slightly deceptive as the artist admits that form is a product of the artistic movement. The work takes its shape as it is made; where strict control is often less evident is in decoration. There are often painted designs that bespeak high levels of spontaneity. There are also added handworks on many pieces that create the feeling of organic growth.

Another element Coffman sees in his various influences is repeated patterns. It has been a recurrent question both in the visual arts as well as in the history of music how one handles the problem of both utilizing repetition, which creates an underlying unity and identity, yet still creating something fresh and vibrant. Finally, there is an element of tradition. In this regard Coffman's broad knowledge of the other arts and artists help him place himself within an artistic tradition. Also, one can better understand the artist's interest in the Tang and Sung dynasties. Whereas the Tang Dynasty is perhaps best known for it's broad experimentation in form, the Sung is best known for refining older forms. These elements are both present in Coffman's work. While his eye seeks solid and established form in his world, his imagination continues to drive him to experimentation.

Thus the artworks themselves are also diverse in the feeling they impart and evoke. Some suggest the classical elegance of early twentieth-century American art pottery. The suggestion of a basic and sure aesthetic one sees in Rookwood pottery of the 1920s and 1930s is evident in some of Coffman's pieces. In others, there is the feeling of early Japanese raku, with its emphasis on the rough and the simple and on the importance of the accidental effect. For this reason, raku will always be seen as conceptual akin to Zen Buddhism. Finally, in much of Coffman's decoration there is a free and simple stroke reminiscent of Motherwell, the abstract expressionist, and the concept he called automatism: creating simple, meaningful strokes through the employment of creative spontaneity.

 Thus far, Dean Coffman has seen his work focus from broad experimentation to a clearer idea of modernism, with its sense of duality. This duality is expressed in his ceramics by the juxtaposition of the simple and the sophisticated, the smooth and the rough, and the controlled and the spontaneous. His interests draw him toward an exploration of what he facetiously calls the modern-ugly style. More seriously, he wishes to examine the possibility of discovering a science of design. In time, Coffman will incorporate social, political and ecological statements into his works, and with this final step Coffman's ceramics will reach a unity and a synthesis.

Douglas Deaver, Ph.D


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About The Artist

Religious Paintings

Non-Religious Paintings

Pottery & Sculptures

Pottery Demonstrations

Christian T-Shirts


Contact Dean

Rates And Prices

edit date: Saturday 09032011