In his spacious new studio, surrounded by past works and recent experimentations, Mike Vatalaro is creating Fired Earth. After completing a long and successful career as an artist/teacher at Clemson University, Vatalaro now has the time and place to concentrate completely on his own clay. His bright Taylors Mill studio with its view of the woods may have helped inspire these terracotta reliefs. For a number of years Vatalaro made ceramic vessels; some functional, others not. All these vessels captured the graceful dance of clay on the wheel and all the forms were enhanced by his experience with the attributes of clay, glazes, and firing processes. Now that experience and his finely tuned aesthetics of form and color are ignited in Fired Earth. According to Vatalaro, "The terracotta slab-constructed wall reliefs in this exhibition, Fired Earth, reflect my concerns for our environment by suggesting a spectrum of forces from growth to destruction."

Vatalaro continues, "For 40 years my work has been informed by historical ceramics and environmental and landscape concerns." These new reliefs are landscapes and honor the basic properties of clay as a support of landscapes. The reliefs also honor historical ceramics by reminding us that ancient ceramics began with slabs that were shaped and rolled and bent. Vatalaro shapes, rolls, and bends the terracotta without function in mind but with a sophisticated, contemporary appreciation of abstraction. He summarizes: "In these pieces, I have utilized the abstract texture and gesture of clay to create symbolic landscapes which evoke the conditions of survival, adaptation, erosion, upheaval, and reclamation inherent in nature.

Mike Vatalaro began his academic career at Clemson University in 1976 teaching ceramics. He later was head of the Ceramic Department, then Graduate Coordinator, and eventually Chair of the Department of Art. To name a few, his ceramics are in the collections of the Greenville County Museum, The Mint Museum, Charlotte, and Tainan National University of the Arts, Taiwan. He has exhibited and lectured widely. He now lives in Greenville, SC.

RIVERWORKS Gallery is operated by and for the faculty and students of the Visual Arts Department at Greenville Technical College. RIVERWORKS Gallery is located at 300 River Street, Suite 202, along the scenic Reedy River in downtown Greenville, SC.

For more information, call:
Fleming Markel, Manager
(864) 271-0679 or email