Don Reitz at the Westmont Ridley-Tree Museum

Don Reitz at the Westmont Ridley-Tree Museum

By Alexa M. Highsmith 

Westmont Ridley-Tree Museum’s exhibition, “Spontaneous Response: The Innovative Ceramics of Don Reitz,” honors the long-lasting legacy of the revolutionary artist through collected salt-firings, wood-firings and various stoneware. 

Reitz’ early work in functional household items, such as the “Lidded Casserole” and “Punch Set for Mom,” encapsulate the beauty hidden in everyday life. In his later work, Reitz expanded his study in art of the everyday, building on the functionality of his ceramics and extending his reach towards the modern and innovative. As he developed his own stylistic preferences, his art took on more interpretive qualities. 

Don Reitz, Shield (Sara Series), gas fired earthenware with engobes, c. 1983, 18.5 x 18.25 x 2.75 in., Don Reitz Collection

Reitz’s exploration of salt-firing was revolutionary in the ceramic community, introducing techniques previously only applied in practical and non-artistic endeavors, and bringing his work to the spotlight.

Throughout Reitz’s career, his stoneware firings evolved, integrating color in rich and varied ways. In his early works, he leaned towards bright colors and functional firings. Later, he developed the “natural narrative” in wood firings, as noted by Chris Rupp and Tamara Vaughan. Finally, seasons of trial brought the Sara Series, and a return to color. 

The magnitude of Reitz’ impact in the ceramic world is nothing less than immense, as he played an imperative role in the advancement and imaginative landscape of functional and artistic ceramics. He was also well-loved within his communities. His legacy lives on through the preservation of his work by private collectors and by the generosity of his children, who have enabled the museum to showcase many of his works which would otherwise not be available to the public. 

Don Reitz, Lidded Jar, salt fired stoneware, 1970, 7.75 x 9 x 9 in., Don Reitz Collection

Don Reitz, Platter, wood fired stoneware, 2001, 22 x 3.75 in., Don Reitz Collection

“Spontaneous Response: The Innovative Ceramics of Don Reitz” is on exhibit at the Westmont Ridley-Tree Museum from August 29 to November 9, 2019.

A version of this article was originally published in the Westmont College publication, The Horizon.

Westmont.edu

 

 

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