Mark Boguski first heard about Chautauqua while reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, which describes the early traveling Chautauquas.
He did not find the original, though, until he was driving back to school at Alfred University in a beat-up Volkswagen Beetle and saw the sign that read “Chautauqua Institution.”
He was later invited to speak and then teach at Chautauqua for three consecutive summers in the early 2000s. Now, he has returned to talk about his career in ceramics at 7 p.m. today in the Hultquist Center.
Originally interested in science, Boguski switched to visual arts and architecture in college. Thinking that ceramics might help his architectural work, he took a class on clay. That class, and the professor who taught it, inspired the next six to seven years of Boguski’s work in ceramics. He now teaches at Sacramento City College, where he continues to work in clay.
Architecture still influences his work, though. While at Alfred for his graduate work, Boguski saw a building being erected. At the time, it was nothing but steel I-beams wrapped in plastic. Inspired, he tried to replicate that look in clay.
“I made an interior sculpture and then wrapped it with a clay skin,” Boguski said.
He also found inspiration in the planned community called The Sea Ranch in Sonoma County, where his family had a summer home. The buildings were based on sheep sheds and barns, which Boguski said gave them a clean, unornamented aesthetic that he still uses for some of his pieces.
But Boguski does both this sculptural ceramics and more functional pottery in a variety of styles, not just architectural work.
“Doing ceramics, you become a little bit of a jack of all trades,” he said.
He uses hand-building techniques — shaping slabs and coils of clay — as well as a potter’s wheel. His current work includes large, billowing black clay sculptures, but these can be time consuming and stressful. Throwing work on a wheel is much faster and allows for different opportunities.
“You can make a lot of things very quickly and experiment [on a wheel],” Boguski said.
The other advantage of wheel-thrown, functional pieces is they provide a very different experience from sculpture.
“I love the notion of having a small [hand made] tea bowl,” Boguski said.
Rather than being placed on a pedestal, such art is held and examined up close — a more intimate artistic experience.
“I like that quality of usable objects,” he said.
Rather than trying to portray one thing, Boguski likes sculpture and art that shifts as it is examined, reminding the viewer of many different shapes rather than a single image, which is different than traditional ceramics.
“It’s a sculptural presence, rather than a ceramic presence,” Boguski said.