Pottery from the private collection of Joan Byrd and George Rector will be on display through Friday, May 9, at the Fine Art Museum at Western Carolina University. An artist’s talk and reception is set for 5 p.m. Thursday, March 20.
The exhibit, including pieces by some of the world’s most celebrated potters, coincides with the conclusion of Byrd’s long career as a professor of ceramics at WCU. She will retire in May after teaching for 46 years on the art faculty. Rector has taught ceramics at WCU for more than 20 years. He will continue to serve as an adjunct art faculty member in the WCU School of Art and Design.
Both Byrd and Rector were collectors before they met in the 1970s. They combined their collections when they married 30 years ago and continued to acquire new pieces in their work and travels. The works to be showcased are mostly American functional pottery, including teapots, cups, plates, platters, bowls, jars and boxes.
“In a way, this exhibit tells the story of our lives,” said Byrd. “The works were made by our teachers, our students, and our friends and acquaintances. They are pieces we have lived with and cherished for many years.”
Among the works to be exhibited is the first piece that Byrd purchased, a teapot by the English artist Michael Cardew. A former Peace Corps volunteer, Byrd met Cardew while serving in West Africa and bought the teapot from him in 1964. Cardew, who died in 1983, is now considered to be one the most influential potters of the 20th century. Works by Michael Simon, Don Reitz, Tatsuzo Shimaoka, the Meaders family and other acclaimed potters also will be on display, as well as pieces that Byrd and Rector have made.
The exhibit will include “Untitled (dog head),” a new sculptural work by Byrd’s nephew, John Falconer Byrd, and “Cherokee Parakeet” by Byrd’s former student, Joel Queen. John Byrd, a member of the art faculty at the University of South Florida, will be a visiting artist at WCU on Monday, March 31, and Tuesday, April 1, and he will present an artist talk at 5 p.m. March 31 in Room 130 of the John W. Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center. Queen, a ninth-generation Cherokee potter, is also a sculptor and woodcarver.
David J. Brown, director of WCU’s Fine Art Museum, said the venue is honored to showcase work by other noted artists from the couple’s collection as well as a selection of works made by Byrd and Rector.
“Just as importantly, the exhibition is a small token gift to thank Joan especially for her amazing career and years of service to the WCU community,” said Brown. “What an inspiration their life together is to all of us. We are lucky to have such enormous and nurturing talent in our midst.”
WCU’s Fine Art Museum is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, with extended hours to 7 p.m. on Thursdays. Museum admission and parking, available on both sides of the Bardo Arts Center, are free.
For more information, visit fineartmuseum.wcu.edu or call 828-227-3591.