Carbondale Clay Center founder Diane Kenney exhibits solo show |

Carbondale Clay Center founder Diane Kenney exhibits solo show

Carla Jean Whitley

If you go

Past is Prologue

Friday, 6-8 p.m. Clay Center founder Diane Kenney presents her first solo show at the organization. The work will remain on view through Oct. 27.

Carbondale Clay Center, 135 Main St. | Free | 963-2529 |

“We live in an era when we are losing touch with ourselves, losing the pleasure of making something with our hands that didn’t exist before.”

Diane Kenney wrote those words in the late ’90s as she contemplated her vision for a local clay center. She continued, “To take clay into one’s hands, conceive an idea and make a physical object of some quality becomes a redemptive, if not an almost revolutionary act.”

Those beliefs ring as true today, 20 years after Carbondale Clay Center’s founding, as they did in the organization’s early days. It’s appropriate, then, that Kenney’s first solo show at the center comprises new work that revisits ideas she’s considered throughout her career.

Those years include not only the clay center, but also teaching ceramics, Spanish and English as a Second Language at Colorado Rocky Mountain School, Colorado Mountain College and her native Kansas City.

“Clay is a hard task master,” Kenney wrote in her artist statement for the show. “Everything takes longer than you think and is often more challenging than expected. I can never say, ‘Now I really have control of this fire, this mud.’ But I am drawn into the search for beauty, the exploration of possibilities, the: ‘What if? What if I tried this or that?’ The joy of making far outweighs the disappointments, even failures.”

“This show is not a retrospective, but it does reflect my journey and my work, using a variety of methods,” Kenney wrote. “Some pieces represent an attempt to re-visit an old idea and try it out again in a new context.”

“Past is Prologue” includes wood-fired and soda-fired stoneware and porcelain, both methods Kenney has turned to often over the years. She’ll also exhibit terra cotta wall tiles, which she calls poetry tiles. Each includes a quote, some visible, some less so.

“I’m convinced of the power of words,” she said.

That’s why she wrote the center’s vision statement 20 years ago; getting the words right is essential, Kenney said, and as a result the vision still reflects the center’s mission. Since the beginning, it has been to provide community access education, gallery programming and space for artists to work. In the current building, they can do two of the three at the time. Kenney hopes for future expansion.

“Carbondale is to Aspen what Taos is to Santa Fe,” she said. It’s where the artists live; it’s a creating space.

Kenney said she feels honored to exhibit as part of the center’s 20th anniversary celebration. Although she’s participated in group shows through the years, Kenney hasn’t shown more than a few pieces at a time at the center.

“The place is for the community, not for me,” she said.

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