Materials: Ceramic and glaze, 86”
Gift made in loving memory of Ann and Donald Stutler by their children
Location at Summa Health: Dr. Gary B. and Pamela S. Williams Tower on the Akron Campus, main building (141 N. Forge St.), Jane Fawcett Comunale Courtyard.
After purchasing this dynamic ceramic sculpture, Sharon Stutler chose to rename it Perseverance to celebrate qualities that her parents, Donald and Ann Stutler, exemplified. In 2019 she donated it to the Summa Collection in their honor. Ann Stutler had been an active volunteer at Akron City Hospital for many years.
The sculpture, which stands higher than most of us are tall, conveys whimsical and joyous feelings in its intense primary (red, yellow, blue) color and vigorous patterns. Looking more closely, we note that what artist Russ Vogt calls the “reeds” are made up of multiple components — basically cylindrical in shape but sometimes spherical or more complex — which he has stacked or threaded onto a steel armature. This gives the ceramic material, which can be brittle after firing, both structure and strength. Some of the reeds are strictly vertical, but the artist intentionally allows for some to bend as organic materials – like reeds — do, which gives the grouping a sense of life. In the outdoor courtyard to the east of the entrance to Summa’s new patient tower, this colorful growth of “reeds” seems to be in dialogue with the young trees sharing that space.
Vogt varies the basic shapes and contours of each component, as well as having impressed a range of textures into their surfaces, done while the clay was still soft. He also draws and paints on the surfaces with contrasting colored glazes: A glaze is made up of liquid clay and various chemicals mixed to create colors and then painted onto a clay body before its final firing. At that point, the glaze not only reveals its color alchemies but also become vitreous (glassy) and thus durable, like the clay beneath it. Vogt finishes the components in an oxidation firing (which allows for the bright colors) in his home kiln and then assembles them, intuiting the combinations of color and form as he goes along. His wife, Suzanne, often serves as critic and sounding board in the process of making decisions about the shapes the sculptures will take.
Russ Vogt began making art in two dimensions (painting, drawing, and printmaking). He describes himself as having been influenced by surrealism and remains, to this day, a very prolific painter. But after completing an undergraduate degree at St. Cloud University, he “changed my way of thinking pretty fast” during graduate study at the University of Illinois, where he began to explore three-dimensional expression and the materials for realizing it. Eventually he chose clay as his primary sculptural medium, for its durability and for the way it responded to his need to keep his vision open and fluid during the process of making. He says that it still feels as though he is painting — just now in three dimensions — and he emphasizes that the finished pieces encourage you to walk around them in order to experience in our own space the colors and shapes from the different angles and varying combinations which he has created.
Where you can see more of this artist’s work:
Sherrie Hawk, owner of the Sherrie Gallerie in Columbus, Ohio, describes Russ Vogt as having been an “invaluable part of Columbus art community for more than 25 years.” His sculptures include organically-shaped benches and sometimes highly abstracted representational forms (animals, landscape features, figures) in ceramic or more durable material inlaid with ceramic mosaic, designed for exteriors or interiors. Many of his reed pieces, which explore many of the directions we find in Perseverence, can be found in public and private locations in New Mexico as well as around central Ohio. Vogt’s website documents his many paintings, too; you can begin to see how, as the artist explores formal ideas and issues, his painting and sculpture inform one another in complementary ways.