Expanding the Realm of Ceramics: Interview with Jasmine Baetz: The Curator of the 79th Scripps Ceramic Annual


Alexandria Smith ’27
Staff Writer

Jasmine Baetz, the Scripps College Lincoln Visiting Artist in Ceramics, dove into theories of Brownness in her curatorial success at the 79th Scripps College Ceramic Annual, titled The Idea of Feeling Brown

In her curatorial debut, Baetz strove to display ceramics in their full expansive nature by creating space for the Brown community to recognize themselves within the pieces. 

“There can be a grounding element to ceramics practices,” Baetz said. “And when you are grounded in that way, you can have conversations and share ideas with an expansive mindset, which can greatly facilitate marginal or difficult conversations.”

Baetz, after reading José Esteban Muñoz’s The Sense of Brown three years ago, felt immediately inspired by his framework, theory, and language. The work in this exhibition all exist in unison with Muñoz’s ideas and frameworks, which “indicate the approximation and negotiation of feeling Brown; the ongoing work of settling and unsettling how each artist considers and visualizes their relationship to a Brown commons. The pieces, each thought-provoking and transformative, refuse the typical expectation of ceramics,” Baetz wrote in a statement about the exhibit.

Upon entering the gallery, the viewer is welcomed into an immersive creative space complete with performance art, sculpture, virtual reality, floor-to-ceiling paintings, and its own bodega with a mascot. The viewer’s eye is caught by the huge floor-to-ceiling painting: shades of black, yellow, and red against the stark white wall. Created by Magdolene Dykstra, this piece was done using individual fingerprints. In a nontraditional nature, it reveals itself through its “ceramics sensibility,” according to Baetz. Baetz described that the piece uses “three of the oxides commonly used in ceramics palettes.” In its grandeur, Dykstra created a unique temporary and transitional piece that, titled after Muñoz’s work, is exemplary of Munoz’s wider view of ceramics frameworks.

Heidi McKenzie’s artwork, positioned across the room, features porcelain light boxes and hanging window pane pieces. These pieces examine colonialism and its impact on the lives of people of color. They serve as a connection between various other artworks, especially those directly influenced by colonial forces, such as Habiba El-Sayed and Raheleh Filsoofi’s pieces. The integration of virtual reality and augmented reality artwork on the iPad allows for direct engagement with El-Sayed’s discourse on her work within the colonial institution. 

On the left wall is a video of Filsoofi against a black background holding a plate, delicately and rhythmically biting its edges, turning it, and continuing the pattern. The plate is then displayed before the viewer, connecting this performative action with the physical piece. This, as Baetz describes, was one of the first pieces she saw when developing the exhibit. The piece strives to affect “the way we feel and make each other feel through the transmission of our artworks,” Baetz said. It also evokes a “relational experience reaching across the screen,” creating a pattern language, as well as a connection to the viewer, as individuals feel immersed in the physical and visual display.

Baetz’s interest in community engagement and antiracist practice is evident throughout the gallery. She strives to create a space for individuals to think about “what’s shared between people, especially people with not identical experiences, but experiences that have similar throughlines,” she said. 

This framework ties together and orients the space around racialized experience. “While it isn’t necessarily a show about identity, it makes space for serious and thoughtfully considered expression of experiences,” Baetz said.

As a first-time curator, Baetz wanted to challenge social norms in the field of art. Despite movements in the art world to feature and represent BIPOC artists, the field of ceramics remains dominated by white curators. As part of reducing inequities in art, Baetz thought heavily during her curatorial process about the need to compensate artists for their work and their time. “It has not been typical of previous Scripps Ceramic Annuals to pay artists for their work,” she said. This is something she fought to rectify. 

“Those are some very low bars we can clear going into the future, thinking about the incredible labor of artists and having some form of compensation,” Baetz said. “I think that will also really change the annual and what’s possible for curators and artists in the future. They did give that honoraria to the artists this year, for the first time, and I’m very happy that they are making that change.”

In this unique space, you can each see how ceramics continue to grow and evolve into something more expansive. Baetz hopes the show inspires viewers to “apply critical and queer theory, [the] idea of performance, and put it into more fields.” Through her rigorous framework, she hopes the viewer can start conversations about “ceramic art, artists, processes, literature, and writing.” 

As the echoes of previously silenced narratives reverberate within the walls, Baetz’s exhibition establishes exactly what it had hoped to achieve.

Don’t forget to visit the exhibit at the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery at 251 E 11th St. [Open Wednesday through Sunday 12 p.m. – 4 p.m.!] 

The gallery has free collaborative zines from the students in Baetz’s class “Special Topics in Ceramics: Feeling Brown.” In them are interviews with the artists done by the students. Please pick one up and read for yourself how fantastic each of these artists are and the brevity of their works. To see Pepe the Puma and buy your own ceramic produce at the Bodega go to the gallery from 12 p.m. – 4 p.m. on Fridays.

Image Source: Alexandria Smith ’27

Don't Miss