American b. 1946, Bronx, NY, based in Brattleboro, VT
6 x 18 x 18 in
Homage to Jay De Feo
24 x 2 x 15 in
3 x 5.5 x 5.5 in
Alan Steinberg is currently located in Putney, Vermont, where his vision as a sculptor strives to go from being “about nature,'' to being “of nature”. Steinberg sees his work with clay over the past fifty years as being “kidnapped by clay”. The artist describes having epiphanies, sabbaticals, vision quests, automobile accidents and divorce recoveries, all helping to find the power of clay. Clay as stone, clay as mother earth, clay as archeological artifacts from long lost cultures, whose wisdom is being lost to us. With beginnings as a N.Y.C. public school teacher, Steinberg has progressed through the Brooklyn Museum Art School, to work as a full-time self-supporting clay artist, to founding the Brattleboro Clayworks, and continuing with psychotherapeutic healing and vision quests. Steinberg is an artist focused on the spiritual side of making art - that which integrates poetry, ritual, mythology, meditation and ecology, with the work of the hands.
Alan Steinberg has had a relationship with clay for 50+ years. “I was kidnapped by clay. On my way to another life, a chance course taken to fill up my schedule during my senior year in college, and it was all over. At first I sneaked into the school ceramics studio at night with several other addicts. Then after I landed a full-time teaching job in the N.Y.C. public schools I wound up at the clay studio of the Brooklyn Museum Art School evenings, weekends, and I now confess, a few sick days. Nine years later I was to give up a safe tenured teaching position to be a full-time self-supporting clay artist.”
One night, he was out canoeing a beaver pond, when the full moon suddenly came up behind a drowned pine tree. Steinberg reports –“It was an epiphany – the beavers drown the trees, flooding the land, creating a new environment for all kinds of life forms. It was birth and death, and birth and death. I felt myself a part of everything, no longer separate, with a new sense of a power beyond that which I could explain.”
The image of the moon behind the tree became his mantra, appearing endlessly in his work, as little by little, his business grew, and became a place for younger clay aspirants to find employment and hone their skills. Divorce led him to Vermont in 1981. He rented work space from a local potter while attending meetings of a group wishing to start a pottery collective. They signed a lease for space at the Ingenuity shops in early 1983. Alan hauled his old gas kiln and other equipment up from Massachusetts and rebuilt it at the new Brattleboro Clayworks. For the next 17 years Alan continued to operate both a retail business, exhibiting at several craft fairs each year, and a thriving wholesale business, shipping to galleries all across the country.
In 2000 Steinberg took a year long sabbatical, during which he read, practiced yoga and hiked daily, going on several Vision Quests, spent the summer taking workshops at the Omega Institute, was on staff for the Men’s Wisdom Council at Rowe conference Center. and took part in Sparrow Hart’s Mythic Warrior Training.
He returned to work in the Fall of 2001, full of ideas for new sculptural clay works that spoke of messages from the Earth, and committed to teaching as a means of giving back to the community for the blessings in his life. An image he’d held for years, of the Clayworks as a non-profit school began to take shape. He taught classes at the studio focusing on wheel throwing and hand-building, classes that continue to routinely fill up. He also began to offer occasional workshops that focused on the spiritual side of making art - that integrated poetry, ritual, mythology, meditation and ecology with the work of the hands.
After an automobile accident in 2002, Steinberg’s workshops began to focus his attention on the relationship between making art and the healing process. As he turned 62, he returned to school, enrolling in a 4 year psychotherapeutic training program at the Synthesis Center in Amherst, Ma, to help him take that connection further.
My work has been influenced by the following people: Paulus Berensohn, George Kokis, Peter London, Alex Grey, Shawn McNiff, Martin Prechtel, Paul Soldner, Ram Dass, Pema Chodron, Pete Seeger, Sparrow Hart, Fred Taylor, and, (most recently and in ways I have just begun to comprehend) – Roberto Assagioli – to name just a few.
Included in the events that have shaped my work and life must be the particular strengths and weaknesses of my family of origin, a Vision Quest I undertook in Utah in the spring of 1998, the year I spent on “Sabbatical” in 2001 taking workshops everywhere, an unfortunate confrontation (or fortunate, depending upon your point of view) between my Ford van and a Honda in 2002, an ongoing tango with cancer, participation for 16 years in a men’s group, raining to practice as a Psychosynthesis Guide, the blessings of parenthood, and two marriages, especially the second – to my most important teacher of all.
And then of course there has always been the land.
Statement about works in A CHANGING FORM Fine Art Ceramics
In 1998 I went on a Vision Quest in Utah. Subsequently my work in clay has gone from being “about nature”, to hopefully being “of nature” – clay as stone, clay as mother earth, clay as archeological artifacts from long lost cultures, whose wisdom is being lost to us.
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