Derek Reeverts: “The Devil You Know” May Be Lurking in Old City

Saturday afternoon, the spring-like teaser of gorgeous sunny weather here in Philadelphia beckoned me to head downtown with my husband and soak-up as much fun while seeing the city sights. After an amazing lunch on historic Front street, I decided on a whim to take a closer look at the ceramic sculpture show now up at The Clay Studio in Old City, only two or three city streets away.

Derek Reeverts: "One Good Turn". Ceramic/mixed media, 2012.

Derek Reeverts: “One Good Turn”. White earthenware/mixed media, 2012. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Salt Lake City-based ceramic sculptor Derek Reeverts creates fascinating compositions in clay and mixed media, using himself both facially and most likely figuratively as his only model. One Good Turn is a work that is approximately only 12″ or so tall, and displayed in the gallery with Reeverts’ other sculptural pieces on a small horizontal white-painted shelf. So many questions arise when viewing this piece; one sees a male figure standing on top of a decimated building/destroyed brick wall, holding
Installation view at The Clay Studio, Philadelphia, PA on March 9th, 2013. Photo: P. Sullivan

“One Good Turn” Installation view at The Clay Studio, Philadelphia, PA, March 9th, 2013. Photo: P. Sullivan

weaponry such as a Colt .45 handgun with a hand grenade, wearing a “Ghost-busters” type backpack of an air-cooled machine gun. Only…so many of these items of war are turned by Reeverts into objets d’art, or more specifically, Delft porcelain ware from c. the 19th century. Is the “madman” an exaggeration of Reeverts’ own personality/or peer-group flaws vs. a comment on political figures, such as that dictator figure image emerging from a tank-latch opening within the male figure’s brain?

Installation view, March 9, 2013. "A Bee in my Bonnet", white earthenware, mixed media, 10" x 6" x 6", 2011. Photo: P. Sullivan

Installation view, March 9, 2013. “A Bee in my Bonnet”, white earthenware, mixed media, 10″ x 6″ x 6″, 2011. Photo: P. Sullivan

A Bee in my Bonnet depicts a kneeling male figure, Reeverts using himself as model again, accented on his bare torso with bumble bees nipping at his skin. The extreme level of skilled detail rendered in his sculptures appears to be a kindred quality with several other artists that are also MFA graduates from Ohio’s Miami University, like Reeverts. If familiar with any of the artwork created by Miami U. graduates – skillset, dedication to craftsmanship, and extreme attention-to-detail seem to be an overall theme found in their work. Just observe the texture in the clay of the figure’s skin, musculature, and even the copper-texture to the belt buckle. However, what does this piece mean? Reeverts is convincing in his artist statement when he writes how identity is what his work explores and what captures his attention. The artist asks himself questions to help identify the world and events around him, however, the “intent of addressing these questions is not necessarily to come to an answer.”

Sometimes, in seeing an artist’s work, we viewers are best left assuming, wondering and possibly thinking to ourselves, “Now what did that piece mean?”

Derek Reeverts: The Devil You Know can be viewed through March 31st, 2013 at The Clay Studio located at 137-139 North 2nd Street in downtown Philadelphia, PA.

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15 thoughts on “Derek Reeverts: “The Devil You Know” May Be Lurking in Old City

  1. Patricia, I enjoyed reading your thoughtful commentary on the this show. The pictures you took were masterful, as well.

    I might just have to stroll on over to Old City and have a look, myself. 🙂

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    • Gina, thanks so much for your wonderful compliments. Everything about this exhibit is so well done – not only the work (of course) but the intimate space of where in the gallery it’s installed, the way the exhibition designers chose to light the pieces – it’s definitely worth seeing if possible. Thanks so much for visiting my blog and for your lovely feedback!

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  2. Patricia, wonderful post as always. It’s very interesting to me to see what ceramic artists are up to since I used to be one. These works are very intriguing and obviously masterfully done.

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    • Anita, thank you so much for your visit! I do remember you telling me about your prior ceramic sculpture work. I’m so really happy that you stopped by to comment, because having created sculptural pieces in clay – you have a strong understanding to all the work this entails. Derek’s pieces are extremely masterful – and I was so intrigued by this exhibit that I went back in-person twice. Also, I’ve been enjoying your blog so much, Anita – I love watching how your new paintings are unfolding. It’s just fantastic.

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  3. As usual your post was a treat. I am unable to attend the exhibition ( great distance) and although obviously the best way to view any Artwork is up close and personal, this is still wonderful. I love that Mr Reeverts is about exploration and asking questions not necessarily for the sake of answers. I also love that Art can move some one in a way that was not necessarily intended by the Artist. It is like the Artwork takes on a life of it’s own when it is being exhibited and shared.

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    • I agree w/ you whole-heartedly; as artists sometimes it’s a challenge to let go of a work’s interpretation and allow the viewer to glean his/her own meanings or appreciation for the piece. Thank you for stopping by and for your always-insightful commentary, gentlestitches!

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  4. Beautifully presented (and photographed) Patricia. I think the first figure was certainly highlighted more in the gallery than in the artist’s own image. These figures make me feel a bit uncomfortable. It was good to read your interpretation and Derek Reeverts’ artist statement. Not sure why they unsettle me. Larger than life perhaps, even though they are small?

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    • I’m not surprised to hear you found the pieces unsettling – as seeing a man’s mind being taken over by a dictator image (dictator = man’s own domineering thoughts?) while holding a grenade and firearms should make one feel uncomfortable. You’re not the only one, I’m sure! Thank you so much, Philippa, for commenting on my article – you always seem to have a true insight into what I’m discussing.

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  5. An interesting post about an interesting artist, which I followed up on his blog to get more detail. It’s good to have these insights as we tend to be a bit parochial on this side of the water.

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    • Pete – I’m so happy you brought up these points. I tend to rarely refer to an artist’s statement before writing about their work, and this is coming from a person who firmly believes in using artist statements for her own work!! Derek’s statement was one of the few I’ve found that actually does provide insight without “giving away the entire secrets”. I just don’t want the statement to influence my writing or overall perceptions. As far as this work being very different from what you’re used to seeing, I would tend to agree w/ you. However, I am a total fan of functional pottery and utilitarian clay work – what you folks are doing over in the U.K. lately has definitely got my attention, as I’m following more ceramic artist blogs from U.K. makers than ever! Thanks so much, Pete, for stopping by – I always enjoy hearing your feedback.

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  6. Very intriguing work and so well executed! I find it both unsettling and engaging at the same time – definitely makes me think. Thank you, Patricia, I always look forward to reading your posts and discovering (high-calibre) artists I don’t know.

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    • Dominique, I completely follow what you mean re: experiencing the unsettling aspects of viewing these while appreciating the intrigue that it brings. I feel very similar – and I do think it’s due to the fine level of craftsmanship/execution in Derek’s sculptures that draws me beyond only seeing the unsettling factors mentioned above. Thank you for your wonderful comments, Dominique – I feel a kindred soul whenever I visit your blog and so appreciate your stopping by to comment!

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  7. Interesting post and art work! Personally, I do support the idea of not necessarily finding answers all the time. And if/when we do, we viewers all find our very different and very personal answers in what we see. That’s why art is so important, it leaves so much to us and our own thinking.

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    • Very well stated, Gunilla! I especially agree w/ your last sentence. It’s sometimes difficult to convince disbelieving people in the importance of art, but it does teach us how to learn to think for ourselves. Thanks so much for stopping in and for your lovely comments!

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