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University of Iowa News Release


Sept. 3, 2009

Ceramic artist to present annual UIMA Levitt Lecture

Kurt Weiser, a renowned ceramic artist, will present the University of Iowa Museum of Art's (UIMA) annual Jeanne and Richard Levitt Lectureship, "American Crafts in Context," at 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 17, in Room W151 of the John Pappajohn Business Building on the UI campus. The lecture is free and open to the public.

A professor at Arizona State University, Weiser creates intricately painted porcelain ceramics that overflow with lush foliage, women, serpents, birds and other animals.

"Because of the porcelain clay body and china painting surface treatment, his work has a really strong tradition," said UIMA Director of Education Dale Fisher, who took classes with Weiser while studying to get his MFA degree. "At the same time, it's thoroughly contemporary. There's this incongruity at work in each piece, which I think makes them interesting."

The UIMA has two early works by Weiser in its collection. Spare and earth-toned, they give little hint of his current style.

Weiser said he originally wanted to be a painter, but he became fascinated by ceramics after taking a required class and began working in the Abstract Expressionist style popular at that time. Still, he missed painting and continued to draw and paint.

"I enjoyed creating the illusion. I liked form, so I just put the two together," he said.

Painting on porcelain is an involved, technical process. Once he has the completed ceramic piece, Weiser said it can take him up to two weeks to paint the scene. Using colored pigment mixed with oil, he begins with an idea and builds upon it, frequently revising his composition. Finally, he sets the picture with up to five or six firings.

"It's a slow process," the 59-year-old said, "but it gives you time to think."

Weiser, who has spent time in Japan and Thailand, said the jungle has fascinated him since he was a child. He cited botanical illustrations from the early 19th century, such as those of John James Audubon, as inspiration.

"There are more secrets in that kind of an environment," he said. "It's fascinating to paint all that kind of variation."

Weiser is the latest in a line of luminaries the Jeanne and Richard Levitt Lectureship series has brought to the UIMA since it began in 2002 after being endowed by Madelyn Levitt of Des Moines in honor of her brother and sister-in-law.

Due to the 2008 flood, the UI Museum of Art offices have been relocated to the Studio Arts Building, 1840 SA, Iowa City, IA 52242, and Museum of Art events and exhibitions are being held at various locations. For up-to-date UIMA information, visit or call 319-335-1725.

PHOTOS: Kurt Weiser environmental pose, photo by Garth Weiser; photo, left, Kurt Weiser (American, born 1950) Orbit, 2009, porcelain and bronze, image courtesy of the artist; and, right, Untitled, 1983, cast porcelain, gift of Paul and Anastasia Polydoran 2005.31

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Service, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACT: Steve Parrott, University Relations, 319-384-0037,; Writer: Maggie Anderson