A clay artist always imagining new horizons

Those who are familiar with clay artist George Pearlman’s work are enticed by its unusual color palette referenced from his environment. He derives many of the colors from the winter scenery here in Maine. “You start to appreciate the subtle winter colors here in Maine,” he explains. “I make my own colors. It can take up to five years to perfect a hue.” Over the years his palette has expanded to also include the brilliant hues of British Columbia, where he also spends time and where more vivid colors abound.

Pearlman’s colors add relevance to the forms he paints on his pots. “I want to get into a conversation about nature,” he says. “It’s mark-making in reference to a leaf, stem, stalk, trunk or canopy.” As his designs continue to evolve, Pearlman is finding meaning in the spaces between the forms that he paints on his pots. “I am now at a place where I want to incorporate more and more open space without content.” It is his ability to imagine new horizons for his work that keeps Pearlman working hard.

It was in 1998 that Pearlman moved to St. George. His life story before that time begins with the pursuit of fine art in secrecy. Born in Queens, New York, to parents who were full-time professionals, Pearlman was forced to repress his love of art in order to conform to their desire for him to become a corporate professional. As a child, he would wait until after bedtime to covertly render artful drawings, hidden under a blanket draped over his desk to conceal the light by which he worked. Although his strong desire to become an artist never waned throughout his childhood, Pearlman’s parents would pay for his college education only if he pursued a degree in business. Therefore, he graduated from Syracuse University in 1983 with a B.S. as a dual major in Transportation Distribution Management and Marketing. However, during the final semester of his senior year, and unbeknownst to his parents, Pearlman was able to enroll in fine art courses, including ceramics.

Armed with a fierce determination to become a master ceramicist, Pearlman eventually left a lucrative job with an international shipping company in New York City after a short period of employment. Entrepeneurial by nature, he pursued opportunities to learn from other ceramicists and New York galleries by working for them in exchange for instruction. He also studied at the School of Visual Arts in New York City at that time. Once his skills increased to the professional level, Pearlman landed a residency at Peter’s Valley School of Craft in the Delaware River Valley where he taught a workshop. And, after a short stint in California learning from West Coast ceramicists, he returned to New York where he landed a teaching job at Kingsborough College, teaching three courses in ceramics. He also had his first breakthrough selling all his work to a notable gallery in Brookline, Mass. With some cash in his pocket, it was time for Pearlman to buy a home and set up his studio again. This took him to northern Philadelphia. But he continued to follow many opportunities at home and abroad.

After a long series of teaching and gallery jobs and an artist’s residency in Latvia during the fall of the U.S.S.R., Pearlman returned to the U.S. with the desire to pursue graduate studies in ceramics. He earned an MFA in ceramics from Penn State University in 1994.

It was during his graduate years that Pearlman’s work transformed, growing to a grand scale because the school’s kilns were enormous. This allowed him to move beyond functional pottery to create sculptural art. “I got to work in a place of abundance,” he explains. “Making pots is a metaphor for making bodies that have parts like necks, feet, and so on—there’s a real physicality to it.” Just after graduation, Pearlman held his first solo show at Penn State, exhibiting his sculptures, ceramic vessels and drawings. The show completely sold out. Spurred on by this success, he came to Maine for six months as an artist resident at the Watershed Center for Ceramic Art in Edgecomb, where he briefly managed the Center before moving on to other opportunities throughout the country.

But Maine beckoned him to return and so he set down roots in St. George in 1998 and opened his own studio and gallery at 1012 River Road, where his work may be viewed. Pearlman is also represented by the Holly Hamilton Gallery in Portland, and at Craft in Rockland. His award-winning works have appeared in many other notable venues as well, such as the Smithsonian Craft Show in Washington, D.C., The Montclair Museum in New Jersey, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft. This St. George artist had been recognized by the Maine Arts Commission as an Individual Artist Fellow. Additionally, you may visit his website at www.georgepearlman.com to view his work and read his biography. But, the best way to learn about Pearlman’s pottery is to stop by and talk to him!

—Katharine Cartwright


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