Canton Museum of Art Presents Waylande Gregory: Art Deco Ceramics and the Atomic Impulse

First Major Retrospective of Ceramics Leader Who Shaped Art Deco Design in the United States



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Waylande Gregory (American, 1905 - 1971), Salome, ca. 1929, Cowan Pottery, Cleveland, Ohio, glazed earthenware, 17 x 10 x 4 inches, Private collection


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  April 18, 2014, Canton, Ohio — The Canton Museum of Art is pleased to welcome a major ceramics exhibition, Waylande Gregory: Art Deco Ceramics and the Atomic Impulse, which will be on view May 1 through July 20, 2014, in the lower galleries. Waylande Gregory (American, 1905-1971) was one of the leading figures in twentieth-century American ceramics. He helped shape Art Deco design in the United States. This exhibition is the first retrospective on the artist, highlighting more than sixty works including paintings, glass and ceramics, most notably four Electrons from his major commission for the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair, The Fountain of the Atom. This new exhibition premiered at the University of Richmond Museums in February 2013.

Organized by the University of Richmond Museums, Virginia, the exhibition is curated by Thomas C. Folk, Ph.D., an independent ceramics scholar. The exhibition will be accompanied by a 200 page hard cover monograph on the artist, which is titled "Waylande Gregory: Art Deco Ceramics and the Atomic Impulse." This is the first monograph on Gregory, which also serves as a catalogue for the exhibition, and is published by University of Richmond Museums.

Waylande Gregory was the first modern ceramist to create large-scale ceramic sculptures. Similar to the technique developed by the ancient Etruscans, he fired his monumental ceramic sculptures only once. To create these works of ceramic virtuosity, the artist developed a “honeycomb” technique, in which an infrastructure of compartments was covered by a ceramic “skin.” Some of these figurative sculptures became very heavy, some weighing well over one ton, and were fired in a huge kiln constructed by Gregory at his home and studio in Warren, New Jersey.

Gregory’s Early Career

In the 1930s the artist’s career mirrored the changing focus of American ceramics, from art pottery to studio pottery. Gregory was a major figure in the Cleveland School, a flourishing arts community of Northeast Ohio during the period from 1910 to 1960, renowned for its sculptors, ceramists and watercolorists. The Cleveland School started at the Cowan Pottery, in Rocky River, Ohio, and from 1928 to 1932, Gregory was the chief designer and lead sculptor. At Cowan, Gregory created some the Pottery’s finest works, including three limited edition sculptures relating to dance, including Salome, Nautch Dancer and Burlesque Dancer. All three of these pieces are featured in the exhibition. Salome combines the horror of the story about the beheading of John the Baptist, as well as the rhythm and motion of Salome’s veil dance. Salome won first prize at the Cleveland Museum of Art May Show of 1929. The last two works were based on the dancing of Gilda Grey, a well-known entertainer from the Ziegfeld Follies who inspired these sculptures.

In 1931, Gregory became artist-in-residence of ceramics at Cranbrook Academy in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Other members of the faculty included the architect Eliel Saarinen and the sculptor Carl Milles. Under Gregory’s guidance, Cranbrook began the development of a serious ceramics program. Although working at Cranbrook for only eighteen months, Gregory produced several well-known sculptures there, including Kansas Madonna and Girl with Olive, both of which are featured in the exhibition.

After leaving Cranbrook and moving to New Jersey, Gregory was named Director of Sculpture of the New Jersey Works Progress Administration (WPA). It was during this time that he created the fountain, Light Dispelling Darkness, which features monumental ceramic sculptures that can be seen today in Roosevelt Park in Menlo Park, New Jersey. The work, a tribute to Thomas Edison, exhibits a heroic theme of combating evil through knowledge. It consists of a terracotta globe surrounding a shaft of relief figures including a scientist, artist, engineer, and industrial workers. The outside figures represent conquest, war, famine, death, greed, and materialism fleeing the forces of science and knowledge. This sculptural grouping would lay the groundwork for the World’s Fair’s commission for The Fountain of the Atom.

1939 World’s Fair Commissions

Gregory was commissioned for the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair to produce The Fountain of the Atom. It was comprised of four elements: earth, air, fire, and water, surrounded by eight electrons, four male and four female. He described the electrons as “elemental little savages of boundless electrical energy, dancing to the rhythm of sculptured bolts of lightning-like flashes in brilliant colored glazes, their buoyant shaped bodies of richly modeled terracotta clays in warm colors.” Highlighted in the exhibition are four of the eight electrons — Male Electron with Green Hair, Male Electron with Fins, Female Electron with Bolt of Lightning, and Female Electron with Bubbles. Also included in the exhibition is the element Fire and a macquette of the element Water.

Later Works in Sculpture and Glass

By the 1940s Gregory began to create works in glass, as well as in a combination of ceramics and glass. In addition to becoming one of the earliest studio ceramics artists, he was also one of the first studio glass artists. He created enameled glass vases as well as stained glass windows. Gregory experimented with some controversial glass and ceramic pieces, using a process he successfully patented, much to the consternation of other American ceramists including Beatrice Wood and Gertrude and Otto Nattzler. During the 1940s and 1950s Gregory created lively, decorated production sculptures and vessels. These were displayed at leading American retail stores including Tiffany’s and Neiman-Marcus.

Gregory continued to work until his death in 1971. By the end of his life, the artist had created one of the largest bodies of ceramic sculptural works in modern times, a body of work that represents one of the greatest legacies in American ceramics history.  The diversity of Gregory's complex creations and production techniques is very much reflected in this exhibition.

Exhibition-Related Programming

Wednesday, April 30, 2014, 6 to 8pm
Members Only Exhibit Opening Celebration

Wilkof Courtyard & Galleries, Canton Museum of Art
Museum Members are invited for a preview and tour of the exhibition along with curator, Dr. Thomas Folk. The evening will feature heavy hors d’oeuvres, wine and music by the Malone University Jazz Ensemble. The opening will also feature exhibitions from Erin Mulligan and George and Patricia Raeder.
Contact Lynn Daverio at 330.453.7666, ext. 104, or email, for more information.

Sunday, May 4, 2014, 1 to 2pm
Lecture Presentation — Waylande Gregory: Cleveland & Beyond

Museum Library, Canton Museum of Art
Presented by Dr. Thomas C. Folk, Ph.D., independent ceramics scholar and curator of the exhibition
Get to know Waylande Gregory as a major influence in the Cleveland School, as he was the leading sculptor and designer at Rocky River's Cowan Pottery. But in 1931, the Cowan Pottery closed, a victim of the Great Depression, and Gregory moved forward to create some of the most monumental and lasting ceramic works of all time.

About the Canton Museum of Art
The Canton Museum of Art (CMA) is one of Ohio's premier locations for an exceptional visual arts experience. CMA is recognized for powerful national touring exhibits; dynamic CMA-original exhibits; an unrivaled Permanent Collection of American watercolors and contemporary ceramics; and innovative education outreach programs, in-Museum classes and workshops. For more information, including hours, exhibits and special events, call 330.453.7666, visit, Facebook® at “Canton Museum of Art” or @CantonMuseum on Twitter®.


Media Images: Hi-res images for publication are available by contacting Max Barton, 330.453.7666, ext. 102, or email with a request.

Canton Museum of Art Hours:
Hours – Monday: Closed; Tues - Thurs: 10am - 8pm; Fri - Sat: 10am - 5pm; Sun: 1 - 5pm

Regular Admission: Museum Members, Free; $6, Adults; $4, Senior & Students (with ID); Children 12 & Under, Free. For group visits and tours, please call Lauren Kuntzman at least two weeks prior to your visit for reservations and/or to request a docent-led tour.

Location: The Canton Museum of Art is located in the Cultural Center for the Arts, 1001 Market Avenue North, Canton, Ohio 44702. Call 330.453.7666 for information and directions or visit our website at

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