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Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art Announces Publication Unearthed: The NEHMA Ceramic Collection And The Woman Behind It University Press of Colorado

Logan, Utah…The Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art (NEHMA) at Utah State University (USU) and University Press of Colorado announce the publication of Unearthed: The NEHMA Ceramic Collection and the Woman Behind It. The ground-breaking, 256-page publication showcases selections from NEHMA’s exceptional ceramic collection that focuses on the history of ceramics west of the Mississippi River since 1900. With substantive essays by art historians Matthew Limb and Billie Sessions and illustrated biographical entries on more than 200 artists and artworks, the publication intentionally highlights artists who deserve more recognition and have yet to be contextualized within broader ceramics history. Unearthed ensures that the legacy and connoisseurship of philanthropist Nora Eccles Treadwell Harrison endures for generations.

The late Nora Eccles Treadwell Harrison, who founded the art museum at USU in 1982, was an avid collector of ceramic pieces from a wide variety of regional artists. Her initial donation for the museum’s founding included 400 works and she established an endowment to provide for annual purchases of ceramics. NEHMA’s ceramic holdings now number over 1,500 works and are considered one of the best collections of American studio ceramics in the American West. The selection of artists featured includes both known and under-recognized artists, women artists, influential women ceramics educators, and Native American ceramicists.

Among the artists whose work is showcased are Ralph Bacerra, Sam Chung, Philip Cornelius, Dora De Larios, Michael Frimkess and Magdalena Suarez Frimkess, Shōji Hamada, Mary Juan, Ban Kajitani, Maria Montoya Martinez, Antonio Prieto, David Shaner, Toshiko Takaezu, Akio Takamori, Joan Takayma-Ogawa, and Fay B. Tso.

Jenni Sorkin, renowned American art historian specializing in studio ceramics and feminism, said that, “NEHMA has one of the nation’s most important collections of post-war ceramics, with a special focus on the Western United States, including California. Unearthed documents the history of the Museum’s craft-driven origins, and its legacy as a collection documenting the rich and varied voices working across 20th-century ceramics in all its glory: functional wares, figurative and abstract sculptural practices by a diverse range of artists.”

Despite the region’s history of conflicts and battles over natural resources, the West became an area for the cross-pollination of ceramic traditions, which were themselves influenced by the physical landscape and peoples of the region. Through conquest, colonization, and migration, Euro-American, Native North American, East Asian, African American, and Latin American ceramics converged and profoundly shaped the West’s artistic legacy. For Harrison, clay’s appeal lay as much in the community it fostered as it did in its practices and artifacts—from the intellectual circles of San Francisco to the Pueblo matriarchs of the Southwest.

“Unearthed, over a decade in the making, allows us to share our exceptional ceramics collection and highlight Nora’s remarkable legacy,” said Katie Lee-Koven, NEHMA’s Executive Director and Chief Curator. “Curator Billie Sessions and I re-examined all 1,500 objects in our holdings to provide examples that show the evolution of ceramics in the 20th and 21st centuries and to ensure the representation of a diverse range of artists, balancing gender, ethnicity, genres, and more. Our research and new scholarship provide a more accurate view of how rich and wide-ranging this field has been prior to the 20th century and up to the present day.”

Unearthed: The NEHMA Ceramics Collection and the Woman Behind It is available to order online through the University Press of Colorado and other online book retailers.

The Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art
The Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art (NEHMA) is dedicated to collecting and exhibiting modern and contemporary visual art to promote dialogue about ideas fundamental to contemporary society. NEHMA provides meaningful engagement with art from the 20th and 21st centuries to support the educational mission of Utah State University, in Logan, Utah. NEHMA offers complementary public programs such as lectures, panels, tours, concerts, and symposia to serve the University and regional community. Admission is free and open to the public. Hours are Tuesday – Friday 9:00 am – 4:00 pm; Saturday 10:00 am – 6:00 pm; and by appointment.

Unearthed: The NEHMA Ceramic Collection and the Woman Behind It, Book cover, 2024. Photo courtesy of Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art.