The New Mexican, Pasatiempo

Field Notes/Art News

by Dottie Indyke

September 2000

David Carter is a figure skater turned ceramic artist. And as in the case of landing a triple-jump, Carter’s clay vessels must be perfectly executed.

In a show opening at 5:30pm today, September 1, at the Joyce Robins Gallery, Carter exhibits his sculptural pieces and water vessels. Mind you, they are not theoretical water vessels, but rather wheel-thrown porcelain pieces designed to hold water.

Shaped like a martini glass, a small red ball joining bowl and stem, Double Red Ball cradles a giant cherry-like sphere surrounded by a moat of water. Beyond its exquisite aesthetic appeal, the piece is a technical marvel and the bulge of water brimming at its edges only adds to the dramatic impact.

“There’s no room for error in a lot of this,” Carter told me in a recent phone conversation. “The water doesn’t tell any lies. If one of the rims is even slightly off, the piece won’t work.”

I asked Carter how he dreamed up such a great idea, and he was trusting enough to let me print his answer.

“I was sitting on the toilet, staring at a glass of water, and I was wondering if I could create a piece where the rim was as precise as that glass,” he said. “Some people get it immediately that it’s a participation piece, that it has a Zen-like quality. The look of the piece changes day to day, depending on the humidity. After five days the water becomes flat and eventually almost concave.”

While growing up in Southern California, Carter aimed to be an Olympic skater. He began training when he was five and competed until he was sixteen. The national medalist suffered a bone break that prevented him from achieving his goal, but not before he appeared on television with legendary skaters Dorothy Hamill and Peggy Fleming.

While studying art therapy at University of Nevada in Las Vegas, Carter had his first hands-on encounter with clay. He said the head of the art department there thought the young Carter innate talent and gave him a giant gift: the key to the ceramic studio.

“That was a powerful time—all that alone time with the clay,” Carter said. “I spent twelve hours a day in there with a great stereo system and no instruction. I had to develop methods to make things work. If someone had been telling me, I might have missed the opportunity to make things my own.”

Meanwhile, Carter founded a business that offered physical training programs to private schools. By the time the company had 30 employees, he had a “big old midlife crisis,” packed up his things, and moved to Santa Fe.

After four and a half years of intense work, Carter is on his way to a serious art career. He has participated in several group exhibits, including a couple of Karan Ruhlen’s annual cup shows, but the Robins exhibit opening today is his first-ever solo effort.

“I like to create an illusion,” Carter said of his porcelain pieces. “I like people to look at the work and think it’s metal or wood or something other than what it is… until they explore it further.”

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