Partners in pottery
Maureen Marcotte and David McKenzie married 40 years to their art and each other
Maureen Marcotte and David McKenzie are potters who work together, sharing studios, materials and kilns. They also live together. And they have been doing both for 40 years.
“Working together for 40 years means that we have had to learn to compromise, even on the music playing in the studio,” Marcotte tells me.
“And we see this as a positive aspect,” she adds.
It also means, she says, “being able to divide the labour to suit each other’s talents and expertise. We both don’t have to know and do everything.” There are some disadvantages. “Our identity is often linked to the fact that we are a pair, and our individual identities are not as strong as our collective identity,” Marcotte says.
Marcotte and McKenzie are celebrating their creative partnership with In Common Uncommon, an exhibition at the Art Gallery of Burlington until July 28.
The exhibition offers a variety of forms, mostly in porcelain.
“In our early years, we worked exclusively in stoneware, and made the switch to porcelain when colour and decoration became priorities.”
But when it comes to shape and decoration, Marcotte and McKenzie differ. Her shapes are uncomplicated. They are decorated with precise and repetitive patterns.
By contrast, his shapes and their decorated surfaces are more irregular and complex, often with stronger colours. Moreover, his pieces often embody themes, meanings and stories.
Marcotte divides one of her big circular plates into three areas. The central and outer parts contain a variety of white leaf motifs against black. The rest of the space is filled with black, white and brown leaves arranged in rows like weaving or knitting designs.
“This body of work is part of a continuum based on my love of pattern and surface decoration and the ways in which repetitive motifs can be used to enhance simple pottery forms,” Marcotte explains. “Much of my inspiration comes from textile arts and historical ceramics.”
A whimsical rabbit leaps into the centre of McKenzie’s Mimbres Rabbit, a four-sided slab plate. The rabbit boasts a black face, black feet and a body filled with red triangles echoed by blue lines.
McKenzie says the rabbit is a new motif for him, its style inspired by ancient Mimbres pottery once made in such places as New Mexico and Arizona.
He likes the rabbit’s traditional links to “fertility, good luck, creativity, rebirth and resurrection, but also of a trickster and shape-shifter who can live above or below the ground.”
The rest of the plate’s interior is covered with striking blue glazes. And the edges are ragged and uneven, in strong contrast to Marcotte’s neater and calmer shapes.
McKenzie’s Night Circus, a slab form, is filled with vertically stacked compartments, each one different.
“Night Circus started as a form, then for a while I’d be scratching my head on how to paint it,” McKenzie says.
“There are never any preliminary drawings, I just start somewhere and off it goes.
“In this case I would have started with the red and white circus tent motif and, because I think life is like a disjointed circus, I would have filled in my story line with archetypal female and male figures like queen and stag, as well as boats and vessels to symbolize the journey.
“The title would have been the last addition to the piece.”
Maureen Marcotte, Plate with Leaf and Geometric Designs, porcelain. Part of In Common Uncommon.
Top: David McKenzie, Mimbres Rabbit, porcelain. Bottom: David McKenzie, Night Circus, porcelain. Both are part of In Common Uncommon, an exhibition at the Art Gallery of Burlington.