Buzz Worthy

Cross MacKenzie Ceramic Arts

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Artist Rebecca Cross and husband-photographer Maxwell MacKenzie are opening the colorful Cross MacKenzie Ceramic Arts to fill a void they see in the ceramics marketplace.

"It's not like no one shows ceramics," Cross says. "I'm just making a bigger venue for it."

Their new spot -- complete with bright orange walls -- is one of the changes that have hit galleries clustered in Georgetown's Canal Square. This week marks the expansion of the 15-year-old Parish Gallery in Fraser Gallery's old space (Fraser's Bethesda site lives on), and the Alla Rogers Gallery has cut its space in half to accommodate the new ceramics venture.

Cross and MacKenzie define ceramics in the broadest sense, ranging from the sculptural to the functional; they want to address the split between art and craft with shows that don't shy away from presenting serving platters in the company of unusual clay firings. "I just like the idea of shrinking the divisions between fine art and functional art," Cross says.

The first show, opening Wednesday, is aptly titled "Clay" and includes six artists' works, one of which is in progress.

Last week, local sculptor Margaret Boozer, right, started a piece in the narrow storefront of the gallery. She took off her shoes and socks to walk barefoot on thick masses of clay. Then she poured liquid clay into a large pool in the middle of the piece. She shook the wooden base to help spread the liquid and sprinkled a bit of dusty red clay on top -- like a dash of cayenne.

The piece will take more than a week to dry, during which it will crack like a piece of parched earth. MacKenzie plans to film a minute of the drying process each day, so that folks can see the sculpture's evolution at the opening.

"The clay is doing a little performance piece," Boozer says. "It's evocative of some geological formation. . . . It is earth." Nicole M. Miller

"Clay" opens Wednesday, 6-8 p.m., at Cross Mackenzie Ceramic Arts, 1054 31st St. NW. Free. 202-333-7970.

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