Nestled along the luxuriant cliff-side banks of the Mekong River, Luang Prabang, the former royal capital of Laos, is a city of stately palaces, villas, and bungalows left from the French colonial period, as well as many golden temples (vats) alive with the Buddhist culture of their attendant monasteries. While its local textile industry is renowned, what seduces the visitor to Luang Prabang is the tranquil pace of life, where time is marked by the gongs and drums that signal the daily rituals of the monks. These begin at daybreak with Tak Bat, when the monks, from sixty-four monasteries, process down the main street, Sakkaline Road, to receive alms in the form of nourishment placed in their ample tin-lidded bowls by residents who kneel curbside.
Over the past ten years Wade Lege has rescued some of the disappearing landmarks of his native Louisiana, beginning with a group of Acadian cottages and culminating in the ongoing restoration of a Greek revival house originally from Kismet plantation.
Consider Rockwell Kent's paintings of land and sea as modern American mindscapes—poetic distillations of remote places that probe the mysteries of life. Kent hoped viewers would lose themselves in contemplation before his haunting visions.1 "Essentials only ought to go into painting," he insisted. "I want the elemental, infinite thing; I want to paint the rhythm of eternity."2 He perceived the earth and heavens as psychological force fields imposing their nature upon man to make him what he is.3 Critics recognized a "stark strength" and "mystic imagination" pulsing through his paintings of Monhegan Island, Newfoundland, the Alaska Territory, and Tierra del Fuego.4
Y ou can only imagine what the china connoisseur in Edward Lamson Henry's 1889 A Lover of Old China might think upon encoun-tering a plate made by one of the three contemporary artists shown here. We, on the other hand, might be equally disconcerted by the notion that there could be anything contemporary or even modern about a transfer-ware plate. In fact, when modern ceramics come to mind we are bound to envision a simple functional shape, obviously created by hand, coated in a glaze of a rich but subtle hue. That is the legacy of the studio pottery movement that began in Britain in the early twentieth century with ceramists such as Bernard Leach, Lucy Rie, and others. And yet the three artists profiled here are making us take a second look at a medium that has grown stale with familiarity over the last hundred years.