Far off the beaten path, nestled next to the Verde River in Clarkdale, Arizona, sits the legendary Reitz Ranch Center for Ceramic Arts. The former studio and home of American master Don Reitz, boast hundreds of his works on display in the open air and his collection of kilns, including the 6-foot-tall, 30-foot long wood-fired Reitz-Agama. A secluded and expertly equipped studio, rich with history and legacy, the perfect storm for a quarantine artist residency. The ranch provided the inspiration and means to bring about a new body of work for Virgil Ortiz, one deeply involved in the contemporary ceramics movement, yet unique to the VO style.
What started as a daylong visit under the guidance of curator and author, Peter Held, expanded rapidly into a short-term residency designed around a central thesis, the conjunction of the American collegiate ceramics experience with that of the Cochiti Pueblo ceramics tradition. This residency, and the works produced therein, represent Virgil’s first foray into the world of atmospheric firings and builds on his recent objective of building larger and stronger forms with commercial materials. Working with ASU student Andrew ‘Augusta’ Smith, a production potter well versed in the Reitz legacy and the technical aspects of ceramics, Virgil has produced a series of solo and collaborative pieces unlike any ever seen before in his scope of work. Blending influences from the visceral, impressionistic Reitz style, ancient Asian and Egyptian works, and his repertoire of Cochiti traditional and indigenous futurism styles, Virgil and Augusta have brought about an exciting cross-cultural endeavor to push the limits of their work together.
L-R: Reitz Ranch owner; Sheryl Leigh-Davault, Andrew ‘Augusta’ Smith, Peter Held & Virgil Ortiz.
Behind The Scenes: ASxVO Atmospheric Experience
What has come of the time at the Reitz Ranch shares the central theme of the entire VO experience, the works are monumental and unexpected, the collaborations more involved, and the context worldlier. The process for these works is deeply involved, using firing methods in which the atmosphere of the entire kiln is the glaze, causing unpredictable results unique to each piece that is impossible to replicate.
This collection of functional wares is the first taste of much to come, including large scale sculptural collaborations, wood-fired wares, and more of the finest functional VO home goods.
Snapshot: Smith & Ortiz in rare form in front of the legendary Reitz-Agama kiln.