La Vase Mysterieux, 2001Tom Rippon (American, born 1954)
Ceramist Tom Rippon was a student of Robert Arneson and also of Ruth Rippon, his aunt, an accomplished ceramist and educator who influenced Northern California’s clay tradition. Tom Rippon began showing his work while in his teens at the Candy Store Gallery in Folsom, where artists who delighted in quirky subject matter and bright colors, such as Roy De Forest and Clayton Bailey, exhibited regularly. Although he spent four years with Arneson at Davis, he earned his M.F.A. at the Art Institute of Chicago.
As a child, Rippon was fascinated by the articulated joints and movement of a Mexican marionette. This intense interest is evidenced in his mature figural assemblages with their complex elements joined together by rods and pins. His subjects cover the gamut of folk art and popular culture, but also draw upon Surrealist art influences, particularly the dolls of Hans Bellmer, the revolutionary movement studies conducted by Oskar Schlemmer in the 1920s, and a 1936 series of photographic studies by Claude Cahun.
Rippon’s practice of carving, sanding, and grinding each part in order to achieve perfect form and a satiny finish is unique to his sculpture, and he applies rich color, often opalescent, using low-fire glazes. As with this example, many of Rippon’s sculptures present an enigmatic scene recalling the French tableau vivant in which a theatrical scene is held by mute and motionless costumed characters.