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Israel juxtaposes terra cotta, flesh in latest exhibit



Sculpting beauty - Susannah Israel's terracotta sculptures currently on display at the Eddie Rhodes Gallery. Erik Verduzco, right photo

view the complete exhibition

The creations of local artist and Contra Costa College art professor Susannah Israel are now on display in the Eddie Rhodes Gallery in a show entitled "terracotta: baked earth." The exhibit, which consists of 12 figures, all sculpted from terra cotta, opened on Sept. 5 and will continue through Oct. 15 in the Art Building.

Israel said that the emphasis of this display is the expressive qualities of the materials used. Part of the inspiration for her "terracotta: baked earth" exhibit, Israel said, stemmed from the human body." Working with the browns and reds of the terra cotta," she said, "I noticed they were a little like flesh. "There's a tie-in between clay and the human body that seemed very natural to me," Israel said.

Israel, who earned her master's degree in ceramics at San Francisco State, also finds herself inspired by the diversity of the Bay Area and the many people who call it home. "Another inspiration (for "terracotta: baked earth") is my own family, which is very diverse. We have almost one of everything," she said.

Israel began teaching ceramics at CCC in 2002. She found herself enthusiastic about teaching at the community college level, where people are able to obtain a "high-quality education." She is currently teaching ceramics classes at Laney College in Oakland, and plans to resume teaching at CCC next semester.

Israel's talent has been praised by her colleagues. "Her ideas are very interesting and creative. She does beautiful work," said art professor Jaijun Lu.

"(Israel) is just a star," art department Chairman John Diestler said. "One of the makings of a successful artist is developing your vision that's consistent and recognizable as your work.

"You can look at a painting by Picasso and recognize it is his work; now people can follow the vision of Susannah Israel," Diestler said.

"terracotta: baked earth" is the third exhibit Israel has had on display at CCC in the Eddie Rhodes Gallery. Her first one, titled "Before, During & After Archie Bray," appeared in fall 2002. "A Confluence of Voices," her second exhibit, was inspired and created in fall 2005 when Israel was teaching at CCC, Laney College and Merritt College.

Aside from being on display at CCC, Israel's work has also appeared in various galleries around the Bay Area. Some of the galleries include the Inferno Gallery in Oakland and the Museum of Craft & Folk Art in San Francisco.

She will make an appearance for "terracotta: baked earth" at a free reception to be held at the college in the Eddie Rhodes Gallery on Oct. 4.

by Lauren Shiraishi. The Advocate: issue date: 9/17/08