Marsh, Tony

First name: 
Year of birth: 
New York City
Country of birth: 
United States

Tony Marsh is born in New York City on 26 May 1954. Marsh first learned about ceramics after he injured his rotator cuff playing baseball in his last year of high school. He had never been that good of a student and was sent by his guidance counselor to the pottery lab at his high school to receive a discipline from the strict and dedicated professor. The day he walked into the lab, he never left, from then on he knew he would be working with clay. Marsh received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1978 from California State University, Long Beach. From 1978 to 1981, Marsh studied as an apprentice under Japanese potter Shimaoka, in Mashiko, Japan. After receiving a Master of Fine Arts degree in 1989 from New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University, Marsh returned to CSU Long Beach to teach in the art department's ceramics program. He has been the department chair for ceramics at CSU for much of his tenure career. Marsh credits his experience in Japan with much of his personal development: "Working every day at pottery seems now to have served as a vehicle for great lessons that have stayed with me. I painfully taught myself to speak another language, which in turn allowed me to begin to see the world through the lens of another culture. I was introduced daily to the power, beauty, and confines of history." In this way, the work that Tony Marsh creates is many times refers to the homage of ceramics he hopes to provoke in his work. Shimaoka's method provided an example for Marsh that contrasted with his experience of art-making in the United States. Marsh says of his time spent at Shimaoka's pottery: "His art was not the art school stuff (my frame of reference) of taking aim at the fringe in order to explore the new. Nor was it an overly self-conscious attempt at radical expression. His art was homage and a walk through the heart of an enormous and rich pan-Asian ceramic tradition. I have always thought that it seemed more difficult to add to a rich history in a meaningful way when the measuring-stick, by which the contribution will ultimately be understood, is long" (source: Wikipedia).

Pictures: Portrait of Tony Marsh (source Calofornia State University Long Beach); Portrait in exhibition room (source Frank Lloyd Gallery); work 3 (source; work in exhibition (source Pierre Marie Giraud Gallery).

Work of the artist: 

Marsh's description of his own work: "I am fascinated by deep and unparalleled history and position between nature and culture. While the vessels that I make are not utilitarian nor do they specifically refer to an historical pottery type or style, I believe that I use them as a device to address the essential. On a simple level they do attempt to pay homage to what pottery from around the world has always been required to do: hold, store, preserve, offer, commemorate, and beautify. In the end, whether it might be a vase on a table, an empty coin bank, the bowl on the night stand, a burial urn or a ballot box, what could be more natural than to put something in a vessel? " As these images of Tony's most current work provide, he has been interested in the history of the vessel, while developing a new language for this. This language asks the simple question of what to hold? The items he chooses to contain create a discussion of curiosity and interest. Some of Marsh's earlier work has many times been referred to ideas of play, whether it be the game like parts, such games as Bao, a traditional African game or Perfection, an early 90's children's game. He also plays with the capabilities of clay in the conscious contradiction of material with his attempts to make items float or to be fully perforated. Tony has referred to this idea of perforation and floating with, "gravity is what ceramics is about." He discusses the element of clay and its boundaries such as a material of the earth that has a very evident weight as " a thorn," you can choose to react or obey these boundaries, and clearly Tony has made the choice to react (source: Wikipedia).