Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Mad Potter: George Ohr, Eccentric Genius

The Mad Potter: George Ohr, Eccentric Genius
Jan Greenberg & Sandra Jordan
Roaring Book Press, 2013    53 pgs     Grades 2-Up

George Ohr, a wonderfully eccentric potter from the turn-of-the-century is a little know American icon.  His house and studio in Biloxi, Mississippi was a landmark in its day.  Ohr made what he considered "art pottery" and every piece he created was original.  His work was very contemporary and, although he was considered "interesting" he sold very little art in his time.  Ohr's art pottery was re-discovered by an art deal in the 1970s and since then has sold at action for enormous sums.  Greenberg and Jordan present a full account of his life.  They also provide what makes Ohr's pottery special and explain the ways to examine contemporary pottery.  A generous amount of original photographs of Ohr as well as pictures of some of his work are dispersed through out the book.  A bibliography and source notes round out the volume.

What a cool guy!  I would have loved the opportunity to get to know George Ohr.  He seemed like a talented, crazy, and fun-loving person.  The cover photo says it all.  He had huge blacksmith muscles and a full bushy mustache and looks like someone's crazy uncle.  Many of the photos included are trick photos that he set up himself.  But the real star of the book is the pottery.  The work Ohr created is beautiful in shape and color and is incredibly ahead of its time.  It is unbelievable that such work was crafted in post-civil war Mississippi over one hundred years ago.  The Mad Potter celebrates art, creativity, and an unknown great American.  I learned about art history and contemporary pottery and, moreover, had fun in the process.  The book would be perfect for kids to read for recreation or would be great for an adult to share with a class or a child at home.  My only complaint is that it is very short, limiting its use for reports or biography assignments.  Longer than a picture book, yet too short for book reports, this book may have a difficult time finding its audience. That said, come to the Fair Lawn Library and pick this book up.  You will be glad you did!

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