Beverly Morris

Beverly Morris is a New Orleans ceramic artist, born in New York City and raised in New Hampshire, Florida and Mexico. She has a Political Science degree from Tulane University, and worked for 15 years at The Times Picayune as an award-winning copywriter and producer. She studied painting with her stepmother, Jan Dolan-Morris, a well known portrait and landscape artist, and with Professor Pat Trivigno while at Tulane. In 1991, Beverly Morris learned how to throw on the wheel at Earth and Fire Gallery, and went on to teach there for several years. It’s here that she discovered the joy of coil building with its asymmetry and imperfections. This ideal of imperfection runs throughout her work, with the goal of reconnecting the viewer with their own heart and humanity. Morris’ work expresses her need to, as poet Louise Bogan writes, “give back to the world a portion of its lost heart”. Morris often incises circular, feminine swirls into the clay using thousands of cuts to create textured surfaces. Shells, rope, wood, leaves, and stones are often incorporated into her art. She’s used gold thread to sew coral and gold-leafed oak leaves into her pieces, to represent trees and other natural forms. Much of Morris’ inspiration is drawn from African art which, “contains a “soul calling” quality both Ancient and modern.” Morris has consistently explored various themes from the natural world throughout her career. For her first solo show at d.o.c.s. Gallery, she investigated the theme of “Prenda”, an African vessel used in ritual ceremonies thought to represent the entire world in miniature, into which a medicine doctor places “all manner of spiritualizing forces – there he keeps the cemetery and the forest. There he keeps the river and the sea, the lightning bolt, the whirlwind, the sun, moon, stars – forces in concentration”. In another solo exhibition, she explored “Confluence”. Literally, the idea is the flowing together of streams as well as the place where those waters meet. This body of work explored the meeting of ideas and what happens after. It’s a work made of textures, patterns, repetitions, layers, carving and water themes, each only possible because of what preceded it. Morris’ figure vases are often humorous and playful, with a bit of wry commentary on our cultural ideals of femininity. A large part of Morris’ fabric and mixed media work was created from her personal journey with brain cancer, and her healing with and through art making. There is a series of canvas pieces that contain images of her brain before and after her first surgery in 1997. The white areas are the tumor as it was originally seen on an MRI; the dark area is the resulting surgical cavity. The words sewn into the fabric are from the operative reports of Dr Gazi Yasargil, elected “Neurosurgeon of the Century” in 2000. Because part of the tumor was in the hippocampus, the surgery affected Morris’ short term memory, the ability to think in the abstract, spatial awareness and sequencing. Clay, so grounding and centering for Morris, allowed her to appreciate the process instead of focusing on the result. Throughout her surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation, art proved to be a critical channel through which to heal. Through Morris’ work, she hopes to reconnect the viewer with that instinctual nature which is not cut off from the natural world, but a part of it. Because in observing the beauty of a simple oak leaf or broken shell, one is recognizing their own intrinsic, wildish nature. The work of Beverly Morris has been commissioned by the Saks Fifth Avenues of West Palm Beach, Greenwich and Boston, and is in the permanent collections of the New Orleans Saks Fifth Avenue, the New Orleans Arts Council, and the Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank. Morris was represented by d.o.c.s Gallery for ten years before it closed in 2014. Currently she commissions from her studio at Mid City Art Studios.

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