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Inside CSULB
Vol 57 No. 5 | Mar. 2005
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Vol 57 No. 5 | Mar. 2005
A Cadillac You Just Can't Drive

A different kind of Cadillac has rolled out of CSULB's Art Department.

Kristen Morgin, of the art department, created a 1959 Cadillac hearse out of clay for an exhibit at Scripps College curated by Professor Tony Marsh. The hearse that was built in the ceramics hand-building room is covered with a crust of unfired clay over a framework of wood and wire. It's the third clay car Morgin has made.

Cadillac“It's just a different way of using ceramics,” said Morgin, a member of the university since 2000. The first car Morgin built was created in 2002 for a ceramics exhibition in Kansas City, Mo.

That vehicle was based on different models of Cadillac. Her second car was based on the design of an Italian Fiat Cinquecento (500 series) or as it is also known, Topolino (little mouse). The Fiat was smaller but Morgin gave greater concentration to the interior of the car, creating ceramic upholstery, the dashboard, steering wheel and details of the like.

Cadillac PhotoShe researches her cars in automobile catalogues and visits car shows, so she begins by looking at pictures and a lot of cars. Then she puts everything away and works for a while. She picks and chooses what she wants and never works from molds or real car parts. “I tried hard to keep the Cadillac hearse to scale,” she said.

When asked about her work in comparison to Greek vases and urns Morgin said, “There are similar issues of craftsmanship in hearses and urns. Even though my work looks like it was brought up from a lake somewhere, it was crafted to look that way.”

The idea of using a car as a ceramics subject has proven to be a powerful stimulus to memory. The audiences that have seen her clay cars tell her about the associations they have with this or that model. “I get to hear stories about their cars,” she said. She recalls showing her Fiat in Boulder, Colo., when a gentleman from Brazil approached her to say how much he enjoyed her work and that he had owned one just like it in which he had nearly lost his life. “He even showed me his scars. It impressed me with the relationship people have with their cars.”

Most art is meant for the ages, one way or the other, but Morgin's ceramic automobiles have shorter life spans.

“Usually, my pieces make it to one or two venues then they must be destroyed,” she said. Morgin can't afford to keep them. They are documented in photographs and that's that. They may last as long as two years then she dismantles the work. The irony is that the work looks like it has a long history when actually it does not. And in the end, it just means she gets to make more.

NOTE: Morgin's “Hearse 2004” will be on display from 1-5 p.m., Wednesday-Sunday, through April 3, at the Scripps College Ceramic Annual in the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery, 11th and Columbia Streets, in Claremont. Admission is free. For more information, call 908/607-4690 or visit its Web site.

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