- The Mad Potter: George E. Ohr, Eccentric Genius by Jan Greenberg
Greenberg and Jordan, art chroniclers extraordinaire, continue their tour of American originals with this compact introduction to American potter George Ohr. A Barnum-esque eccentric, Ohr became a “Pot-Ohr,” as he punningly termed himself, in the late nineteenth century, opening a shop in Mississippi he called “The Biloxi Art Pottery Unlimited.” His inventive hand-formed pots were out of touch with the style of the time, however, so he eked out a living with novelties and teaching; it was only long after his death, when an antiques dealer discovered his wares in the 1970s and their reputation grew, that his art was finally accorded the respect he always felt it deserved. Ohr is a magnetic character, a rollicking self-promoter whose publicity generation was as entertaining as his work was artful, and the authors do their usual excellent job at both embedding him in the context of the age and making clear how he transcended it. The elegant layout plays gently with font, using an aged-print period style for occasional quotes and emphasis. Sepiatoned photographs of Ohr himself, in vigorous and goofy images very different from usual images of the period, are also included along with sharp portraits most contemporary of his gleaming pottery. With an endless inventiveness and range of style that runs from Nouveau-touched fancies to crumply organic shapes, the pottery will likely be eye-opening for kids who didn’t realize that pots could be made to do that. The authors include a generous complement of addenda, including information about the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum in Biloxi; a very helpful overview of how to artistically assess pottery; a compact description of how to make, fire, and glaze a pot; and a bibliography and endnotes.