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“I strive to have my work convey a vibrant and intriguing experience, which, although abstract, seems real to the viewer. Empty spaces contribute to the spatial mysteries as much as the positive forms.”
-Kenneth Vavrek

Born in 1939, Kenneth Vavrek was 31 years old when he became an art professor at the Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia, a post he maintained for over three decades. His art took a new direction in 1975 when he visited the Arches National Park in Moab, Utah and several other desert sites in the vicinity. Vavrek was captivated by the natural beauty he discovered on his trip. For the next two decades, he dedicated himself to creating trays, vessels, and wall sculptures inspired by the landscape of the southwestern United States. These works are characterized by varying degrees of abstraction, but all belong to Vavrek’s self-titled “Desert Period”, which lasted until the mid-1990s.

In 1995, Vavrek became less preoccupied with his underlying subject matter and more attentive to the form and space relationships inherent to his sculptural pieces. He made increasing use of negative space and experimented with the different interactions possible between the foreground, middle ground, and background of a sculpture. Vavrek also placed new emphasis on the glazing process as a way of enhancing or lessening the effect of a particular sculptural form.

Although Vavrek’s primary medium is clay, he does occasionally deviate from this norm. In the late 1990s, Vavrek created a sculpture with an aluminum framework mounted atop a paper compound. Such a divergence was motivated by the artist’s belief that some of his sculptural ideas were, both literally and figuratively, too twisted to be accommodated by clay. Vavrek found aluminum to be a more obliging material for his more “torqued” creations.

By the 2000s, Vavrek had once again reverted to clay and was invited in 2007 to produce clay art work for the FuLe International Ceramic Art Museums site in Fuping, Shaanxi, China, along with six other American artists. Vavrek fashioned an inaugural piece called Dynamic Character for the opening of The Americas Museum at FLICAM.

Vavrek has exhibited extensively in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York. He has received commissions from companies such as the Korman Commerical Properties and ARA Services and his art is featured in the permanent collection of several museums and art centers, including the Milwaukee Art Museum and the Cleveland Museum of Art. In addition, Vavrek is a co-founder of The Clay Studio in Philadelphia, a nonprofit organization devoted to promotion of the ceramic arts through artist residencies, studio space, and educational outreach programs.

Education & Community

Education and Training
BFA, Ohio University, Athens, Ohio, 1963
MFA, Ohio University, Athens, Ohio, 1965

Vavrek studied under Henry Lin at Ohio University.

Connection to Bucks County
Vavrek became a Bucks County resident when he moved to Hilltown in 1986 and built a studio, complete with a high-temperature kiln needed for firing his sculptural pieces. Vavrek has also participated in the Elephant’s Eye Tour since its inception in 2008.

Affiliations, Memberships, Schools:
Member, Philadelphia Sculptors, founded 1996.


Major exhibitions:
The Ortlip Art Gallery at Houghton College, Solo exhibition, Houghton, NY, 2008
Rosenfeld Gallery, Solo exhibition, Philadelphia, PA, 2008, 2005, 1994, 1992, 1985, 1984, 1982, 1980, 1977
Ceramic Abstraction, Creative Arts Workshop, New Haven, CT 2007
Inside + Out / Big & Small, The Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, Pittsburgh, PA 2006
Back to the Future—Connections in Clay, Wilson Art Center, Ohio Northern University, Ada, Ohio 2005
The Clay Studio: Thirty Years of Excellence, The Clay Studio, Philadelphia, PA, 2005
The Clay Studio: Thirty Years, NCECA Show, School 33 Art Center, Baltimore, MD, 2005
Bonsai inSites, Collaborations Between Tree and Container, Baltimore Clayworks, Baltimore, MD, 2002
Vermont Clay Studio, Solo exhibition, Waterbury Center, VT, 1999
The Clay Studio, Harrison Gallery, Solo exhibition, Philadelphia, PA, 1998
Philadelphia Sculptors, Grounds for Sculpture, Trenton, NJ, 1998
20th Anniversary Celebration Exhibition, The Clay Studio, Philadelphia, PA, 1994
29th Ceramic National Exhibition, Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, NY, 1993
Contemporary Philadelphia Artists, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA, l990
American Clay Artists--1989, Port of History Museum, Philadelphia, PA, 1989
A Survey of Slab Ceramics, Palo Alto Cultural Center, Palo Alto, CA, 1986
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Morris Gallery, Solo exhibition, Philadelphia, PA, 1983
Clay for Walls, Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., 1983
Soup, Soup Beautiful Soup, Campbell Museum, Camden, NJ, 1983
Contemporary Ceramics: A Response to Wedgewood, Civic Center Museum, Philadelphia, PA, 1980
Landscape: New Views, Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Ithaca, NY, 1978
Contemporary Ceramics: The Artists Viewpoint, Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, Michigan, 1977
Soup Tureens: 1976, Campbell Museum, Camden, NJ,1976
The Plastic Earth, John Michael Kohler Art Center, Sheboygan, WI, 1973
A Decade of Ceramic Art: 1962-1972, From the Collection of Prof. and Mrs. R. Joseph Monsen, San Francisco Museum of Art, CA, 1972
Clayworks: 20 Americans, Museum of Contemporary Crafts, New York, NY, 1971

Selected Commissions
Korman Commercial Properties
ARA Services
Trammell Crow Inc.
The Photo Lab

Selected Collections
Fu Le International Ceramic Art Museums, Fuping, Shaanxi, China
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Cleveland Museum of Art
Milwaukee Art Museum
Arizona State University Art Museum
Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art
Kalamazoo Institute of Art
Widener University Law School

Awards & Appointments

Teaching and Professional Appointments:
Professor of Art, Moore College of Art and Design, Philadelphia, Pa, 1970-2003
Co-founder and Board Member, The Clay Studio, a nonprofit studio, gallery and school, Philadelphia, PA, founded 1974

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