A Chosen Path

The Ceramic Art of Karen Karnes

Edited by Mark Shapiro

Foreword by Garth Clark

192 pp., 8 x 11, 82 color and 39 b&w illus., notes, bibl., index

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-8078-3427-5
    Published: September 2010
  • eBook ISBN: 978-0-8078-6813-3
    Published: September 2010

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Renowned ceramic artist Karen Karnes has created some of the most iconic pottery of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. The body of work she has produced in her more than sixty years in the studio is remarkable for its depth, personal voice, and consistent innovation. Many of her pieces defy category, invoking body and landscape, pottery and sculpture, male and female, hand and eye.

Equally compelling are Karnes's experiences in some of the most significant cultural settings of her generation: from the worker-owned cooperative housing of her childhood, to Brooklyn College under modernist Serge Chermayeff, to North Carolina's avant-garde Black Mountain College, to the Gate Hill Cooperative in Stony Point, New York, which Karnes helped establish as an experiment in integrating art, life, family, and community.

This book, designed to accompany an exhibit of Karnes's works organized by Peter Held, curator of ceramics for the Arizona State University Art Museum's Ceramic Research Center, offers a comprehensive look at the life and work of Karnes. Edited by highly regarded studio potter Mark Shapiro, it combines essays by leading critics and scholars with color reproductions of more than sixty of her works, providing new perspectives for understanding the achievements of this extraordinary artist.

About the Author

Mark Shapiro is a writer and studio potter whose work is exhibited internationally.
For more information about Mark Shapiro, visit the Author Page.


"Filled with high-quality images spanning 60 years of [Karnes's] work. After reading the book, you will understand why she is commonly referred to as the 'grandmother of American ceramics.'"--AmericanStyle

"Wonderful full-page colour photographs. . . . Will be welcomed by all who have admired and appreciated the utilitarian pieces and sculptural vessel forms Karen has produced during her distinguished career over 60 years as one of the USA's foremost potters."--The Log Book

"A beautiful, fascinating look at [Karen Karnes]."--The Chronicle

"An excellent read for art biographies and art libraries in general, highly recommended."--The Midwest Book Review

"Fascinating. . . . Thoughtful, intimate, and clear descriptions of the individual phases and turning points in Karnes's life. . . . A pleasurable read and an excellent resource for learning about contemporary American ceramics. . . . Recommended."--Choice

"There are too few books that treat pottery as seriously as other art forms; too few that pay sufficient tribute to the achievements of women artists; and too few that situate great art within a rich biographical context. This finely textured book does all three, providing in-depth analysis not only of Karnes's pots and sculpture, but also of the life of the fascinating person who made them."--Glenn Adamson, Deputy Head of Research and Head of Graduate Studies, Victoria and Albert Museum