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Whites It All About

Feats of clay in winter white mark a luminous sculpture exhibition at Cross MacKenzie Gallery. Artist and gallery owner Rebecca Cross welcomed the work of five exceptional ceramicists to Washington Friday night with “Snow White," her first opening reception of the year.


It’s the absence of color that unites the ceramics of Christa Assad, Charles Birnbaum, Jean-Marie Grenier, Jeff Irwin and Maren Kloppmann. “Taking color away shows what light can do,” says Rebecca as she points to “Sam” and “Lucky,” two glazed earthenware faux wood pieces by Jeff Irwin. Resembling cut branches that coalesce into animals, these multi-layer forms amuse and inform. More social essay than whimsy, Irwin invites viewers to examine ways we treat other species as we inspect missing body parts from pristine knotty creatures.

Charles Birnbaum takes a baroque approach with his porcelain orgy of sea creatures, corals and carnivorous plants. Imagine the specially designed form-fitting container that safely transported this albino marine life.

Jean-Marie Grenier, shown in the photo with his dance partner, “Twirling Helix." Yes, his description. You see, Jean-Marie was a classically trained dancer and circus performer in France and came to New York 30 years ago to continue his career. A friend told him that “good things can happen when you come to New York, but not dancing.” With a smile, Jean-Marie explained that his friend was right. So he’s taught clay to move and stretch. And the white? Well, it’s about “form before the finishes,”

Ready for a nap? There’s “Stacked Pillows IV,” Maren Kloppmann’s fluffy piece in oxidated porcelain.

Rebecca’s shows always include “functional ceramics in a range of prices that enhance your life.” Christa Assad’s stoneware “Tower Vase” and “Pelican Teapot” will grace any table.

For an artist with a most colorful past (her work is filled with vibrant colors and pattern), Rebecca seems quite serene in her winter wonderland. One of her favorite mediums, “clay is a soft material to work with, and one of the most fragile, yet it lasts the longest.” Rebecca explains. “All of our history has been informed by finding broken shards.”

Rebecca and her husband, architectural photographer Max MacKenzie, opened Cross MacKenzie Gallery in March 2006, and it remains Washington’s only ceramics gallery.

In addition to ceramics, Rebecca’s art includes painting, tile design as well as costume and set designs for The Kennedy Center and BalletRox, a Boston ballet company that uses the power of dance to break down racial barriers. Rebecca is excited to be designing new costumes for BalletRox’s 10th anniversary celebration of the “Urban Nutcracker” next year. The most wearable of art, Rebecca’s costumes resemble a series of colorful ceramic platters she once designed for Barney’s.

“Snow White” runs from January 15th through March 5th and is located at 1054 31st Street in Canal Square. 202.333.7970 For more on the art of Rebecca Cross, visit: