|Gregory's EARTH ton-size monumental|
Waylande Desantis Gregory may not be a household name but Gregory’s legacy reminds us that he was one of the most innovative and prolific leading figures in twentieth-century American ceramics and helped to shape Art Deco design in the United States. His groundbreaking techniques enabled him to create monumental ceramic sculpture such as FIRE; a ton size glazed ceramic part of a twelve piece fountain Gregory executed for the 1939 New York World’s Fair in monumental proportions. He was a remarkable visionary and by the 1930s the artist’s career mirrored the changing focus of American ceramics.
PRIME MEDIUM; CERAMICS became Gregory’s primary medium and from 1928 to 1932, he was the chief design and lead sculptor at Cowan Pottery in Rocky River, Ohio. Gregory created some of the Pottery’s finest works including three limited edition sculptures relating to dance: Salome, Nautch Dancer and Burlesque Dancer. The last two works were based on the dancing of Gilda Grey, a well-known entertainer from Ziegfeld Follies who inspired these sculptures. In 1931, Gregory became artist-in-residence of ceramics at Cranbrook Academy in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Although he worked at Cranbrook for only eighteen months, Gregory produced many of his finest works there including Kansas Madonna and Girl withOlive.
WORLD’S FAIR COMMISSION Commissions poured in and one of his finest hours was the commission for the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair to produce “The Fountain of the Atom.” It was comprised of four elements: earth, air, fire, and water, surrounded by eight electrons, four male and four female. He described the electrons as “elemental little savages of boundless electric energy, dancing to the rhythm of sculptured bolts of lightning-like fashion in brilliant colored glazes, their buoyant shaped bodies of richly modeled terracotta clays in warm colors.”
PROMISING FUTURE As early as fourteen, Gregory showed promise when he made a bust of the school principal in only six sittings, as well as a ceramic statue called “The Spirit of Athletics,” After high school her moved to Kansas City to attend the Art Institute and immediately began to receive commissions for sculptural decoration of municipal buildings and parks. He attracted the attention of Lorado Taft, a sculptor who already had a reputation as a mentor to other American sculptors. Taft invited Gregory to be his assistant and to join him at the Art Institute of Chicago. The experience with Lorado Taft led Gregory to begin thinking of ceramic sculpture on a monumental scale. Rejecting Taft’s academic style he eventually branched out on his own.
WAYLANDE DESANTIS GREGORY (1905 Baxter Springs, Kanas—1971, New Jersey) A REMARKABLE VISIONARY!!! HE WAS ONE OF THE MOST INNOVATIVE AND PROLIFIC ART DECO SCULPTORS OF THE EARLY TWENTIETH CENTURY WHO ALSO DEVELOPED GLAZING AND PROCESSING METHODS AND WAS A SEMINAL FIGURE IN THE STUDIO GLASS MOVEMENT.