The human figure has fascinated ceramic sculptor Patti Warashina for most of her 55+ year art career. Her sustaining interest in the human figure is likely due to the fact that her own body is the closest resource from which she draws her ideas. The use of the body gives affirmation to Warashina's own daily existence, and serves as the subject of her own “visual diary” which, for Warashina, is a reminder, reflection, and observation of personal time and the civilization in which she lives. Warashina draws from her daily life and has an abnormal interest in the absurdity and foibles of human behavior, in which her figures have become the actors in her introspective narratives.
Warashina's early study and exploration of freely associated “realistic” figures evolved and mutated over time to simpler, reductive, exaggerated forms, with details left only for facial features and extremities to tie the body back into a sense of reality.
Instead of painting clothes on the body, Warashina prefers at this time to to minimize the surface work and use basic color in simple abstract form, as though it is “floating” over the figure, thereby giving illusion to two independent spatial realities coinciding with one another. She wants the surface to work in tandem with the simplification of body form. The abstract quality of the surface work also erases and denies the identification of time, era, and nationality of the work. Warashina hopes to speak of the universal quirks of all human nature.
Patti Warashina (born 1940) is an American artist known for her imaginative ceramic sculptures. Her works are in the collection of the Museum of Arts and Design, New York, National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
The youngest of three children, Warashina was born and raised in Spokane, Washington. She received her B.F.A in 1962 and M.F.A in 1964 from the University of Washington, Seattle, where she studied with sculptors Robert Sperry, Harold Myers, Rudy Autio, Shōji Hamada, Shinsaku Hamada, and Ruth Penington
Warashina’s work is often humorous, and includes "clay figures placed in imagined environments that show her subversive thinking." She uses sculpture to explore such themes as the human condition, feminism, car-culture, and political and social topics.
As an art student at the University of Washington in the 1960s, Warashina noticed that the environment in the ceramics studio included a somewhat macho culture; women were not included in technical discussions relating to managing the kiln. She began creating a series of figurative works that used humor to skewer this gender imbalance in the field.
In 1962, Warashina had her first solo exhibition at the Phoenix Art Gallery in Seattle. Warashina's first husband was fellow student Fred Bauer, and from 1964 to 1970 she exhibited as Patti Bauer. In 1976, she married Robert Sperry.
She began teaching in 1964 and has taught at Wisconsin State University, Eastern Michigan University, the Cornish School of Allied Arts, and the University of Washington. During the 1970s and 1980s, Warashina, Sperry, and Howard Kottler ran the ceramics program at the University of Washington's School of Art, growing it into one of the best-known in the United States. Warashina has been associated with the California Funk movement and was included in a survey of ceramic Funk Art in an ASU Ceramic Research Center's exhibition, "Humor, Irony and Wit: Ceramic Funk from the Sixties and Beyond" in 2004. In 2012, the American Museum of Ceramic Art introduced a retrospective exhibition "Patti Warashina: Wit and Wisdom" in Pomona, California and in 2013, the Bellevue Arts Museum showcased "Patti Warashina: Wit and Wisdom."
Warashina is nationally recognized for her work. In 1994, she was elected to the American Craft Council's College of Fellows. She received the Twining Humber Lifetime Achievement/Woman of the Year Award (2001) from the Seattle's Artist Trust, the University of Washington Division of the Arts Distinguished Alumna Award (2003), and was interviewed for Smithsonian's Archives of American Art (2005).