Photo: Ellen Ornitz, Burnt Fossil J, low fire ceramic, copyright the artist.

Ellen Ornitz: Burnt Fossils

March 4 2022 - May 28 2022

Ornitz presents functional work created during pandemic isolation as an extension of her sculptural practice. In keeping with her fascination with the excavations in Pompeii and Iron Age “bog” bodies (dating 800 B.C.–A.D. 200) from Northern Europe, Ornitz’s primitive-fired vessels are intended to look unearthed, time-scoured, and fossilized.


She says of the series, called Burnt Fossils, "Living in Montana for the past 47 years, I have been happily inundated with this ceramics community and the opportunity to explore contemporary themes in ceramics. My work is informed by this fortuitous exposure along with my lifelong fascination with primitive pottery and archaeology. Time-scoured artifacts of ancient cultures have shaped my aesthetic along with an enduring appreciation of natural forms and their residue.

After years of creating ceramic and mixed media sculpture, I decided to take a hiatus and focus on the ceramic vessel form. Making pots became the mantra of my pandemic meditations. The practice was so engaging that a six-month sabbatical has extended into several years. These vessels are created through the contemporary practice of layering and assemblage of press-molded forms, followed by numerous primitive-firing techniques. Given such influences, these vessels are intended to look unearthed and fossilized; the forms and processes have coalesced into the current narrative."  

Artist Statement

"Contemporary ceramic practices and the artifacts of ancient cultures have shaped my pottery aesthetic. I have an enduring appreciation of natural forms and their residue. Given such influences, these primitive fired vessels are intended to look unearthed, time-scoured and fossilized. My palette is limited to the color of the clay and influences of the fire that result in a value study. Functionality is not my primary objective in making these vessels, although they are usable containers. My greater interest lies in the shape of the form and its layered surface treatments. The challenge is to balance seemingly spontaneous choices with an appearance of symmetry. Creating this body of work has been an adventure of sorts, both formally and through experimentation with new pottery methods. My intent is to reference and explore themes of time, mortality, disintegration and renewal."