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Daniel Rhodes
American contemporary ceramic
American, (1911–1989)

Daniel Rhodes [“Dan”] (1911-1989)

Born in Fort Dodge, Iowa, Dan Rhodes began his professional art career early with summer studies at the Art Institute of Chicago. Rhodes received his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago with a major in art history (1929-1933) and later attended the Art Students League of New York, studying under John Steuart Curry (1933-34). He attended both sessions of the Stone City Art Colony and pursued additional studies at the Fine Art Center of Colorado Springs (1940). Awarded an MFA from the prestigious New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University (1941-42), Rhodes would achieve international recognition for his work as a sculptor and as a ceramics scholar.

Rhodes garnered a strong reputation within the WPA program in Iowa and was awarded three significant mural projects. The first, a mural for the Storm Lake post office titled “Storm Lake,” was designed and installed in 1937. After a new post office was built, the mural was moved to the Storm Lake Public Library. Earnings made from this commission enabled Rhodes to continue his main focus in oil/easel painting. From 1935-38, Rhodes lived in Fort Dodge, worked as a painter and muralist, actively participated in the Fort Dodge Art Guild, and lectured at the Blanden Art Gallery.

In 1937, Rhodes partnered with Howard C. Johnson to produce the large Iowa State Fairgrounds mural in Des Moines. After public outcry over technical inaccuracies and its portrayal of farmers, the mural was destroyed upon orders from the State Fair Board in 1946. Rhodes’ last Iowa mural commission was for the U.S. Post Office in the city of Marion, Iowa. The mural, titled "Communication by Mail," featured modern railroad technology transporting U.S. mail. The project was completed and installed in 1939; the building was later used to house the Marion City Hall. In 2008, the mural was moved to the Marion Heritage Center. Rhodes’ success in the Iowa WPA program led to commissions in other states, including: the Clayton, Missouri post office; the Glen Ellyn, Illinois post office; and a mural in the cafeteria section of the “Main” U.S. Navy building, Washington, D.C.

Rhodes continued to be active in Iowa arts circles, exhibiting frequently at the Iowa Art Salon in the Iowa State Fair, winning an unprecedented three consecutive sweepstakes awards from 1938-1940 for oil painting. He taught at the Art Students’ Workshop in Des Moines (1939-40) and worked as a guest lecturer at the Ottumwa Art Center and at Iowa State University (1939-40). In 1940, he married Lillyan Jacobs, a Pueblo pottery artist. Following his clay art studies in Colorado Springs, he became the first graduate of the Master of Fine Arts program at the New York State College of Ceramics (1941). After graduation, he remained in New York State, working as a designer for Glidden Pottery (1941) and eventually relocated to San Jose, California, where he did research in high heat ceramics for the Henry J. Kaiser Corporation (1943). In 1947, Rhodes built a full-scale studio in Menlo Park, California for creating thrown and cast ware for San Francisco’s Gumps Department Store.

Rhodes joined the faculty of the San Francisco Art Institute (1946-47) and Stanford University (1946). The next year, he accepted a faculty position at his former alma mater, New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University, a division of the State University of New York (SUNY). While a member of the art department (1947-73), Rhodes achieved tenure as a Professor of Ceramics and built an international reputation from his ceramics and research in glazes and firing methods. His works are held within permanent collections at the Victoria and Albert Museum (London); Museum of Modern Art (Kyoto, Japan); Smithsonian Institution; Museum of Contemporary Crafts (NYC); Des Moines Art Center; Blanden Art Museum (Fort Dodge, IA); and Cornell University (NY). Rhodes authored several books on ceramics, with three titles viewed as essential reference sources for the medium: (1) Clay and Glazes for the Potter (1957); (2) Stoneware and Porcelain (1959); and (3) Kilns: Design, Construction and Operation (1968).

While working at Alfred University, Rhodes taught ceramics summer sessions at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles (1952-53); Black Mountain College, Asheville, North Carolina; and the Haystack School of Art, Deer Isle, Maine (1961). He was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and lived in Japan from 1962-63. The National Council on Education in Ceramic Art awarded him a medal of citation for his contributions to teaching (1973). Rhodes later taught at the University of California, Santa Cruz (1977-80) and died in Reno, Nevada in July 1989.

From The Stone City Art Colony and School:

Artist Objects

Teabowl 2015.2.11

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