2020 Smithsonian Visionary Artist
Patti Warashina was born in Seattle, Washington in 1940. She is called the queen of Northwest ceramics. In the 1960s, she was part of a cadre of young rebel artists who expanded the boundaries of clay as an art medium. She began teaching in 1964 and helped grow the ceramics program at the University of Washington’s School of Art, into one of the best-known in the United States.
Warashina’s work is often humorous, and she uses sculpture to explore such themes as the human condition, feminism, the macho car-culture, and political and social topics. She often places clay figures in imagined environments and to tell stories.
In 1984, the Seattle Arts Commission chose her for a prestigious public-art commission that became one of the city’s most celebrated artworks. A Procession, a 4’ by 10’ x 3’ tableau built of whiteware and mixed media, includes 72 figures parading over—and floating under—a bridge, like a triumphal arch, each depicting a recognizable person in the Seattle art world, artists, sculptors, art critics. A Procession is in the Washington State Convention Center in downtown Seattle.
Warashina’s work is in the permanent collection of Smithsonian American Art’s Renwick Gallery and in more than twenty museums in the U.S., Asia, England, and Australia. She has received numerous awards and in 2005, was interviewed for Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art. A Professor Emerita at the University of Washington, Warashina dedicated decades to teaching ceramics, considered by some to be the most difficult and challenging of all art media.