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Baltic artists contribute to ceramic show at Tower View

Six artists from former Soviet-controlled Baltic countries provided original works for "Contemporary Baltic Ceramics: Gifts from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania."

The exhibition opens Oct. 19 and will remain on display until Nov. 16 at the Anderson Center at Tower View. A free, public reception is planned at 7 p.m. Oct. 19 in the main gallery; the show will open at 7:30 p.m.

The six are Ingrid Allik -- who is in residence this month at the center -- and Anne Partna from Estonia; Dianis Pundurs and Laura Sarkane from Latvia; and Thomas Daunora and Andrius Janulaitis from Lithuania.

"Each of their works speaks to their lives during the long, often brutal Soviet occupation of the region as well as to their lives in the post-Soviet era," according to Anderson Center spokesmen.

The history of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania in the 20th century is one of occupation and reoccupation, followed by brief periods of freedom.

After World War I, all three nations declared independence from the Russian Empire and were finally recognized as sovereign states in 1920. During World War II the Russian Army occupied all three countries, followed by Nazi Germany's occupation from 1941-1944. After the war the countries were once again occupied by the Soviets.

"In the late 1980s, a massive campaign of civil resistance against Soviet rule, known as the Singing Revolution, culminated in 1989 with one of the most spectacular protest events in modern European history when a human chain of over two million people stretched more than 600 kilometers from Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, to Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania," officials said.

That protest contributed to the dissolution of the Soviet Union and, in 1991, to independence. Today, all three countries are liberal democracies.

Through it all, ceramics flourished in the Baltic nations, evolving from a folk craft to a fine art, and each country developed its own distinctive style of shapes, colors, and ornamentation.

"This exhibition is a direct result of the depth of human emotions that flows through the material of the earth," said Richard Spiller of the Lake Pepin Art & Design Center in Pepin, who curated the exhibit.

"This clay, common to all, connects us together -- under our feet, in our hands, and through our souls. This clay, to which these ceramic artists have given life, has in turn sustained and nourished its creators."

The artists created under "the most difficult of circumstances, where political and military control took away the very best, and where fear was the base denominator," Spiller said.

"These artists have endured unspeakable terror, had nightmares that should never have been dreamed, and felt a sadness that can kill. Their work is now available to the world, in the light that only freedom can bring," he pointed out.

"'Contemporary Baltic Ceramics' is dedicated to the memory of those who were taken away, to the spirit of those who endured, and to the human qualities of these artists who have, from their souls, given us the gift of this exhibition."

Each of the participating artists has a viewpoint:

• Allik: A teacher of ceramics at Estonian Academy of the Arts and the author of "Raku," Allik is in residence this month at the Anderson Center. She and husband Andre and three Estonian students traveled to North Carolina last year to help build a wood-fired kiln for fellow Estonian ceramist Anne Partna.

• Partna: Educated at the Estonian Academy of Arts, she also studied at East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C. With Adam Landman, she recently established Blue Hen Pottery in Seagrove, N.C.

• Pundurs was educated at the Academy of Arts in Riga, Latvia, where he is now an associate professor. He was in residence at Tower View in 2010.

• Sarkane, also from Riga, studied ceramics at the Latvian academy and how lives and works in Bucharest, Romania.

• Daunora, from Vilnius, Lithuania, studied at the Vilnius Academy of Arts, where he is now director of the Ceramics Creative Center. He founded the Kvadratas Group of Cultural Initiatives, bringing together ceramic artists from Lithuania, Georgia, Russia, and the Ukraine in hopes of creating greater cultural understanding. He was in residence at Tower View in 2010.

• Janulaitis also was educated at the Vilnius academy. He has exhibited his work throughout the Baltic region.

If you go...

What: "Contemporary Baltic Ceramics" opening

Who: Ceramic artists from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania

When: 7 p.m. Oct. 19

Where: Anderson Center Main Gallery

Cost: Free

More info: 651-388-2009,